Has the world gone mad? There we all are, one minute enjoying a blissful Lady Gaga-free existence and the next our eyes and ears are suddenly assaulted by the furious, writhing advance of an artist who, at 22, is busy comparing herself to a young Madonna. Lady Gaga, or Joanna Germanotta to her parents, is greedily chalking up press inches the world over after the release of her debut album The Fame. The first single from the record, Just Dance, was released on to an unsuspecting public in America in June and soon after notched up a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording.
It then took some time to claw its way to the prime No 1 chart position, landing there finally in January. It's a grindingly catchy tune with heavy reliance on the synthesiser, Lady Gaga's apparent weapon of choice which is used across the entire album. In truth though, The Fame isn't half bad. Fifteen tracks of upbeat pop of the kind that is suitable for a spin in the gym, but which will doubtless also be pumped out to sweaty clubs across the world this summer. Much like Lily Allen, Lady Gaga spends a good deal of time scorning the heavy weight of fame that rests upon her slender, young shoulders.
"I can't help myself, I'm addicted to a life of material/It's some kind of joke, I'm obsessively opposed to the typical," she purrs ironically in The Fame. "I'm your biggest fan/I'll follow you until you love me Papa, PAPARAZZI," she screams in Paparazzi. But as she's currently cavorting across the globe wearing more make-up than clothing, it's hard to believe she's as disdainful of the attention as is implied.
It has been a strange, chameleon-like rise for the chanteuse. Born in Yonkers to Italian parents, she attended the same, prestigious Manhattan private school as Nicky and Paris Hilton. That musical talent was there is clear. She had learnt to play the piano by ear by the tender age of four, and started performing at open-mic nights in New York by her early teenage years. Then, aged 17, she earned a place at New York's renowned Tisch School of the Arts, one of only 20 people in her year to be given early admission.
To the apparent dismay of her parents, she then slithered into the underground club scene to dabble with the pop and burlesque set there. Her dedication to the musical cause meant that by the age of 20 she had not only signed her first record deal but also penned songs for a number of well-known acts, including Britney Spears, the Pussycat Dolls and New Kids on the Block, with whom she performed at last month's British music awards, The Brits.
The Fame is clearly the result of such immersion in sugary pop. Apart from the good use of the synthesiser, the melodies are ever so slightly predictable, which might explain why her debut single has scored the top position on charts in several countries. Her voice is strong, though, with echoes of Gwen Stefani or Nelly Furtado and, perhaps as I'm feeling generous, with Madonna, too. "I think what she and I share is that we're both fearless, we both have a lot of nerve," she said modestly of her similarly Italian-American idol in an interview with the British newspaper The Times last month.
Humility comes naturally to Lady Gaga it seems. On her MySpace page, she explains that she sounds like "her male equivalents," and lists Elton John, Freddie Mercury and Boy George as examples. It was Queen's Radio Gaga from which she took her name in fact, and there's a distinct 1980s disco sound that reverberates through the album. The lyrics perhaps need some work. "Boys, boys, boys, We like boys in cars, Boys, boys, boys," she sings in a track unsurprisingly called Boys, Boys, Boys. "I've heard it before," she tells a previous victim in Paper Gangsta, "Yeah, the dinners were nice, Till your diamond words melted into some ice." How can words melt into ice Lady Gaga? I'm confused.
Overall though, it's an album that makes for fun, aimless listening. Not necessarily one to have on repeat play , but a bit of froth for playing every now and then. In an American radio interview I listened to recently, she announced her intention to be around on the pop scene for the next 25 years. That seems a tad ambitious, but so long as she can survive the current Lady Gaga hysteria, her musical talent should be able to carry her through the next couple of albums at least.