Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lady Gaga - Born This Way : A Review

Whether you did you own personal review 5 minutes after it leaked or would rather slice off all your extremeties than hear 5 seconds of it there's little ignoring the titanic hype, media push and sales Lady Gaga has drummed up with 3rd album Born This Way. Reviews have been mixed but that's hardly news. Gaga's previous records were met with varying critical response as is par for the course with any mainstream pop release. Now that we've had the chance to digest and watch it set the charts alight, does this album live up to the hype?

Sorta. One thing is for sure Born This Way is clearly Gaga's attempt to branch out musically. It does a fine job matching the big, brutally efficient choruses that are her trademark with weirder moments. Born This Way is a pungent, dense affair rippling with Springsteen references, variations on commercial dance music and Gaga singing in a myriad of registers. It is gleefully lacking in subtlety and is all the better for it. 

In working almost exclusively with producers Fernando Garibay and DJ White Shadow, Gaga has crafted a more cohesive and consistent vision than most popstars manage with a new release. Gaga has taken a concept and seen to it's logical endpoint. That concept is a loud brash journey of self acceptance, preach-y self love messages and belting vocals of course but still...

Born This Way is a high-octane, exhausting listen but it's also brimming with warmth, fun and plenty of perfect pop moments. It's clocked up a hugely impressive first week of sales but whether it has the same wide appeal of it's predecessors is debatable. This is still a shameless-y "pop" album but one that veers from the slightly more conventional moments of The FameThe Fame Monster.

Overall: Various shades of amazing. Let's do a track by track shall we?

Track by track

Marry The Night : Suitably epic and melodramatic opener. Like Whitney Houston riding a motorcycle while wailing over electro beats. Sets the scene perfectly.

Born This Way: A song that improves immensely in context of the album. A breezy, infectious disco-throwback-meets-modern-day-pop charmer.

Government Hooker : Britney style sleaze shot through with tongue in cheek political references and plenty of attitude. The first of many songs to see Gaga play with a different register and thumping electronic production.

Judas : Some have been harsh on this but it's fast become one of my favourite Gaga singles. Relentless, chaotic but also brilliantly conceived. I have a feeling this will be looked back on as a bit of a Gaga classic in a few years.

Americano : Demented Mariachi meets club pop tune with "political overtones". On my first listen to this I was twirling my kitchen using my pots and pans as maracas. If that's not a sign of a cracker I don't know what is.

Hair : I can't decide on this one. It's sweet but also produced in such a way that the hook gets buried in over cooked 80s sitcom instrumentation. A bit too slight although the Cyndi-Lauper-on-speed-vibe of it is appealing.

Schie├če : The closest this album gets to heavy electronica. German style gibberish, infectious  melodies and a relentless pace add up for a track that feels instantly Gaga and completely different from everything she's ever done.

Bloody Mary : Amazing and one of the strongest tracks on the album. Retreading the lyrical themes of Judas over a mournful mid tempo synth rumble and some monk chanting. A icy, ear-worm of a tune.

Black Jesus (Amen Fashion) (Bonus Track on Deluxe Edition) : Very much a bonus track. A fluffy and harmless ode to fashion, working it etc etc. Easy to see why this was left off the standard album but it is still fun.

Bad Kids : I wasn't sold on this at first but unlike Hair this wears it's "love yourself misfit" vibe so much better and is actually one of the best melodies on the album. Like a Madonna album track circa 1983. Sweet and charming.

Fashion Of His Love (Bonus Track on Deluxe Edition) : as has been widely pointed out sounds very like Whitney Houston's I Wanna Dance With Somebody. This is an enjoyable romp with R&B goes dance pop tones, if hardly earth shattering.

Highway Unicorn (Road To Love) : Horrific title aside, this is brilliant. Channels the rock'n'roll vibe Gaga references so often with a soaring, fist pumping melody and a sense of urgency.

Heavy Metal Lover : This is my personal fave. Dense electronic textures sidle on a Kylie style hook with plenty of sexy overtones. A song half grunted over juddering electro shouldn't work this well but this is brilliant. Another example of Gaga doing pop music in a different way to her earlier work but still attaching a solid gold hook to it.

Electric Chapel: More highway rock'n'roll meets electro pop. Brims with a strange sense of ceremony and energy and brilliantly sets the scene for the closing moments of the album

The Queen : As close the entire project gets to a stinker. The variation in tempo is a welcome change of pace on such a thumping body of work but it's also grating and underdeveloped. A missed opportunity.

You and I : Gaga's most Queen moment yet. Brian May turns up on guitar and it also "contains elements" from Queen's We Will Rock You. The chorus is the stuff Elton John dreams about at night and the vocal is among Gaga's best, earnest, endearing and euphoric. Thankfully the studio version adds enough oopmh without taking it's magic away. Lovely.

The Edge of Glory : A stunner. A rip roaring tale of living life to the very last, like a hybrid between Bruce Springsteen & Bon Jovi coated in Madonna gone mad vocals. Some of have criticised the sax solo as twee and self indulgent. In truth it's a moment of genius perfectly suited to the earnest throwback nature of the tune. Likely to be the next huge Gaga hit. (well, it technically already is. but still)

There you have it. At the rate this lady is going who's to say we won't have another Gaga album in oh, say, 6 months. For now Born This Way stands up as an exciting slice of bonkers pop.

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