, January 14th, 2009 11:20
A triumphal return of pop is being currently being trumpeted from the pages of the music press. The temptation to paraphrase Dick Rowe, the man infamously credited with turning down The Beatles by saying, “Guitar bands are on the way out”, is pretty strong – if only it were true. Granted, the charts have been besieged with landfill indie for far too long but sparkly, spangly pop has never been in short order. Girls Aloud are now five albums into a career that was only supposed to last for five minutes while the post-meltdown comeback of Britney Spears has been a resurrection against overwhelming odds. To top it all, the X-Factor’s continued dominance of the Christmas charts reveals a public only too hungry for these ephemeral thrills.
As revealed by her high placing in this year’s Ones To Watch frenzy, the appearance of Lady GaGa has sent many a tastemaker into something of a tailspin. Here, at last, is a feisty female pop starlet who not only writes and performs her own material but she (co-) produces it too. And if that wasn’t enough, her credentials are given an extra boost of credibility thanks to her association with New York’s achingly hip club demimonde. Why, it’s a dream come true for those waiting for the natural successor to Madonna.
Or at least that’s how the theory goes because, despite a plan that looks great on paper, the reality is a different beast altogether. The Fame, already a monster hit in her native America and heralded by the non-event of a hit at the turn of the year in the form of ‘Just Dance’, is a cold and heartless creation that’s sharply at odds with pop at its finest. And let’s be honest here; when pop not only hits the mark but also rubs it out entirely, the pleasures that it elicits are pretty unbeatable. At its best, pop is an aspirational creature that shakes off the shackles of the everyday grind that keep you tethered to reality and possesses the ability to transport the listener to a place that’s free of worry and care; in short, pop is a sense of unabashed joy and purposeful defiance.
The Fame, on the other hand, is about as joyless and conformist as pop gets. Hideously contrived by a formula that refuses to deviate from a template that wishes it were Timbaland or The Neptunes (if only!), this is an album that induces incredulity thanks to the lavish claims that have been heaped upon it in the weeks before its release. But then again, where’s the big surprise in that? We all know that Stefani Joanne Germanotta – the brains behind Lady GaGa - has been penning material for the monstrosity that is The Pussycat Dolls, so why expect anything more than anodyne fluff?
What works against it in tandem with the two-dimensional production are the equally flat lyrical concerns. There’s no aspiration here as Lady GaGa’s comfortable background ensures that she’s simply rubbing your face into what you can’t have. With her snout firmly in the trough she coos, “We like boys in cars who buy us drinks in bars” on the thoroughly dreadful ‘Boys Boys Boys’ before crowning things off with, “I like you a lot lot/Think you’re really hot hot.” It’s half-baked lyrical flatulence like this makes you think that maybe we’ve been too hard on Noel Gallagher and the less said about, “I wanna take a ride on your disco stick” on ‘Love Game’ the better.
So, is the way the way the future’s supposed to feel? No, it’s not; this is what happens when hyperbole from the misguided conspires with the sales gap that is January to make something look even bigger than it actually is. In much the same way that you can’t remember anything by The Pussycat Dolls other than ‘Don’t Cha’, the end-of-the-year polls in December will be struggling to remember what the bloody hell the all fuss was about when scratching their heads at the mention of Lady GaGa.