Quick succession post Numero Dos in preparation for my new Celebrity Interview series “11 Questions with…” Who’s debut will be on Monday March 5th 2012! We’ve got Elm Street 4’s Tuesday Knight, Action Queen Sybil Danning, Elvira Mistress of the Dark Cassandra Petersen, Oscar winner Lee Grant, Master of Horror John Carpenter and many more coming soon! Be there or be square!
Now, on to the review at hand!
Back on August 15th 2010 I posted a glowing review of Lady Gaga’sfor the 2nd Anniversary of BRWC, shortly before that I had become a big fan of her work. A “monster” if you will…
When Born This Way, her second full length album (after the excellent, but too short, mini follow-up The Fame Monster,) was unleashed on May 23rd 2011 I very nearly turned in my paws…
I DESPISED the first single and it’s accompanying video, the title track “Born this Way.” And I thought the album artwork was garbage. As first impressions go it was a big “meh” for me and I brushed the whole thing off for a while, moving onto more pressing, modern, musical things (like Frankmusik, My Chemical Romance and The Scissor Sisters.)
Anyways, after having Born this Way the song, blasted directly into my brain on seemingly continuous loop on the radio, it slowly began to bore it’s way into my subconscious. By which I mean I started making up little parodies of it in my head such as “I Watch Porn That’s Gay” or “I Eat Corn This Way.” This of course caused my hatred to turn to tolerance and eventually my tolerance turned to “BLAH! I like this!” (Even though the song and SEVERAL others from the album on the whole are BLATANT rip-off’s of Madonna’s Express Yourself. Much more so than has already been made of the subject.) I still hate the cinema-film that goes with it though…
The video is Lady Gaga at her worst, I’ve only been able to sit through it entirely in one sitting, once, (for this review in fact.) It is pretentious, atypically (for her) humorless, overblown, needlessly weird and completely lacking in any sort of structure or point. AND for a music that features unicorns made of glitter, scores of half naked dancers and a fairly explicit birthing of her own self in outer space it’s pretty boring to boot.
In short, the Born This Way video is the sort of thing that would confirm to anyone who already disliked her that everything they think about her is true. (And don’t fuss at me for dwelling on the music videos in a review of the album, Gaga has gone out of her way to connect the image to the music, so… only she’s to blame.)
Then “Judas” came out… and I liked the song right away, hated the video less (but still found it a charisma void and a surplus of pointlessly “artsy” mess.) It seemed, at least musically Gaga had returned to a more Gaga like form.
“Edge of Glory” was next as a single, didn’t like the song to begin with, but then it grew on me and I came to love it (the video is the dullest thing Gaga has ever done though.) “You and I” followed suit and I loved the song immediately, but despised the video again. Then “Marry the Night” came and it was the first single from the album for me to both adore the song and video on a Poker Face level…
So far, before even purchasing the album it had been a roller coaster for me, vacillating between hesitant but fawning admiration and abject hatred. Strange, as after my original reticence toward her in her early days I had since embraced whole hearted everything she’d released since, audio or visual.
Had Gaga lost her touch I began to wonder?
To a degree, yes. But, not as much as I had feared just from first impressions…
Once I bought the album I had a better idea of what was going on… Gaga is trying to change and grow as an artist (and that’s wonderful and totally necessary to remain relevant and productive) but some things just don’t suit her (as much as she’d love to be and or wear everything and the kitchen sink.)
The Album smartly opens with Marry the Night. A glorious audio homage to Gaga’s home town of New York and at the same time a blistering, pulse pounding, modernization of the stuff Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder were doing around 1979. Lyrically Marry the Night is a straightforward “night out on the town” anthem. The words, music and delivery are guaranteed (at least for the more club inclined) to get the feet tapping and fists pumping. And, special mention goes to the bridge (Gaga always burns bridges better than anyone in the business) which really does (as cheesy as it sounds) send the heart soaring. Video was good too, I’d love to audition Gaga for a part in a film.
Track 2 is Born This Way. I’ve already kind of said enough about it, but will go a little further. It’s not a bad song, I’ve heard much worse, but it’s too much Madonna, not enough Gaga. We don’t need another material girl, one is more than enough. And, I don’t like it when Gaga “supports the gays” she loves so much with her lesser efforts (the video for Alejandro comes to mind also.) Still, despite all that, it’s a decent enough listen.
Government Hooker is next and it’s a fairly weak track, despite every (desperate) effort on her part. The song musically tries to blend together Opera, Techno and her typical Pop Theatrics to middling results. It’s too much of everything, but not enough of anything. Once again, I’ve heard worse though, but filler 3 tracks into an album is not a good sign.
Fortunately, the lesser song is followed by one of the best on the album, Judas. This song finds Gaga very much in familiar territory. It’s the most “Gaga-like” song on Born This Way. Musically it’s sure to appeal to those who like to shake their asses out on the dance floor (although it stands, as she often does, heads and shoulders above her contemporaries in the genre in terms of execution and production value.) And lyrically it tells a sordid love story/menage-a-troi with Mary Magdalene subtext that appeals to Gaga’s artsy aspirations without being overkill. Special notice once again goes to the wonderful bridge.
Americano is next on the playlist and it is quite good. A decent example of throwing far too much into a song and somehow making it work. We have a decidedly latin vibe, with rhythmic chanting, orchestral background work, electro-disco beats and POPera theatricality. It shouldn’t work, but it does. Lyrically it tells a similar story to Judas, but without the biblical subtext. It also works, but it’s slightly a retread. Still, very enjoyable on it’s own.
