12 years after its release, Lady Gaga’s The Fame remains one of the most iconic debut pop albums of the 21st century. Far more than a collection of addictive hooks and chart-topping dance hits, The Fame catapulted Gaga towards an oft-cited self-fulfilling prophecy. Gaga’s unapologetic embracing of the material mess and mystique of pop-culture (while giving thanks “to God and the gays”) establishes The Fame as a masterpiece of self-expression.

I’m ashamed to say that my 2010 self had the Kidz Bop 17 cover of Paparazzi in frequent rotation – however recently, I’ve rediscovered The Fame in its sensual, uncensored entirety. Each song seems to represent a different flavor of Gaga’s performative and personal identities, from the gritty glamour of Beautiful, Dirty, Rich to the softer tones of Brown Eyes.

With inspiration from the Instagram project @ifbookswerefood, here’s a breakdown of select musical arrangements as their edible counterparts.

1. Just Dance (feat. Colby O’Donis)

Basket of onion rings from "El Carambas" Mexican restaurant in Rochester, Minnesota
[Image Description: Basket of onion rings from “El Carambas” Mexican restaurant in Rochester, Minnesota] Via Jonathunder on Wikipedia
Picked-Apart Onion Rings

Not only did the lyrics of Just Dance take only 10 minutes to fry up, but this uptempo synth-pop track also features a greasily-worded rap from Colby O’ Donis – who chants “there is no reason at all why you can’t leave here with me”. As you pick at a paper tray in a room too dark to discern picked-apart onion rings from french fries, Gaga assures you that it’s “Gonna be okay” regardless of which fried bits you decide to sustain yourself with.

2. LoveGame

Various flavors of rock candy
[Image Description: Various flavors of rock candy] Via Evan-Amos on Wikipedia
Rainbow Rock Candy

LoveGame crackles in one’s mouth like multicolored rock candy, but not the type you’d pick up at the gift shop of a science museum. Like the euphemistic “discostick” which Gaga choruses and famously wields during LoveGame performances, the enticing confection is similarly lighthearted and edible.

3. Paparazzi

A slice of Table Talk brand cherry pie, from a local supermarket in NYC
[Image Description: A slice of Table Talk brand cherry pie, from a local supermarket in NYC] Via Evan-Amos on Wikipedia
Bittersweet Cherry Pie

An all-time favorite of mine, “Loving you is cherry pie” pretty much sets the tone for this intricately flavored gem (especially since Gaga is supposedly allergic to cherries). Paparazzi bears a crust of self-indulgence –  but slice away at its saccharine dance-pop sound and you’ll find a deep yearning for that bittersweet balance of fame and love.

4. Poker Face

Two glasses of Turmeriyenne
[Image Description: Two glasses of Turmeriyenne] Via Kabolobari Benakole on Unsplash
 Flat Fanta

Without a doubt, Poker Face exudes nostalgic orange soda energy, minus the carbonation of its musical sister, Just Dance.

5. Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)

Hospitality mint in a clear wrapper
[Image Description: Hospitality mint in a clear wrapper] Via Hospitality Mints
Hospitality Mint

If failed relationships were stale dine-ins at Chick-fil-A, Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say) would be the complimentary butter mint you grab on your way out. Rather than lamenting in a minor key, Gaga cheerily sings “Eh-eh, eh-eh/There’s nothing else I can say” over a beachy, bubblegum-pop backdrop. 

6. Beautiful, Dirty, Rich

Multicolored candy jewelry in a plastic bag
[Image Description: Multicolored candy jewelry in a plastic bag] Via Bernard Hermant on Unsplash
Candy Necklace

Beautiful, Dirty, Rich chronicles Gaga’s early perceptions of fame as an up-and-coming artist in the Lower East Side. Like a Smarties Necklace or a Ringpop on a string, Gaga’s lyrics remind one that even if “we got no money”, it’s possible to “live a cute life” of self-manufactured glamour.

