CAMP POP: The Fame Monster


Image Credit: Google

Jessica Anthony

Lady Gaga is one of the figures in modern pop that feels like the icon of a generation. In the same way that figures such as The Beatles or Michael Jackson define an era of pop music, either through pioneering or perfecting the genre as it stood when they came to fame, Gaga felt like the final boss of 2000’s pop. She only broke through in 2008 with her debut single Just Dance, arriving late to a landscape already full of pop divas clamoring to the top. Later that same year came her debut EP, The Fame. It was a glam pop album full of edgy, avant-garde dance music; inspired by glam rockers, 80’s pop, 90’s dance tracks, and even goth or industrial beats. Her approach to pop stardom was a wonderfully campy mess, turning heads and making a scene before the debut album ever even arrived. 

And arrive, it did – on November 19th, 2009, she released a full sixteen track album called the Fame Monster, a magnum opus of an album that featured all eight songs from her EP, as well as another eight original songs inspired by her previous year of sudden stardom. It was dark; almost vampy in presentation, where very live show was less a concert and more a work of performance art. Most notably, her 2009 VMA’s performance of Paparazzi, a performance so shocking that MTV ended up having to edit out audience noises during the broadcast due to audible gasps from from the crowd when a special effect blood capsule burst, making everyone in attendance believe, even if for just a split second, that she was bleeding out on stage in front of their very eyes. 

It was this aspect of blurring the audio and the visual, and making her absurd existence so intrinsic to the enjoyment of her music, that set a new standard for pop stars still observed to this day. After all, it feels hard to imagine the likes of Katy Perry, early Nicki Minaj, or even Reputation Era Taylor Swift existing in a world without Gaga. While unfair to say they owe their careers to her, or that she singlehandedly invented this concept of a larger than life pop image, it becomes difficult to imagine the artists named earlier making it far without Lady Gaga pushing the boundaries of pop music. 

Her career, of course, did not end there. She has continued to put out album after album of genre-expanding music, taking twists and turns and continuing to keep people on their toes. However, this first album continues to stand the test of time in a way that has proven to be near impossible to ever replicate again. The dark undertones and extreme persona were unlike anything the world had ever seen, the influence of which can still be seen to this day in the likes of Halsey or even Billie Eilish continue to emulate with experimental vocals, production, and twisted imagery. Most importantly, however, was the way in which she ushered in a new era of camp into the mainstream, which cemented her persona as a game changer for decades to come.