I love good pop music. I don’t mean that in a cool ironic, golly gosh my credentials as guardian of the cultural arbiter are so well established that I’m going to say I deign to like some populist drivel for a laugh, sort of way either. I simply do. I like a good tune, wrapped up in something I can dance to just like the very best bits of 80’s glam metal (pop music hiding behind its’ big brothers’ guitars) its just purely life-affirming. At its best. It can be clever (most of Prince before he started suffering from perma-horn), but it doesn’t have to be (Roxette’s ‘The Look’). All I ask is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, there’s nothing worse than a band, or an artist who witters on about spirituality and how deep they really are only to sing, ‘I like to singy singy singy / Like a bird on a wingy wingy wing’.
Which brings us to Lady Ga-Ga The Fame, or at least it did me in January 2010. Basically I’d noticed that she affected an Aladdin Sane-style stripe and I may, or may not have, noticed that she appeared to do a lot of singing dressed in little more than her undercrackers. So-far so-much-like-every-other-pop-hopeful, apart from the Bowie bit. I liked her obvious ex-performance-artist touches, her cleverness, what she had to say about gay rights, the fact she sang mostly dressed in little more than her undercrackers and her creativity, but then came the tunes and it just got better.
‘Paparazzi’, ‘Just Dance’, ‘Poker Face’, probably uniquely these days, I heard, rather than saw them on a screen when I was out and about. They are just three brilliant tunes; funny, clever, bonkers brilliant tunes. Especially ‘Just Dance’, or to give it its’ full title ‘Just Dance (Feat. Colby O’Donis)’* It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t detract from a song which is just about the whirl of a great night out, which sounds like a great night and sounds great ON a great night out – golly gosh, indeed. It really is perfect, so perfect that it fits 1537’s First Law, which as everyone knows states that if you can’t add, or subtract anything to/from something without improving it, then it must be perfect.
The other two tunes are no slouches either, particularly ‘Poker Face’, if I only had £1 for every time I’ve been bluffin’ with my muffin. All the lyrics being tongue-in-someone-else’s-cheek enough to amuse, as well as being just throwaway enough not to care about too much.
Listening again today, this is such a ridiculously front-loaded LP. All those tracks are on the first side. But this is a proper LP, made by an artist who clearly values proper LPs enough to still make them. It has a great cover, lyrics, musings and poems by Ms Germanotta and a curiously chipmunky picture of her slap-bang in the middle. Its a nice object, but a bit of a flawed one. With the exception of the awful ‘Summerboy’ the rest of the LP is not bad, but Lady Ga-Ga has clearly used up all her magic hit-glitter on Side A, there’s nothing else that stands out to my jaded ears here. It’s all nice enough hip-hop-dance inflected pop, some nudge-nudge wink-wink naughty lyrics and an obsession with money, both of which go with the territory I guess. In fact I am positive some future academic will write a learned treatise on the “Lady Ga-Ga and the Lexical Field of Finance” (although that title does sound to me like a particularly strange attempt to rival JK Rowling’s works); whether she is revelling in it all ‘Beautiful, Dirty, Rich’, ‘The Fame’ or subverting it ‘Money Honey’. Despite being touted as such ‘Boys Boys Boys’ is no answer to The Crue’s ‘Girls Girls Girls’, its just a non-contest I’m afraid, although ‘Starstruck’ really does raise the game again.
In that sense The Fame really is a proper old-fashioned pop LP, just like ones I may have bought in the 80’s – three great singles, a couple of decent tracks and some filler. It’s certainly not an original thought of mine, but I think pop is a form of music which suits the single, its designed to grab, to attract, to sparkle for 4 minutes and melt away like the snow. An LP, carefully crafted by traditional rock musicians using ‘proper’ instruments, or by some boffin on a battery of synths and a laptop for that matter, needs peaks and troughs, sustained ideas and suits the LP format better. Still, it will be a real toss-up over the Greatest Hits LP of the decade though between Lady Ga-Ga and Kanye West – now that’s where pop does triumph.
Basically, in a nutshell: Ga-Ga + meat dress and other silly stuff + smattering of perfect pop + nice glossy LP – a bit of filler = a good old-fashioned pop star, just like we had way back in the 1980’s before it all got a bit too easy for people. Good LP, one side will wear out a damn sight quicker than the other though.
* What’s a Colby O’Donis? Maybe I’m just not hip enough to know – please address all feedback ‘Dear Grandpa 1537’ at the usual address…