Release Date: May 23, 2011
Record label: Interscope
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
Click above to listen to 'Born This Way' in full. It's one thing to sing about a motorcycle, and it's another to sing about a unicorn. But when you put your motorcycle song and your unicorn song in the same song? And call it "Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)"? Now that's a pop visionary. Lady Gaga knew it was time to crank up the crazy, and she didn't hold back: Born This Way is her Eighties arena-rock move, going for maximum goth Catholic bombast.
With her second full-length, Lady Gaga establishes herself as pop's most ambitious songwriter, dispensing with the tired innuendo and formulaic filler that marred her 2008 debut, The Fame, to recast herself as an empowering force for her legions of "little monsters. " Opener Marry The Night's driving melody, multiple bridges, choruses and dance breakdowns immediately let us know we're in for a balls-to-the-wall fusion of wailing 80s power balladry and European club music. Collaborators like producer Robert "Mutt" Lange, E Street's Clarence Clemons and Queen's Brian May drop in to fill out the hard-edged dance beats with ostentatious instrumental flourishes that rival her wailing vocals.
There's an unnerving moment that occurs when hearing Lady Gaga's second album, Born This Way, for the first time. It comes as soon as the plodding keyboard chords ring out on opening track Marry the Night and you wonder if the stage is set for this to be the first of several self-indulgent ballads. It will be a fear familiar to anyone who tuned into Radio 1's Big Weekend expecting a rapid-fire run through her storming pop hits and was met inexplicably with several minutes of jazz trumpet.
‘Hype’ is a disgusting word. But when an album, which was a self-declared phenomenon before it was even an album, appears to be an experiment in hype itself, it becomes an unavoidable part of the conversation. There’s been a suspicion in the epic run-up to the release of [a]Lady Gaga[/a]’s second-and-a-half album that she’s just been being deliberately ridiculous just to piss people off.
Prophets of doom claim that this Saturday—May 21, 2011—will be the beginning of the Rapture and that God's forsaken shall be left on Earth to be tormented for five months before the world comes to its final end. Satan, you can imagine these Christian fanatics saying, will be revealed in the form of a pop star, saturating radio airwaves with her malevolent message of equality for all, leading the damned to hell on the backs of grotesque motorcycle-human hybrids sporting hooker-red lipstick and branded with the definitive sign of the devil: a beveled and embossed logo. Of course, that's just an allegory conceived to frighten us into subservience to pop music's status quo.
“In societies where modern conditions of productions prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into representation. The images detached from every aspect of life fuse in a common stream in which the unity of this life can no longer be re-established. Reality considered partially unfolds, in its own general unity as a pseudo-world apart, an object of mere contemplation...
Unfortunately, this doesn’t play quite as weird as it reads. Whatever performance art shock Gaga had on The Fame/The Fame Monster has turned into pure theater. Her drama club ambition to marry rock & roll rebellion with her disco beats turns Born This Way into Like a Prayer by way of Bat Out of Hell. Gaga has chosen not to dig under the skin.
What do you get when you pay for copies of Born to Run, the Immaculate Collection, Screaming for Vengance, piano and voice lessons, and a couple semesters at New York University? A little monster, is what you get. Lady Gaga’s sophomore outing Born This Way is as much a product of the privileged, free spirited upbringing of its creator as it is a nod to her favorite albums growing up. Gaga might’ve missed most of the ‘80’s, having hatched in 1986, but she’ll be damned if she lets that stop her from claiming the sound of the era as her own.
You’ve no idea how much I wanted this album to be great. Really, really great. So great that all the naysayers, the people who dismiss pop and those who think “proper” music is made with “proper” instruments would sit up, take notice and say, “Wow! You know what? I was wrong.” An album that, just for once, matched the enormous hype and celebrity that went with it.
Let’s all start by taking a deep breath and facing the honest truth: Lady Gaga has yet to make a great album. When Ms. Germanotta released her still-fantastic-to-this-day single “Just Dance” back in in April of 2008, few knew what to make of this strangely-dressed, eccentric young singer-songwriter who just so happened to have a diva-ready voice and one hell of an ear for a pop hook.
Review Summary: Her newly patronizing, try-hard tone could have drastic implications for both her and pop as a whole.A hell of a lot of bile has been aimed at Born This Way already, and at Gaga herself in the build-up to its release - yet, you have to wonder whether any of the people attacking it or her so fervently were fans in the first place, or have even been listening to pop in the past few years. Crap lyrics? Her last album was hardly Tom Waits. Style over substance? Her style IS her substance and always was.
Review Summary: When "be yourself" becomes "be what they expect you to be." As a rule, I don't defend my taste in music because who, ultimately, cares? It's not worth talking about. For whatever reason, I have made an exception for Lady Gaga. Maybe it's because she's one of the few super-popular artists that I truly love, maybe it's because so many people seem to hate her, or maybe it's because so many people seem to hate her for stupid reasons, but whatever it is, I've felt the need to not only justify my love for her, but also to defend her as a person and as a performer.
Cut away the hype, image and psychobabble and there’s still a great pop album here. Ian Wade 2011 Lady Gaga is the greatest thing that Planet Pop in 2011 could ever want. She’s a wise-beyond-her-years phenomenon who’s taken everything that has gone before and cast it into press-stopping new shapes – the fright wig on top, merely a bonus. She’s so far above her chart contemporaries that she’s created her own orbit, around her own world.
Over the weekend, a group of Americans sat rapt waiting on what they predicted would be the Second Coming. As Doomsday ticked to an end, however, Earth still spun the same and life carried on as usual, serving as climax to an event that was all but climactic. There was something going on during those final moments, though—Lady Gaga, pop music’s resident rebel, was performing on Saturday Night Live, her legs spread wide as she “gave birth” to some goldish liquid during a particularly symbolic rendition of “Born This Way.” Lady Gaga’s record of the same title is hitting stores this week.