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