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Hot to trot chanteuse lives up to the buzz – but only just
Peter Murphy, 03 Feb 2009
Ever get the feeling you’re being subjected to the hard-sell?
This particular bill of goods – the debut from a much heralded 22-year-old Yonkers born performer who got her break at Interscope penning tunes for the Pussycat Dolls – comes replete with in-yer-face press campaign and a number one single in the form of ‘Just Dance’. Joanne Stefani Germanotta is a prime candidate for stardom in the post-Paris age, a self-made mouthy sexpot with brains, balls and attitude, graduate of a Darwinian Lower East Side performance-art ratpit circuit that’d turn any shrinking violet into a venus fly trap.
So, Lady GaGa can parade around in her knickers at Lollapalooza one minute and tour with New Kids On The Block the next and nobody bats an eyelid because it’s, um, modern art. Each successive epoch adds an x to x-rated, until mainstream MTV looks like an ‘80s softcore videodrome. It’ll probably all culminate in Tom Waits’s quip about quintuple x-rated films in porno palaces: “What’s that – girls without skin?!!”
On this side of the pond, we still tend to regard such blatant ambition and extroversion with a mixture of envy and suspicion that has the faint-hearted crossing themselves and muttering “Ciccone youth” as they finger their rosaries. Plus, your average Dublin or London or Berlin resident might cock an ear to this record and wonder what all the fuss is about. I mean, it ain’t Peaches. But over here electronica’s been mainstream since before The Prodigy. In the US, it’s still a dirty word that carries with it a whiff of amyl nitrate and transgressive burlesques in meat packing districts.
The Fame is not all that outré. Brash yes, a sort of pop art pageantry (Germanotta was an Edie obsessive, she cleaves to Warhol and Lichtenstein’s lurid colours rather than Mapplethorpe’s fetish portraiture), but the production, while state of the art, is squarely mainstream. Sonically it’s not that far from Britney or Pink or Gwen Stefani – and occasionally Ace Of Base – and is certainly four or five tracks too long, but it is nevertheless a take-no-prisoners study in pop-as-commodity rapaciousness.