7. The Fame

Sliced Pain de Campagne
[Image Description: Sliced Pain de Campagne] Via grongar on Wikipedia
Champagne Bread

 If this were any ol’ glitzy pop album, the title track would constitute its bread and butter. But The Fame isn’t any ol’ glitzy pop album, and Gaga is beyond the basic equipment of an ordinary sourdough starter. The Fame is high-end champagne bread; lose yourself in the runway energy of “doin’ it for the fame (Fame)” as you sip on “champagne and endless fortune.” 

8. Money Honey

Pile of chocolate coins
[Image Description: Pile of chocolate coins] Via Liz West on Wikipedia
Half-melted Chocolate Coins

Like foil-wrapped chocolate, Money Honey parodies “the finer things” in life made available through cash and coin. Though Gaga waxes lavishly on about “the Jag, the jet, and the mansion”, the facade of glamor melts halfway through when she admits “But it’s not what makes me happiest, baby”.

9. Starstruck (feat. Space Cowboy & Flo Rida)

Hot dogs being cooked in water on a stovetop
[Image Description: Hot dogs being cooked in water on a stovetop] Via Angela Brisk on Twitter
Hot Dog Water Ice Cubes

Starstruck (feat. Space Cowboy & Flo Rida) is what you passive-aggressively deliver to undesirable home guests: hot dog water ice cubes. Even Gaga’s mechanically delivered line “Groove, slam, work it back” won’t “filter that” lunch meat out completely.  

10. Boys Boys Boys

Red jelly decorated with edible glitter
[Image Description: Red jelly decorated with edible glitter] Via Kitchen Mechanic
Edible Glitter Jelly

What tastes “just like glitter mixed with rock ‘n’ roll”? According to Gaga, Boys Boys Boys do (but only the ones raised on “hairspray and denim”). 

11. Paper Gangsta

Plate of spaghetti aglio e olio
[Image Description: Plate of spaghetti aglio e olio] Via Youjeen Cho on Unsplash
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

Imagine twirling your fork into the chili-flecked depths of Spaghetti aglio e olio while the impassioned line “some shit don’t fly by me in a man” streams from someone’s regretful ringtone. Revenge is as sweet as minced parsley.

12. Brown Eyes

Bowl of chocolate mousse with someone taking a spoonful out
[Image Description: Bowl of chocolate mousse with someone taking a spoonful out] Via Lu on Wikipedia
Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Take a hearty ladleful out of Brown Eyes; this nostalgic ballad is thick with emotion and whipped to perfection. Like a homemade chocolate avocado mousse experiment, Gaga’s laments how “Everything could be everything if only we were older”, leaving the listener open to interpret “what went wrong” in the recipe.

13. I Like It Rough

Closeup of spiky green durian Skin
[Image Description: Closeup of spiky green durian Skin] Via Steve Douglas on Unsplash
Durian Skin

Durian bears an intimidating exterior and a pungent, acquired taste – much like the love I Like It Rough idealizes. 

14. Summerboy

Kettlecorn in a dish
[Image Description: Kettlecorn in a dish]
County Fair Kettle Corn

Summerboy is drenched head to toe in the sun-kissed nostalgia of a summer fling, from Gaga’s stuttering flirtation (“C-c-c-crazy”) to the track’s flippant, poppy beat.

15. Disco Heaven

Pineapple salsa with green onions and tomato
[Image Description: Pineapple salsa with green onions and tomato] Via Jeffreyw on Flickr
Pineapple Salsa

A solid pineapple salsa will “hit you in the pants, hot pants” when grounded with a sultry mezzo-soprano tortilla – in this case, Gaga’s Disco Heaven

In conclusion, the Mother Monster’s debut album is worth a hearty revisit, regardless of mealtime or occasion. Like an artisanal cottagecore picnic basket, The Fame bears some tasty favorites (Paparazzi) and some that should be thrown out for compost (Starstruck).

Nevertheless, consider this a party in your mouth for the ages.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

  • Shannon Zheng

    Shannon Zheng is a multidisciplinary artist and designer studying Art & Design and Philosophy at the University of Michigan. She is interested in channeling art as a form of intervention, whether it be through constructing visual narratives to promote social change or designing confrontationally through an activist lens.