Lady Gaga performs on the Other stage on day 2 of Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm on June 26, 2009 in Glastonbury, England. (Tabatha Fireman/Redferns)
Twelve years ago today, Lady Gaga did what she does best – reinvention.
She revised, reissued, and rebirthed her debut album and dropped The Fame Monster on 18 November, 2009.
It was the album that ruptured the powdery pop of the late 00s. Bringing in her potpourri of studs, silk, vinyl, leather, a lot of lace, razors, butterflies, bathtubs, bubbles, mirrored balls, dollar bill piles, inflatable whales being humped in a kiddie pool and confessionary music all to the charts.
It was the original Gaga, a pop-culture juggernaut we now know changes up her image at speeds that makes David Bowie seem slow and static.
On the anniversary of The Fame Monster, here are seven things you may not know about her defining electropop album
1. Lady Gaga was hesitant to drop The Fame Monster, saying she dislikes reissues.
When the idea of reissuing her debut album, The Fame, came about, Lady Gaga wasn’t exactly thrilled by the idea. Calling the practice of rejigging albums a disservice to music artistry itself.
“It’s artists sneaking singles onto an already finished piece of work in an effort to keep the album afloat,” Gaga said at the time when her label, Interscope Records, brought up the idea of a reissue.
2. Kanye West was originally meant to be part of her headline tour, The Monster Ball.
Kanye West, the culture fire starter and boisterous rapper, was actually meant to tour with Gaga for Fame Kills: Starring Kanye West and Lady Gaga.
But West’s abrupt hiatus following his barbed outburst at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards – yes, that one – tanked the duo’s planned tour. So Gaga, ever resilient, went solo.
It went onto become the highest-grossing tour in history by a debut headlining artist. Grossing an estimated $227.4 million from 200 reported shows.
3. 1950s science fiction movies, decaying celebrities and sex were the album’s main inspirations.
Honestly, what else did you expect from Lady Gaga?
“I have an obsession with death and sex,” Gaga told the British Daily Star newspaper, which would make for quite the Tinder bio.
“Those two things are also the nexus of horror films, which I’ve been obsessing over lately. I’ve been watching horror movies and 1950s science fiction movies. My re-release is called The Fame Monster so I’ve just been sort of bulimically eating and regurgitating monster movies and all things scary.
“I’ve just been noticing a resurgence of this idea of monster, of fantasy, but in a very real way. If you notice in those films, there’s always a juxtaposition of sex with death.”
4. She faked her own death at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. It didn’t go down too well.
Always one to not just gently nudge conventional boundaries, but take a flame-thrower to them, Gaga’s stage stunt during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards in which she faked her own death became a lightning rod for criticism.
Dripping with blood, blotting her white outfit, Gaga pretended to stab herself in the chest, writhed around and disappeared into the arm of her backing dancers as she performed a medley of “Poker Face” and “Paparazzi”.
The then 23-year-old then returned – hanging lithely from a cord suspended from the roof as her next twisted to the side and a blank look sliding across her face.
It… did not go down too well, especially among suicide prevention campaigns and charities. As Digital Spy reported, PAPYRUS, a British anti-suicide charity, dubbing it “not cool” and “irresponsible”.
5. There’s more than one ‘Fame Monster’.
After touring for the first time for The Fame Ball Tour, Lady Gaga explained in a news release that the eponymous “Fame Monster” is not a singular entity, but a patchwork of fears lurking inside of her around the seamier side of fame.
“While travelling the world for two years,” she said, “I’ve encountered several monsters, each represented by a different song on the new record.
“My ‘Fear of Sex Monster’, my ‘Fear of Alcohol Monster’, my ‘Fear of Love Monster’, my ‘Fear of Death Monster’, my ‘Fear of Loneliness Monster’, et cetera.”
6. Lady Gaga appeared on Gossip Girl to promote the album. Yes, really.
Because 2009 was well and truly a fever dream looking back, Gaga appeared on CW’s Gossip Girl, the television show all about students at elite private schools sniping and texting.
She appeared on the episode “The Last Days of Disco Stick”, a nod to Gaga’s “Disco Stick” song, where she performed the lead single from The Fame Monster, “Bad Romance:”.
7. It was where, er, that photograph of Lady Gaga and a spooked Eminem came from.
There were a lot of meme-worthy events during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, where Lady Gaga was peak, well, Lady Gaga in an effort to promote The Fame Monster.
Taking to the stage, a red lace-engulfed Gaga kindly accepted the award for Best New Artist handed to her by rapper Eminem. He seemed sufficiently spooked by her.
Eminem would go onto trade barbs with Gaga, dropping venomous disses against her in a 2011 track entitled “A Kiss”, making borderline transphobic and intersexphobic comments about her genitals – a debased rumour Gaga battled for years at the time.