The most fun to be found on the album is next and it is Hair. The song is the closest Gaga has come to making her own “80’s” song. It has a decidedly Belinda Carlisle vibe. Lyrically the song is essentially a teenage diary type tale about how Gaga expresses her craziness, her freedom, her uniqueness, etc. through her excessively over the top hair styles. Musically the song goes back and forth between robotic, techno-rock and pure, retro, pop. I didn’t like the song originally, but after a few listens came to love it. I like it when Gaga takes a serious, but silly, look inside and let’s us see the real her a little and she does that amiably here.
Schiebe (German for shit) follows, and as much as I’d like to use it to segue into a Xanadu-esque one word negative review, I cannot. Another dance floor, club thumper and a pretty good one at that. Nothing new is going on here, in fact this is one of the numerous “too much like Madonna” songs on the album, but I can’t bring myself to dislike it.
We have Bloody Mary next and I immensely dislike it. The song’s droning music almost puts me to sleep when I listen to it. The lyrics and delivery of said lyrics is pretentious and atonal. Seems like the song was just chucked on here as filler. Skip it.
Black Jesus- Amen Fashion follows, and it’s another one I can’t stand. It’s musically similar to the previous track, a bit less droning, but that’s the only compliment I can shove it’s way. Once again it appears to be another Madonna variant, with shades of Express Yourself (again) echoing throughout. Filler, filler, filler.
Gaga goes for a little bit of a harder vibe on the next track, Bad Kids. Lyrically the song is really funny and self deprecating, but the humor is lost in the delivery and piss poor music. A mixed bag. I listen it to it for the words, but tune it out for the rest.
Fashion of His Love is next and it is another blatant copy of Express Yourself/Madonna (did Gaga just have the song on loop as she recorded this album?) The track isn’t that bad though. It strikes me as something Paula Abdul would have put on Forever Your Girl (coming from me that’s a compliment) but it’s nothing amazing. Essentially I’d enjoy the song more if it didn’t sound exactly like Express Yourself.
We come back up out of filler hell for a bit with my personal favorite song on the album, Highway Unicorn (Road to Love.) This song finds Gaga in a middle ground between her “new” (retro) sound of Marry the Night and the more typical (Bad Romance, Poker Face) Lady Gaga sound. The music is great to dance to and the words are melodic, uplifting and semi-nonsensical, but also anthemic, in a very. If Lita Ford was a lesbian and she did a pop song about being a lesbian, this would be it. And, once again, great bridge.
Heavy Metal Lover comes next and it’s one of the more different tracks in Gaga’s canon. It’s very Eurotrash. Grace Jones would have released it in 1987 if she’d had access to a time machine (being Grace Jones she of course did, but used it for much better purposes.) That’s not necessarily a compliment though, because Gaga OFTEN seems like she’s raping Grace’s legacy (more often visually though.) The song is OK, just that, nothing more.
Another very different (for Gaga) track is next, Electric Chapel. It opens with some blistering guitar work and sounds almost as if we’ve lapsed into Hysteria era Def Leppard until the dance beat starts. I love the song, it’s a wonderful track and it lyrically fits in with the strangely religious theme that runs throughout the album. Music wise, frankly, I’d love to hear Gaga do a full on Pat Benataresque rock song sometime, because the little “heavy metal” we get here is pretty awesome for a Pop Princess such as she is.
The Queen is next and it’s sorta-kinda another filler track. It has kind of a Coldplay vibe to it. The music is decent and the lyrics aren’t bad, and I really feel like I SHOULD like it, but I don’t for the most part. It just doesn’t mesh together on the whole, there’s just something off about it. Maybe because it’s one of those songs where it feels like there are too many lyrics in not enough space (10 pounds of shit in a 5 pounds box, if you will.) And, no matter how much I listen to it, it leaves no real impression.
We move back into amazing territory to close out the album thankfully. The next to last track is You and I, a searing, southern fried, pop/rock concoction, similar to my favorite Lady Gaga song, Speechless (from The Fame Monster.) It’s a wonderful showcase for Gaga’s versatility as both a writer and singer. The music is pitch perfect to the lyrics and the lyrics are poignant and personal, but at the same time funny and uplifting. Also of note, vocally Gaga has rarely been in finer form and it really shows off her impressive range as a singer.
For the finale we have The Edge of Glory, a song as mentioned earlier, I originally disliked but grew to love. Music wise we’re back in “new-retro” territory as it sounds almost as if Gaga was channeling her inner (modernized and slicker) Pointer Sisters, or maybe Rhythm Nation era Janet Jackson. Lyrically Edge of Glory is a deliriously innocent and fanciful love story anthem. She probably couldn’t have picked a better song (pair of songs) to close the album with, as it definitely leaves you with a good taste in your mouth for her sugary pop confections.
Marry the Night- 10 out 10
Born this Way- 7 out of 10
Government Hooker- 2 out of 10
Judas- 8 out of 10
Americano- 6 out of 10
Hair- 7 out of 10
Schiebe- 5 out 10
Bloody Mary- 1 out of 10
Black Jesus- Amen Fashion- 2 out of 10
Bad Kids- 4 out of 10
Fashion of His Love- 5 out of 10
Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)- 9 out of 10
Heavy Metal Lover- 5 out of 10
Electric Chapel- 7 out of 10
The Queen- 4 out of 10
You and I- 8 out of 10
The Edge of Glory- 8 out 10
7 out of 10 Bedazzled Leather Jackets in the Mental Ward
A deeply flawed but mostly enjoyable power pop album that could have been judiciously trimmed of some excess fat. Gaga needs to do something spectacular on her next release if she want’s to keep me jonesing for a ride on her disco stick.
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