Months of much hype, a well-received Grammy performance, and the outrageously cocky proclamation of ‘Record of the decade’ surrounded Lady GaGa’s official follow-up to The Fame (yes, refuse to consider her The Fame Monster EP as an actual album).
It may not be exactly what it was bid for, but she wasn’t lying when she promised Born This Way to be a merging of Glam metal, and sledge-hammering beats, as it introduces the listener to a newer realm of pop. With all the dance-trance trends filling radio, something like this is truly welcomed.
Born This Way showcases GaGa’s vocal ability to the fullest. The production may be massive and gigantic, but it doesn’t minimize GaGa’s delivery by one bit, it instead flows well with her occassional belting and midly rock-edged undertones. As ridiculous as the album cover may be, a motorcycle couldn’t put across the message the album carries throughout any better, as it is indeed a wild ride of electronic synthesizers, killer guitar riffs that sound-tracked the 80’s, and operatic vocal processing.
Opening with ‘Marry The Night’, GaGa makes an statement and uses it as an ode to New York City; church bells and background keys introduce the fast paced craze the number turns out to be. All in between making self promises of success and acknowledging weakness, it is a beautiful song, that puts into exact words who Lady GaGa is, conveying her struggle in the distractions of NY; one can almost see the mascara rolling down her cheeks; this would’ve been a much proper first single.
The title track is energetic, and uplifting, but strictly too popular psychology to be taken on a serious note; it is definitely a celebration of differences, but it somehow feels sloppy, and the ondulating production directed to cater to the LBGT community mostly, makes it hardly accessible.
‘Government Hooker’ sounds like an experiment gone right. Citing love in terms of monetary retribution and sexual submission, while referencing John F. Kennedy (and possibly Marilyn Monroe?), the song doesn’t make much sense lyrically, and some liners are completely out of place, but then again, it is GaGa we’re addressing in here, and it wouldn’t be GaGa enough, if it weren’t as convoluted as it is.
‘Judas’ is a superb slice of electro music; reminiscent of the iconic ‘Bad Romance’ for its similarly chanted hooks. Wailing like a banshee before hitting the chorus, GaGa compares a relationship based on betrayal to the biggest traitor of them all, in all bible form. The song explodes in an eargasmic dubstep breakdown featuring percussion. It is not one’s everyday type of pop song, for its dark and twisted lyricism.
An apparent commentary on immigration law, as well as same sex marriage lies in ‘Americano’. It is a little flamenco meets mariachi, with its rapidly strum strings and thumping bass. GaGa achieves in ‘Hair’ what she probably wanted to in the title track, without any extravagant lines of positivism, she instead ordains hairstyle as a source of identity and uniqueness. ‘Hair’ is subtle, with piano driven instrumentation and occassional saxophone (on behalf of the late Clarence Clemons), until it unashamedly explodes in a dubstep hook, and aggressive electric guitars. Now, this, is empowerment.
More musical experiments ensue with ‘Scheiße’. GaGa recites what sounds like her own idea of German, and proclaims the power of the female condition in a cat-walk-like beat. ‘Bloody Mary’ is yet another semi-bible based composition, though it could easily be considered more Dan Brown than anything resembling the actual bible. Paced on a tango rhythm, and breaking in a Gregorian chant, she makes an enfuriating call-out to love within each verse resolution, recounting giving up on a lover, while forgiving all they’ve been through. Minus the religious pretense for shock value, the song may even stand as GaGa’s finest. She effortlessly hits highs and sings hauntingly with ease; wonderfully arranged.
‘Bad Kids’ could’ve been played as the credits of a classic teenage film rolled. GaGa highlights diverse mischief, and excuses it with statements of identity. It is slightly disco, but it still manages to remain fresh and current; the arrangement and sudden addition of piano and organ in the breakdown is brilliant.
‘Highway Unicorn (Road To Love)’ is a toast to the pursue of dreams and an electronic trance that nearly feels as if it rolled on pavement as it plays. It is really a head-banging moment in the record, before it resumes with an incredible organ intermission. GaGa brings in leather and shackles for ‘Heavy Metal Lover’; probably her smoothest delivery yet. The song is soft and sexy, though oddly remains hard hitting, for its resonating electronic pulsations, that culminate in an entirely synthesized verse alluding the album title, before GaGa ooh’s her way towards the end. The beat is hazy, polluted and sex drenched; it is almost toxic.
She proclaims herself a religion in ‘Electric Chapel’, widely calling ‘holy fools’ those who misunderstand her for being all about ‘sex and champagne’. The electric guitars in here are enthralling, and major ear savor. The sound is bold. ‘You And I’ is a piano ballad about long-lasting love, making references to habits that would otherwise rot a relation, but GaGa reminisces about them with contentment. She shouts out to her dad, Nebraska and Jesus Christ, before a guitar solo takes over (courtesy of Brian May, off Queen), that would make any Def Leppard fan proud.
The album closes with yet another triumph-underlayed number, ‘The Edge Of Glory’. Written about her late grandfather, the song also hints at being on the verge of falling in love, and actually taking the chance. The strings that compose its instrumentation, meshed with electronic synths and a sax inclusion, closes the album on a high, worthy of an standing ovation.
Born This Way is a very consistent body of work, encompassing not only a new approach to pop music, but introducing blending of diverse sounds, while she celebrates individuality. Elements of rock n’ roll, and the electrifying beats of the Eurodance scene that separates mainstream dance from the actual dance genre, make it outstanding.
The only pitfall lies in the themes throughout the album. They do have a connection here and there, but at times her continuous stabs at empowerment makes the listener beg the question of what does she exactly aims to prove with it. At least the arrangement and overall production of the album is quite unpredictable, for it doesn’t follow patterns of songs everyone has or is currently releasing.
Does it meet the hype? Yes. Is it the record of the decade? No, but it was a nice try, for its revolutionizing industrial instrumentation. If Whitney Houston and Bruce Springsteen had a child, it would probably sound something close to this.