Interscope Records · August 2008
As Lady Gaga stars in her first feature film “A Star is Born,” let us not forget a star was born 10 years ago when The Fame changed the sound of pop music forever. I remember sitting in the back of my mom’s Honda Pilot at 10 years old, secretly watching the music video for the sex infused, club banger ‘Just Dance.’ This song changed how I saw pop music and like many others it cemented in me a love for strong women in pop.
Trying to articulate the impact The Fame has had on music is like trying to describe the influence of smartphone technology: Gaga forced everyone to step up their game. She made pop music videos into a phenomenon where creativity in story and visuals became just as valued as the music itself. She established electronic influences as a staple in top charting songs. And she made an album that was just as lyrically groundbreaking as it was musically.
Gaga became this icon for her shock value. Despite the obvious examples of this (the timeless meat dress), The Fame featured lyrics from a female artist that were diva-like, bold, and liberating to their audience. Stand outs include ‘let’s have some fun this beat is sick/I want to take a ride on your disco stick’ from the raunchy “LoveGame,” ‘wish I could shut my playboy mouth/ how’d I turn my shirt inside out?’ from the career starting “Just Dance,” and ‘can’t sleep with the man who dims my shine’ from the empowering “I Like It Rough.” Gaga is a self-made star as she wrote an entire debut album around the concept of fame before anyone had even heard her name.
A family tree could be drawn showing the future of young pop artists that took direct inspiration from Gaga throughout the last decade, similarly to how Lorde’s 2013 debut Pure Heroine created a new rise of minimalistic pop artists. 80’s influences on songs like ‘Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)’ gave way to artists like Carly Rae Jepsen. Heavy synthesizers mixed with over auto tuned vocals on songs like “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich” gave way to artists like Charli XCX—all making the term “Mother Monster” feel quite literal. Whether you’re a fan of Gaga or not, it’s impossible to deny her star power and eventual influence on many great artists today.
If you’re like me and haven’t listened to The Famein years because so much revolutionary pop music has come out in the past decade, you may also have overlooked some of the hidden gems on Gaga’s debut. The Gwen Stefani inspired bop ‘Summerboy’ is one of the most unique tracks on the album and shows off Gaga’s ability to alter her vocals to a point where she’s almost unrecognizable. ‘Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)’ takes a hard turn away from the club-kid scene Gaga became known for toward a lighter, more bubbly sound. “Brown Eyes” is as close as Gaga gets to a ballad on her debut and it signifies where her music would eventually go in the following years.
The impact of Gaga on music and culture globally is irreversible. She has taken a generally backwards path in her career: going from a hyper exaggerated character to a stripped down singer songwriter. But no matter what Gaga does: people listen, a quality that signifies the creation of a true pop star.