Born This Way is the second full length studio album from arguably the biggest star in the world, Lady Gaga. That’s right little monsters, gather around and feast your ears on the fourteen new tracks from Mother Monster. Filled with everything from dark and edgy tracks to uplifting sing-a-longs, Born This Way is truly a strong showing not only of Lady Gaga‘s talents as a singer, but her tremendous growth as an artist since the world was first introduced to her with 2008’s The Fame.
Not only has Gaga grown as an artist, but her popularity has also risen to a point where claiming she’s bigger than Jesus wouldn’t be too outrageous. Instead of falling into the pits of self-indulgence, which is easy to do on a sophomore outing, Lady Gaga gives us a roller coaster ride of an album, taking us through themes of expressing yourself, individuality, personal freedom and love, all wrapped up in a bit of melodrama.
The pop star doesn’t hesitate in getting things started and for the first track, we get Marry The Night. Organs put us in the church as Gaga asks us to invite the darkness in, she’s even going as far as to marry it. Throwing in some techno and a huge chorus, the artist riles up her little monsters early on. The song turns into a club stomp that will ensure it some dance floor playtime. It doesn’t quite open the album like Bad Romance did on Fame Monster but it’s still a strong track to get things going.
A familiar opening flows out of the speakers for track two, Born This Way. It’s familiar because if you’re listening to the album then you’ve likely heard this song already. It was the first single released and since its debut, the song has done quite well for itself. It’s perhaps the most blatant expression of freedom and individuality on the album but it’s a damn fine song.
It’s pure club pop, and was engineered for the dance floor. The song is the foundation of the album really and was designed with impact in mind. Is it too similar to Madonna‘s Express Yourself? Probably. But if we’re going to start pointing fingers for ripping off songs, we’d be here for a long time. Gaga seamlessly blends trance, pop, electro and a couple other genres as she provides a rousing anthem for her fanbase of little monsters. It may hammer home the point a bit too much, coming off a touch heavy handed, but it’s a bonafide hit, and it deserves to be.
You may be confused as the next track comes on. We hear Gaga purring out her name and singing in a foreign language. But not to fear, you’re worries will be put to ease as the song really kicks off at about the 1 minute mark. Edgy and certainly interesting, Gaga tries to go political with Government Hooker. She gives us lyrics like “Put your hands on me, John F. Kennedy!” but it sort of falls flat, the message just doesn’t come through. It’s a strange little industrial techno track that is worth a listen but likely won’t become a hit.
And then we come to Judas, another single that while initially controversial, has become a pretty big hit. It’s one of the better songs on the album and closely resembles Bad Romance. Religion is the main theme here and Gaga does her thing with it.
“In the most Biblical sense/ I am beyond repentance/ Fame hooker, prostitute wench, vomits her mind/But in the cultural sense/ I just speak in future tense/ Judas kiss me if offenced/Or wear ear condom next time.”
The electro/house sounds come through our speakers backed by lyrics that are sure to get a few people upset. Do I smell a bit of self-provocation? Maybe. The song is a bit obnoxious at times and even derivative, but it’s a good listen and will likely gets playtime in the clubs. The pop chorus mixed with the hard techno and spoken word segments make for an interesting listen musically but the overwhelming nature of the track just may have you switching off that repeat button.
The next song, Americano, is probably the worst on the album. Reminiscent of Alejandro, Gaga goes Spanish and gives us a bit of an aggressive track that becomes more and more redundant as it goes on. I really didn’t like this one, the strings and handclaps amp up the Spanish mood even more in a song that really goes nowhere and seems more suited for Broadway than a Lady Gaga album. It’s out of place and a boring listen. The heavy use of the flamenco guitar strums along with Gaga’s awful Spanish accent strengthen the stereotypical nature of the song and it really just borders on ridiculous. Skip it.
It start off slow. Operatic chants and a soothing saxophone emerge from the speakers. I’m talking about Hair, the next song on the album and another track written with Gaga’s fans in mind. Almost as blatant in its claim for freedom as Born This Way is, one can argue that Gaga’s little monsters would select this as their anthem over the title track.
It’s empowering and easy enough to sing-a-long to although lyrically, it’s questionable. Trite lyrics aren’t exactly a rarity on the album but with lines like “I’ve had enough, this is my prayer, that I’ll die living just as free as my hair,” parts of the track comes of as silly. Luckily, the presence of Clarence Clemons on sax makes up for it.
