What was life like before Lady Gaga? It's hard to fathom. With her strong 2008 debut, The Fame, paparazzi-ready antics and refusal to wear anything other than underpants, she's become indispensable - too ludicrous to ignore and talented enough to embrace.
Now, a little over a year later, she's back with eight new songs about personal monsters. Album opener Bad Romance is a tour de ridiculous and strong contender for single of the year. It begins with a bizarre mimic of Boney M's Rasputin hook, moves to the Lady asking for her lover's "ugly" and "disease," and then segues into a series of Alfred Hitchcock references. The wonderfully soaring chorus is topped only by Gaga's cavalier attempt at French in the bridge.
The rest of the album more or less follows this strange twist on 80s dance pop. She creates layers of dark, self-indulgent, eye-popping music that holds up against her previous hits and is, in some cases, even more satisfying.
Top track: Bad Romance
Lady Gaga plays the ACC Saturday (November 28).