Have you been asking your friends, “Have you heard the new Gaga album?” or “So, what do you think of the latest Gaga?” No? Then you might not be interested in this blog post. However, several of my friends and I, as well as millions of others I can’t possibly fathom, have been doing this exact thing.
I know there are many, such as myself, who find it annoying when someone on iTunes/Amazon/Other Music Store I’m Not Aware Of puts the entire track listing down as part of his/her review of an album s/he’s downloaded. I can’t say I won’t be doing that in my review of Born This Way. There’s just too much to say about an, I’m sorry to put it this way, epic album such as this one. That isn’t sarcasm, either.
I know that Lady Gaga has famously predicted that this is the “album of the decade.” Considering her surreal rise to fame in the last 2.5 years, I think she’s probably earned the right to a little bit of ego. Didn’t The Beatles have their “more popular than Jesus” moment? Yes. I think most people know by now that that didn’t dim their star in the eyes of their fans. So, as an extreme fan of Gaga, her comment doesn’t faze me. Who’s to say it won’t be the album of the decade? Maybe she’ll have two. Who knows? I guess we’ll find out by 2020.
Anyhow, as far as this author is concerned, this album delivers. Like many others, I was extremely impatient for the album to drop and couldn’t understand why it was taking so long. When the single “Born This Way” came out in February, I said to myself, “I have to wait more than three more months to hear the whole thing??” It seemed a bit ludicrous. But now that it’s here and I’ve had it on non-stop repeat (iPod, car, iTunes at home, rinse, repeat), I can say that it was worth the interminable wait.
I’ll put it this way: I haven’t listened to an album this many times in a row without getting sick of it since 2006, when I had Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor playing absolutely non-stop between my stereo at home and my iPod. And those songs still hold special meaning for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I was obsessed with The Fame Monster, too. Those songs fully converted me to being a Gaga fan more than just The Fame, but to each her own. On Born This Way, Gaga did not lightly write her songs. Not a single fluff piece exists on this thing (especially “Scheiße”). The lyrics are important, absolutely, but anyone who was alive in the 80s can hear the strong musical influences that lie within this pièce de résistance, e.g. Madonna, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and a plethora of 80s rock bands who were huge.
Let’s get to the tracks, shall we?
“Marry the Night” – I’ve always been one to believe that an album can be as strong as its opening song. I like that not one of the four singles released prior to the album dropping was the first one listed. This one gets your toes tapping, head nodding, and you singing along to the chorus with one short listen. This song also told me that despite what I may have heard and liked about the released singles, that this album isn’t effing around. It’s a completely different sound and vibe altogether. Gaga took this rebirth seriously. This song is a fantastic freedom anthem or, at the very least, could go right up there with one of my favorite road trip songs, “Running Down a Dream,” by Tom Petty.
“Born This Way” – I don’t think I have to go into too much detail about this one, since it was the first single out and we all knew it was coming and what the message is. Whether you believe or not it sounds “exactly” like “Express Yourself” is up to you. The most Madonna-esque thing about the song, in my mind, is at the way end when the music stops and she’s singing the chorus on her own and then it goes out completely while she whispers, “Same DNA…but born this way…” And I thought that before the video came out and there is a quick shot of her doing her very best Madonna impression (via makeup).
“Government Hooker” – I was actually surprised I like this one as much as I do. Though it might have a funny beginning, it sounds really good when the beat hits. My favorite part is when she sings the reprise, “I’m gonna drink my tears tonight…” I was listening to it in the car the other day and it occurred to me that while she may have written it about politicians’ wives, it could also be about the politicians themselves. We elect and pay for them to be in office and more often times than not, they turn around and screw their constituents.
“Judas” – This one had to grow on me but grow on me it did. One of my friends has said that this is her favorite song on the album. I can’t say that for me but it is definitely good. From the very start, you’re in for a ride on this one. Although I can appreciate a song about loving the wrong man, I don’t read too much into the religious overtones of it, but I do like it. This one ends as it starts – abruptly. It’s like going on a Tilt-A-Whirl.
“Americano” – I know only one other person who likes this song as much as I do. It kind of made me think it was “Alejandro II” but it’s definitely got its own flavor, and it’s not about loving the wrong person. A few friends of mine don’t like the “mariachi” sound but I really like the fast-pacedness of it and it has its special message(s), of course. (I had to look it up but it’s about immigration/law in Arizona and gay marriage.) This one has a decisively less 80s flavor to it but keeps up the pace, if not sets it, for the rest of the album. No slowing down here!
“Hair” – How can you not like this song? It has a classic feel to it about rebelling as a teen and, well, being free as your hair! I feel like if there was a modern day version of the movie Grease, this would be in it.
“Scheiße” – Um…I really don’t like this song. I can’t get past the manic German-speaking. I skip it when it comes on now. I know, I’m not a purist. I didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, however. I still adore this album. I just couldn’t get on board with…whatever this song is about.
“Bloody Mary” – Gaga is quoted as saying that this song is about living between fantasy and reality. Makes sense, considering some of the distorted sounds that come out while she’s singing. To me, the song’s chorus has a very “come hither” sound to it. It’s kinda trance-like. I can’t explain it better than that. More Jesus/Biblical references. I haven’t delved into the deeper meanings.