With Scheibe, the first forty five seconds have the pop star talking to us in German with strange techno beats playing in the background. When the song kicks off we get something that’s actually quite catchy, once again sticking with the album’s themes as Gaga tells us “if you’re a strong female you don’t need permission.” Synth heavy and energetic, its Berlin techno roots mixed with a layer of trance and sprinkled with a hint of Madonna, make for a worthy listen.
Lady Gaga courts controversy again on the next track, Bloody Mary. It’s a lot slower and no where near as heavy as the song’s we’ve been hearing thus far. Her attempts at provocation fall a bit flat though. The song isn’t terribly interesting, lyrically or musically and while it doesn’t feel as out of place as Americano, it certainly isn’t a highlight of the album. A bit too much crooning and some half-assed writing make this song a one time listen.
We pick right back up with the next song, Bad Kids. Gaga speaks to the outsiders as she describes herself as a jerk, a selfish punk and a brat, among other things. It’s a fun, disco-esque song, that is easy on the ears. Hammering home the message of being care free, Gaga gives us a song that we can dance to while chanting the strong chorus. It falters here and there in terms of lyrics but it’s an enjoyable listen overall. And yes, you’re not the only one who thinks she’s saying “fagott” instead of “bad kid”.
Highway Unicorn (Road To Love) is a bit of a mess. All over the place and disjointed, this song should have never made it onto the final cut. Over-ambitious and just plain strange, the track has a fine chorus but the rest of it just doesn’t do much for me. And the same goes for the next track, Heavy Metal Lover. Synth heavy mixed with an odd groove and that familiar electro sound make for some good production but as a whole, it’s just entirely forgettable. Plus there’s not even any real metal here.
Luckily things get back on track with Electric Chapel, which instantly draws comparisons to Billy Idol’s White Wedding. Giving off an 80’s pop/rock vibe, Gaga sings about love while staying away from the synths that she usually so heavily relies on. It’s a bit of a fresh sound for the singer and is very welcome. Flashing a bit of style, the rock guitars mesh into the song perfectly, even going as far to give us a solo.
If you’re a country fan you’re going to like this next one. With You and I, Gaga gives her best Shania Twain. Aiming for a nice sing-a-long, the singer slows it down and is joined by Queen’s Brian May. A crowd pleasing, set-closer if I’ve ever seen one, You and I is oddly engaging and one of the album’s best. I hate country but I found myself enjoying this one, a lot. The vocal harmonies are perfect and the song carries an almost epic feel to it.
And finally, the closing track, The Edge Of Glory. Clarence Clemons returns on the sax as Gaga proclaims that she’s on the edge of glory, as she closes out her sophomore effort. Pop, rock, dance and more get thrown in the blender here as the singer beckons the first pumping, ending off things on a definite high note. Gaga fills the song with passion and emotion as she really sings the shit out if. It neatly encompasses just about every aspect of the album in some way and it’s a perfect and fitting end.
Although a bit misguided at time, Born This Way is a strong album. Lady Gaga is no doubt the most powerful celebrity alive, with legions of fans that idolize her. She’s found her niche and tapped into an audience that have embraced her as an almost God-like figure. A lot of the lyrics here are a bit too cheesy and melodramatic but most of the songs do sound genuinely great.
A bit more subtlety would have been nice in songs that hammer the home their messages too hard but overall, 2011’s most anticipated album more or less manages to live up to its hype. Fans of recent trendy dance music like Tiesto or Benny Benassi will feel the most at home but Gaga also provides a few breathers to switch up the pace.
Born This Way is an adrenaline fuelled romp through Gaga’s twisted mind. Drenched with passion, stuffed with four-on-the-floor dance tracks, wrapped in not so subtle messages all touched off with a bit of melodrama, if nothing else, Born This Way is an interesting album.
It’s a furious barrage of sounds, bringing in flamenco, 80’s rock, 70’s disco, Berlin techno, country ballads, Clarence Clemons sax solos and more. While at times it feels rushed and too overt, it’s mostly a strong effort from the queen of pop and one that will surely please fans.
Born This Way was released on May 23, 2011.