'Fame' Isn't Worth Getting GaGa Over

Lady GaGa's debut album takes many cues from her dance-floor predecessors.
Lady GaGa's debut album takes many cues from her dance-floor predecessors. (By Candice Lawler)
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By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The nascent dance-pop star Lady GaGa is an equal-opportunity appropriator.

Her nom de stage comes from the Queen song "Radio Ga Ga"; her penchant for performing in her skivvies is pure Pussycat Dolls (or, maybe, Madonna); and the music on her debut album, "The Fame," is hugely derivative, with just about every idea echoing one we've already heard from the likes of Gwen Stefani, Rihanna, Pink or Britney Spears.

Indeed, if there's an original idea on "The Fame," it seems to be Lady GaGa's full-on embrace of the notion that there are no more original ideas, so why even bother?

Naturally, this hasn't stopped GaGa from becoming something of a minor sensation on whatever planet Perez Hilton occupies, proving that in pop music, whatever's old can always be made new again, given the right packaging, promotion and sunglasses.

In real life, GaGa is Stefani Germanotta, a 22-year-old New Yorker who attended the same exclusive Catholic school as Gloria Vanderbilt, Maria Shriver and Nicky Hilton. In the studio and onstage, Germanotta has transformed herself into a dance-pop diva with a wildly theatrical streak and a bunch of burlesque bras.

She's fabulous, don't you know it? And you should, since she references her own fabulosity on "Paper Gangsta," a train wreck of borrowed ideas in which GaGa, who usually sings, raps flatly through an auto-tuner (thanks, T-Pain!), then declares, " 'Cause I do not accept any less/Than someone just as real, as fabulous" before ripping off Ace of Base.

The album is filled with mindlessly frothy synth-pop that matches low-grade dance grooves with GaGa's icy, almost disembodied vocals about dancing bliss (lead single "Just Dance"), money ("Beautiful, Dirty, Rich," "Money Honey") and sex ("LoveGame," "Boys, Boys, Boys," "Starstruck").

Though the songs tend to sound familiar ("Eh Eh [Nothing Else I Can Say]" swipes the hook from Rihanna's smash hit "Umbrella"), they tend to come across as flat and faceless, not to mention vapid. That's true even when GaGa, who co-wrote all of the album's songs, turns somewhat serious in "The Fame" and "Paparazzi" and sings somewhat disapprovingly about the very celebrity culture whose icons she's chasing.

DOWNLOAD THESE: Something from somebody else's album.

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