“Not for nothing, the album’s finished and it’s f***king really good,” Lady Gaga said last November in the Gdsank, Poland stop of her Monster Ball tour. “I promise to give you the greatest album of this decade, just for you.”
Well, even if I call myself a Little Monster, I have to admit that Born This Way is anything but the “greatest album of the decade.”
On May 18th, Wednesday night (okay, more like early Thursday morning), a Facebook friend posted a download link to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way (the album, not the song). You can imagine my frantic reaction when I saw such a link. This is my chance to get a hold of the album I’ve been waiting for, 3 days before the official release.
Little Monsters have been so generously teased when it comes to this album’s content – we’ve listened to “Government Hooker” in Thierry Mugler’s fashion show, Lady Gaga performed “You and I” in various Monster Ball stops, and Haley Reinhart of American Idol even performed this one weeks ago. Four singles have been officially released – the title-track “Born This Way”, “Judas”, “The Edge of Glory” and “Hair” – all present in the Billboard Hot 100.
Add to the anticipation was the media visibility and attention – she mentored finalists on American Idol clad in penis shoes, she performed on Oprah, on Ellen, in the Cannes festival, and just about everywhere. Forbes Magazine has named her as the most powerful celebrity in the world and she’s the first person to reach 10 million followers on Twitter. She’s on Farmville, Starbucks, in the streets of New York, and fine, just about everywhere.
The hype exists – but does the album live up to it?
Born This Way is nothing short of, in Gaga’s words, a “f***ing sledge-hammering dance [album].” The first cut off the album, “Marry the Night”, already gives us an idea of how the album will be, as most of the songs from BTW follows the same format – soft starts that transition to dizzying beats, fractured rhythms, spoken lyrics, and repetitive hooks.
This continues with the # 1 hit “Born This Way” which I’m happy to say isn’t the best track of the album. The third track is a peculiar one with Gregorian chants and a mystery guy singing with Gaga. I’m kind of not sure what “Government Hooker” is a metaphor for, maybe I’ll overanalyze if it is true that this will be the third single off the album following “Judas”. Judas, on the other hand, is what I would call as a grower — give it a couple of listens and you’ll realize what a great pop song it is. I think its representative of how this album – unlike instantly catchy Teenage Dream or Femme Fatale – is one that needs but deserves a couple of listens before you get hooked on to it. As Tris McCall says, “Spears’ album is infinitely replayable, but leaves the listener with fleeting impressions; once heard, “Born This Way” is not likely to be forgotten.” This also applies to Alejandro version II “Americano”, and the religious songs “Bloody Mary” and “Electric Chapel” – they WILL grow on you, and they have this way of making you think, and react, not just listen.
But BTW’s throb is just too strong and dizzying, that by the time I got to “Highway Unicorn” and “Heavy Metal Lover”, I’ve already grown tired, and yes, dizzy, of the soaring choruses and sledgehammers. The metaphors are just too loopy. I doubt these ones will be singles, no universal appeal at all.
Thankfully love yourself anthems “Hair” and “Bad Kids” save the day – rock guitars blended with those euro-pop beats. Good songs that will remind fans of why they’ve fallen in love with Gaga in the first place.
But the real standouts are “The Edge of Glory” and “Scheiße” – the former a saxophone-laden track that seem straight out of the 80s, and the latter, a eurodisco song that is akin to ear porn. It’s just so good. It starts with Gaga talking/singing in German, and by the time she gets to the English parts, you’ll find yourself hooked.
In contrast to all these messages and fanfare — here comes “You and I”, the sincerest and best song in BTW. When she breaks down to sing the bridge, “We got a while lot of money, but we’re still paying rent, ‘cause you can’t buy a house in heaven! There’s only three men I’m gonna serve my whole life – its my daddy, Nebraska and Jesus Christ… something about the chase – six whole years,” her star shines the brightest. Beneath all the meat dresses, and bubble wraps lies a girl, so talented, so creative and so involved in this process of crafting art, and fame whoring.
As a fan, I just wish that all of the songs on BTW had that element. Plus I think the album could be more cohesive.
Born This Way isn’t the record of the century; Lady Gaga can definitely do better. But who’s to say that she’s not on the right track towards becoming the artist of the century?