Lady Gaga is the out-of-the-blue planetary pop phenomenon of 2009. At the age of 23, Stefani Germanotta, the funny-looking girl from Yonkers, has established herself as a self-created autonomous star, an avatar of avant-garde freako fashion and the queen of state-of-the-art electronic dance-pop.
And, given that she writes or co-writes her material (unlike the majority of rivals in her field), a frighteningly prolific artist.
Contrary to initial reports, The Fame Monster is not the average "deluxe" edition of a hit album hastily pitched at the Christmas market. This eight-track stand-alone disc is a whole new piece of art in its own right. (That said, if you wait until 15 December, you can buy Gaga's debut The Fame and The Fame Monster packaged together as one purchase.)
TFM kicks off with the phenomenal current single "Bad Romance", whose Boney M-ish refrain is the most fiendish earworm of the year. Its first line proper – "I want your ugly, I want your disease..." – sets the tone for an album whose dominant atmosphere and aesthetic, from the monochrome cover shot and the crucifix logo onwards, is small-g gothic. Examples include the zombie metaphors of "Monster" ("He ate my heart..."), the strange Cossack pop of "Teeth" ("Take a bite of my bad-girl meat...") and "Dance in the Dark" ("Silicone, saline, poison, inject me...") which gives shout-outs to deceased females such as Monroe, Plath, Princess Di and even JonBenét Ramsey.
Darker still is "Speechless", a 1970s rock-inspired number that touches upon abusive relationships ("I can't believe how you slurred at me with your half-wired broken jaw..."). There are one or two pieces of pop fluff, but there's always a suggestion of something interesting going on behind those glitter-encrusted eyes, such as the lesbo-erotic "So Happy I Could Die" in which she confesses to a secret girl-crush on her best friend: "I love that lavender blonde/ The way she moves the way she walks/ I touch myself, can't get enough..."
If this is her idea of a stopgap release, we're looking here at a major talent indeed. On the evidence available so far, Lady Gaga isn't flesh and blood like the rest of us. She is made of amazingness.