The rise of Mother Monster: Celebrating 10 years of ‘The Fame Monster’.

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Streamline Records, Interscope Records

The deluxe edition cover of Lady Gaga’s debut extended play, ‘The Fame Monster’.

Mason Montano, Music Editor

By late 2009, American singer-songwriter and pop legend Lady Gaga was an unstoppable force on the mainstream music scene.

She was topping charts worldwide with her hit singles “Just Dance” with American singer Colby O’Donis, “Poker Face, “LoveGame”, and “Paparazzi” from her massively successful debut album, The Fame; her flamboyant music videos and extravagant costumes both shocked and captivated the general public; and she was all over the radio.

On November 18, 2009, Gaga continued her pop music takeover with the release of her sophomore project, The Fame Monster, which was originally developed as a deluxe repackage of The Fame, but she felt that the two records were conceptually different and decided to release the eight new tracks as both a standalone EP and a deluxe version with The Fame on a second disc.

While keeping the same disco, glam rock, and synth pop influences of The Fame, The Fame Monster is its polar opposite, dealing with the dark side of celebrity status and showcasing what Gaga described in an interview with Billboard as “the decay of the celebrity and the way that fame is a monster in society”. She also cited her love for horror films, gothic fashion, and runways as major inspirations for the direction of the EP.

The Fame Monster features more personal subject matter as opposed to The Fame, and each track represents one of Gaga’s fears or “monsters”: “Bad Romance” = “Fear of Love Monster”, “Alejandro” = “Fear of Men Monster”, “Monster” = “Fear of Sex Monster”, “Speechless” = “Fear of Death Monster”, “Dance in the Dark” = “Fear of Self Monster”, “Telephone” = “Fear of Suffocation Monster”, “So Happy I Could Die” = “Fear of Addiction Monster”, and “Teeth” = “Fear of Truth Monster”.

Due to its darker, edgier sound in comparison to her previous work, Gaga’s record label, Interscope, initially refused to release it, but after much persuading, they eventually gave her the “OK”, and it’s a good thing they did because The Fame Monster solidified her place on the pop music scene, as there were still those who doubted her longevity, claiming that she’d die out faster than she emerged, however, Gaga put them all to shame with this record.

The lead single, “Bad Romance”, peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and since its release in October 2009, it has been certified platinum 11 times by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), topped the charts in over 20 countries, and sold 12 million copies worldwide — making it one of the best-selling singles of all time.

The second and third singles, “Telephone” with the Queen, Beyoncé, and “Alejandro”, respectively, earned her even more success, each peaking in the top 5 of the Hot 100 and reaching the top 10 in multiple countries worldwide. Although their music videos each stirred up a considerable amount of controversy — “Telephone” depicts graphic violence and nudity, and “Alejandro” sports heavy religious imagery paired with sexually-suggestive, homoerotic scenes — they have since been recognized for their boundary-pushing nature and celebrated for their artistic vision.

The final single, “Dance in the Dark”, achieved moderate international chart success even though it deserved so much more, especially considering the fact that it’s arguably one of the best songs that Gaga has ever released. Thankfully, it received a stellar performance at the 2010 BRIT Awards alongside an acoustic version of “Telephone” that she dedicated to British fashion designer and couturier Alexander McQueen, who passed away the week prior.

The EP itself was met with acclaim from critics, topping the charts in over 10 countries, reaching #5 on the Billboard Top 200, and winning Best Pop Vocal Album at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards in February 2011.

We also can’t forget to mention its iconic tour, The Monster Ball Tour, which ran from November 2009 to May 2011 and grossed a total of $227.4 million from its 203 shows, drawing in an audience of 2.5 million and becoming the highest-grossing tour by a debut headlining artist in history.

The Fame Monster has been hailed as Gaga’s greatest musical effort to date, as both it and The Fame have been credited for reviving interest in electronic dance music during the late 2000s in addition to setting a new standard for female pop artists everywhere.

Not only was it universally groundbreaking, but the EP later became the namesake of her fanbase, the “Little Monsters”, as well as the genesis of her infamous title as “Mother Monster”.

Stream The Fame Monster on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/58WSd6SDPOcbnnJ2tq0Ph8?si=_VPo36sEQ2i2REPulXi75Q 

Watch the music video for “Bad Romance”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrO4YZeyl0I 

Watch the music video for “Telephone”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQ95z6ywcBY 

Watch the music video for “Alejandro”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niqrrmev4mA 

Watch Gaga’s performance of “Telephone / Dance in the Dark” at the 2010 BRIT Awards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EH12HwyadqU 

This article was originally published in November 2019 and later revised in April 2020.