Album ReviewsHot

Lady Gaga – Born This Way

on May 23, 2011, 8:00am
Lady Gaga Born This Way C-
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On the heels of the blockbuster successes of her debut album, The Fame, and its follow-up EP, The Fame Monster, Lady Gaga has been heralded as either the savior of pop music and culture, injecting a much-needed spark into what not too long ago was a very tired industry, or the ultimate pop culture hoax, an exploitative con artist hidden behind a thick sheen of pretension and the glimmer of high-budget production. While there seems to be a bit of truth to both sides, Gaga is far from either of them, and it’s regrettable that such debates have superseded Lady Gaga’s musical output for as long as she’s been around. Indeed, for all of the pop star’s eccentricities and attempts at enigma, for all the ridiculous outfits and bizarre interviews, her music has paled in comparison. That is to say, Gaga’s been all talk and very little game. Indeed, that ballsy, wordless vocal hook on “Bad Romance” aside, the majority of her music has all been pretty standard issue club-pop.

Born This Way, then, is Gaga’s attempt to be more than just a pop culture phenomenon, a move toward the upper echelons of pop stardom. Where The Fame and The Fame Monster relied heavily on the strengths of her Swedish pop guru, RedOne –who oversaw production on arguably all of her biggest singles to date and is credited as the key architect of Gaga’s sound–the new record splits its time between a whole host of co-producers (Gaga is proudly credited as co-writer/co-producer on all 14 of Born This Way‘s tracks), while proudly wearing its influences on its sleeve (Brian May and Clarence Clemons, of Queen and Springsteen’s E Street Band respectively, are featured).

But even as Gaga tries her hand at glam (“Marry the Night”), ’80s synth-pop (in the much-discussed “Express Yourself” posturing of lead single “Born This Way”), and hard rock (“Electric Chapel”), most every song on Born This Way is drenched heavily in the same big blasts of club-friendly synths and painfully basic four-on-the-four beats. Even “Americano”, an ill-advised dip into mariachi-pop, quickly devolves into the same sort of busy Eurodisco club banger that, regrettably, makes up most of the album.

There are plenty of bright spots, though. “Judas”, which repurposes the throaty bellows and icy synthesizers of “Bad Romance” in its own chorus, is one of Gaga’s finest moments to date, while the Teutonic rave-synths and absurd techno-babble of “Scheiße” make for an obvious highlight. “Yoü and I”, which culminates in a blistering guitar solo from Queen’s Brian May, is about as tender and loving a ballad as you can imagine Gaga writing and is easily Born This Way‘s most enduring track. “Bad Kids”, another of the album’s stronger moments, is a fond, rave-y shoutout to the Little Monsters, as Gaga has christened her most devoted fans.

By the end of it, there’s little doubting Gaga’s sincerity. For all of her schlock and posturing, it’s hard to remember the last time a pop star was this sincere. Even as she gets hit with all manners of criticism, Gaga’s allegiance, to her fanbase and to the persona she’s carefully fashioned for herself, is–if nothing else–very commendable. Everything from the deep-seated hair-metal influence that permeates the album (someone forgot to tell her that garish hair-metal ballads stopped being cool decades ago, or perhaps that’s the point?) to her recurrent support of the LGBT community, who are undoubtedly her core audience, paint Lady Gaga out to be a lot more forthright than she appeared to be at first sight. Even the over-reliance on stale production makes sense in that Gaga knows her fans–and what they want to hear–very, very well. One can only hope that as she continues to build an audience and to pique their interest, she’ll move on to more interesting and innovative fare. For now, though, we’ll have to settle for this Gaga. Gone is the hesitant starlet, obsessed with her own newfound fame on The Fame Monster, and in her stead is a very confident pop star who looks well on her way to a long, exciting career.

Feature image by Cap Blackard and Virginia McCarthy.

16 comments

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Eric Toribio
July 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Great album, indeed. 

Beyoncefan1
May 30, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Dare I even say this?

Supposed talent (or lack thereof) aside, Femme Fatale is a better and more cohesive album.

Beyoncefan1
May 30, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Dare I even say this?

Supposed talent (or lack thereof) aside, Femme Fatale is a better and more cohesive album.

Anonymous
May 24, 2011 at 9:59 pm

So you like it and you put 6/10? ehemmm… no comments =___=

Keanu
May 24, 2011 at 11:58 am

While born this way and Judas stand out as great song’s, the album seemed to head downwards compared to the sound in her last album which kick started her career and made her who she is. Despite the large anticipation, she took a wrong turn in what she wrote her songs about.

Keanu
May 24, 2011 at 11:58 am

While born this way and Judas stand out as great song’s, the album seemed to head downwards compared to the sound in her last album which kick started her career and made her who she is. Despite the large anticipation, she took a wrong turn in what she wrote her songs about.

Stuie299
May 24, 2011 at 2:08 am

I don’t even know why you guys bothered reviewing this album.

Derek
May 23, 2011 at 10:25 pm

The song “You and I” is a great song with May on guitar. I was only going to download that song, but the whole album is only 99 cents on Amazon today only since they want to take market from Apple. So I’ll DL it even though I’m a CD person. 

Lady Gaga played a lot of music with just her and a piano around NYC before she made it big in 2008. She should do a Piano/Rock Elton John style album. 

HandBanana
May 23, 2011 at 7:53 pm

This is a terrible album. It’s all over the place, the melodies don’t carry on for more than a few seconds and the production is overblown. Another review I read called it the worst album from a big mainstream act since Madonna’s American Life. The only difference is that album at least came with a slightly more original direction from an original pop musician. I say Born This Way is right up their with Kelly Clarkson’s My December in terms of quality because I have a feeling Lady Gaga actually did write these songs this time around and that’s why they’re so bad (I don’t think she actually wrote the hits from her first two albums. That’s just a recording industry marketing ploy. Avril Lavigne used to say the same thing, then her star fell and The Matrix bashed her for claiming the credit.) I agree with any and all criticisms made about this album, but I personally think a lot of people are afraid to criticize it. The album will sell a million or more copies by the end of the week and if the hits don’t come as easy as The Fame or The Fame Monster, they’ll just hire better writers and make Lady Gaga put out another album a year from now.

Valen†in | Lady Gaga
June 3, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Umm no. She actually writes her music. Half of the songs on The Fame were written before she was even signed.

Anonymous
May 23, 2011 at 7:08 pm

GaGa nailed this album and it’s the best of best!

Getovergaga
May 23, 2011 at 5:51 pm

 Wow, all the gaga fans come on to every site that have negative comments on the album, so sad. Get over it, the review laid out reasons for finding the album only deserving of 3 stars. Swirl, I haven’t heard a single album that I would give a 10 to after one listen, and I also don’t give perfect ratings to something unless I think its a classic (likely 3-4 albums a year). 

Swirl
May 23, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Sounds like the reviewer has more issues with Gaga herself than anything else.  Personally, after more than 2 decades buying music, this album comfortably holds a top 10 spot (after a single listen!).

HandBanana
May 24, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I don’t think that is the case at all. This review was very fair in pointing out both the good and bad while giving Lady Gaga more credit than she probably deserves. If you ask me, the reviewer was too generous. 3 stars is a pretty decent review. If the reviewer had taken issue with Lady Gaga herself, I don’t think the score would be that high and much of the review talks more about what falls short with the music rather than what’s to be disliked about Lady Gaga.

Me Nyc
May 24, 2011 at 3:20 pm

“after a single listen!”
says all we need to know

Stacey1990
May 23, 2011 at 12:42 pm

The album is absolutely amazin as herself, biggest fan from her little monster in the isle of man xxx

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