I don’t know how she did it….but she did. Lady Gaga surprised me.
Her new, relentlessly hyped album, “Born This Way”, is like no other pop album you have ever heard. And make no mistake, I use the word album intentionally. “Born This Way” deserves to be heard start-to-finish as a whole. It is bold, audacious, pretentious as hell, weird, somewhat silly, and insanely danceable. It is an exercise in pushing everything to its ultimate degree and it sounds nothing like what she’s done before.
Opening track, “Marry the Night” starts off with a nearly funereal set of keyboard chords that are soon dumped in favor of what Gaga has always promised would be “sledgehammering dance beats”. It’s a pattern that holds throughout “Born This Way”. No matter how a song begins – pizzicato strings, operatic vocals, 80s rawk guitar – it’s soon engulfed in buzzsaw synths and robo-precise rhythms. This is shameless, club-orientated pop that aims for instant impact.
Highlights are numerous. “Schiße” is firmly planted in Berlin’s debauched club scene, as its title and opening line, “I don’t speak German, but I can if you like!”, suggest. It is weighted with hardcore 90’s techno beats until the perfect pop hook of the chorus kicks in and then this odd track seems suddenly right at home on the radio today. “Bloody Mary” takes a decidedly tongue-in-cheek approach to the story of Mary Magdalene. Flirting with the same themes as “Judas”, but even more blatant, it wraps its provocations around a brilliantly filthy, slinking beat punctuated with a Gregorian chorus chanting “Gaga”. “Hair” is really quite a breathtaking song that at once does a better job of being a) an inspiring anthem of empowerment and b) quite the gayest thing you have ever, ever heard other than the title track. It starts off like the power ballady theme song for the greatest John Hughes movie you never saw, throws in a touch of saxophone, explodes into a manic rave cacophony, and peaks with one of those classic Gaga choruses capable of burning itself into your brain after one listen.
Lady Gaga is clearly not concerned with making new fans. If you don’t like her, this album is chock full of her eccentricities and ego and likely to make you like her even less. The album is littered with some rather trite lyrics and Gaga’s phenomenal sense of self-importance that floods just about every note. But for those of us little monsters who love her (and clearly I am one), this is exactly the album Mother Monster has been promising. It is a trip through a club culture where everyone belongs. Paws up!