When Gwen Stefani went solo, she aimed to redefine pop music with the gothic Lolita look of her backup dancers the Harajuku Girls. She succeeded somewhat with Love. Angel. Music. Baby, which spawned the hit singles “Rich Girl” and “Hollaback Girl.” Her second effort to create a futuristic yet mainstream persona, The Sweet Escape, failed completely with lyrics about everything from bad cell phone reception to missing her period and a lead single that kidnapped the innocence of The Sound of Music and sold it to the lethargic homogeneity of Pharrell. However, there is one Stefani who has not only succeeded at redefining the pop genre, but has inspired some of mainstream music’s top artists to follow suit.
Discovered by none other than pop mogul Akon, Stefani Germanotta—Lady GaGa—cut her teeth in the music business recording reference vocals and writing songs for other artists. Her talent was soon recognized, and she began work on her debut The Fame with producers RedOne and Akon at the helm.
Featuring her signature brand of futuristic techno-pop, The Fame encapsulates all that is Lady GaGa, combining the glam of the ’80s with the electropop of Kylie Minogue and the musical audacity of rock-legend Queen. In songs like “Boys, Boys, Boys,” there is an obvious tribute to the Mötley Crüe’s hit “Girls, Girls, Girls,” and the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” receives a dose of Tarn-X in current single “Poker Face.”
“I wanna take a ride on your disco stick,” GaGa taunts robotically in “Love Game,” a pulsating journey that sounds about as emotionally detached as the late Anna Nicole Smith to her billionaire husband J. Howard Marshall. U.S. tracks “Starstruck” and “Paper Gangsta” send Timbaland’s patented snare to electronic rehab as GaGa sing-raps with so much conviction, it makes Gwen Stefani’s shit look bananas—B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
Where lead single “Just Dance” features more special effects than all the Matrix trilogy combined, ballads “Brown Eyes” and “Again, Again” amply explain why Akon signed this seemingly computerized artist, stripping her down to her bare vocals, piano and a live band.
Perhaps The Fame’s most impressive performance can be found on its title track, an energetic dance joint that drunkenly stumbles into action with verses that sizzle into an explosive chorus, leaving a tingling sensation more intoxicating than Pop Rocks. As GaGa sings “Doing it for the fame/ ‘Cause we got a taste for champagne and endless fortune,” you realize that pop does rock.