“Black Jesus+Amen Fashion” – This one sounds the most Michael Jackson-esque, at least in its opener. The folks over at Palace of Gaga have said that this one tells us that putting on a new spirit is as easy as putting on fashion. It’s super catchy and has a little autobiography in it about her rise to stardom. Love it!
“Bad Kids” – Gaga sings to us about loving your perceived flaws in this somewhat unusual sounding track. Here’s a good article that breaks it down. This song has a sizzling electric guitar playing on the main verses. The chorus gets super 80s and reminds me of a Whitney Houston song or something.
“Fashion of His Love” – The tribute to Alexander McQueen. I don’t “know” fashion so I am not familiar with McQueen’s works but I know from paying attention that he had a massive influence on the world of fashion. Lady Gaga sings about this topic on pretty much all her albums and it’s a nice token to McQueen’s memory. To be honest, I thought it was about Jesus when I listened to it the first few times, and it sat well with me. I like that there are moments when we can hear Lady Gaga sing on her own before the drumbeats or guitar get going. This chorus, if you can’t hear “I Just Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston when it comes on, go listen to that song and then listen to this one again! It’s uncanny. But also awesome.
“Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)” – One of my favorites from Born This Way. You hear the chorus first and then she sings deeply with a strong beat that builds to the high chorus. This one can easily go on repeat until you learn every last nuance. There’s still no sense of stopping – the energy keeps flowing.
“Heavy Metal Lover” – Strong contender for my favorite song, though I’ll tell you soon which one I think steals the title. To me, the song is the slightest of nods to The Fame Monster but it retains this album’s flavor. Heavy synth and more pop. Great to blast in the car, especially with friends, since the song discusses how sometimes a crowd does it better.
“Electric Chapel” – After listening about 100 times now, I believe this one takes the place as Favorite. It’s such a tough call, though. Who knew that organ and church bells could sound not only cool but NECESSARY on an album? I can’t say enough how much I love this track. The opening guitar makes me think of the movie Top Gun. It has a nice story within it, though.
“The Queen” – Such a freaking awesome follow-up to “Electric Chapel!” Honestly, it’s the third in a row on this section of the album that I think was just genius to put together. This one has a lot of different meanings and you can certainly look them up…I think it’s kind of fun for this one to remain subjective. Can’t go wrong with this one – fantastic guitar solos.
“You and I” – I have a bitch of a toothache going on right now so I didn’t bother to Google the word You that has the umlaut over it. Cute way of putting it, though. (Better than U ‘n I or something.) Just when I think there can’t be a fourth song in a row that is going to blow my mind, this one kicks down the door with its Queen-esque vibe. The drums take this one. You could totally see Gaga singing this in some dive bar somewhere. It’s just overall fantastic and a great love song. I believe this is the only one that Gaga wrote on her own for the album. Not 100% on that, though.
“The Edge of Glory” – Um, yeah. Out of the four singles released prior to the album dropping, this one stole my heart. I didn’t think anything could top “Born This Way,” but this one just managed to do it. I like the more dancey feel to it and could totally see people going crazy in a club or venue somewhere – even me, who is not a self-proclaimed awesome dancer. She performed this on the finale of American Idol and I thought she did a fantastic job. I am waiting on pins and needles for the music video of this to come out and based on what I’ve read, the speculation is rampant as to how it’s going to look. I’m probably as excited for this one as I was “Telephone,” and that video was mind-blowing, let’s face it.
I’m not going to review the bonus tracks but I will say that The Country Road version of “Born This Way” makes you fall in love with this song all over again. It’s quite amazing how she was able to spin it two totally different ways. This has a bluesy, Springsteen-like feel to it. Even Kevin, who is decidedly not a Lady Gaga fan, has said that her and her music doesn’t completely suck. This is coming from a die-hard Bruce fan. So props to you, Lady Gaga! As if she needs more.
I know this was long. I felt it towards the end there, if you couldn’t tell. I probably haven’t done this long of a post since my very first one. But I can’t sing its praises enough. I know millions of others out there love it just as much as I know there are at least half as many who can’t stand it. One review I saw called it “schizophrenic” and an overall “disappointment,” which I couldn’t protest vehemently enough. I love that she reinvented her sound for this album and I hope she’ll continue to do so. The artists who do stick around for a very, very long time. (Hello, Madonna knows that formula all too well!)
My only wish is that Lady Gaga doesn’t completely abandon the sounds that have been a success for her. For example, Kelly Clarkson hasn’t done a single song similar to those on her first album Thankful, ever. And I really really like that album. If she did another pop/R&B album like that, I’d pre-order it, even. Now I have to wait for Clarkson’s albums to hit and test out each song before I commit. I love Kelly Clarkson and own all her stuff but I still go back to songs from Thankful and ask, “Why isn’t there more of this?”
Okay seriously, I need to be done now. If you’ve read all the way to the very end, I applaud you. Hell, I applaud me for finishing this tome of a blog post. I welcome any and all feedback if you’ve listened to this album and care to share!