Despite being sick of her face, we still admire Lady Gaga's go-big-or-go-home approach to music, imagery, shoes and yes, beauty marks. Even her most zealous haters gotta give it up to the omni-present, ever-polarizing pop freak when it comes to marketing herself as an outsider icon. For many, however, the glossy pop she makes has never pushed the boundaries as far as her fashions, stage antics and messages have. Her music has been called everything from pretentious art fluff to retro-pop regurgitation, and her new one (released yesterday) probably won't change the made-up minds out there. But the singer's “little monsters” already seem more than pleased, and based on the slew of interviews the Lady's been giving, she's pretty pleased with herself too. Club bangers (especially on the longer Special Edition) and winsome power ballads make up this un-even collection, and while a lot of it is Velveeta vampy and embarrassingly self indulgent, there are bits of meaty brilliance as well. Here, five points on the Good, the Bad and just plain Bizarre of Born This Way.
1. Musical Sensibility
Yay– A more rockin' sound and vocal style spikes several cuts on Born This Way, recalling the soaring structure of metallic anthems and songs designed for Bic-flipping in a stadium as much as disco sticking in the gay club.
Nay– Four on the floor bludgeoning and similar sounding synths clutter a lot of the melodies here -again, great for dance floors and ripe for remixing- but it feels hollow and ostentatious without the mirrored ball and flashing lights.
Yay– Positive themes about self-love are threaded through Born This Way's entirety and the result is undeniably uplifting. On the whole, the disc evokes a unified exhuberance, much like that seen in Gaga's new Google Chrome adverts which debuted during her impressive Saturday Night Live appearance this past weekend.
Nay– Overuse of “baby,” signature self-reference “Gaga” and non-sensical repetition “whoa-whoa” “dumb-dumb-dadeeda” get annoying about half way through, but it's the rampant religious references, both metaphoric and literal, that bring the content “down-down” as Gaga croons on “Judas.” For someone preaching non-conformity, she preaches and talks about God way too much.
Yay– Beefy, clean production that gleams like the lubed up latex Gaga wears on stage.
Nay– The production on some of these tracks is so big and stirring, its cinematic, but in an '80s parody “Eye of the Tiger” sort of way.
4. Hooks and Choruses
Yay– “You and I” (the romantic power ballad we'll all be singing this Summer), “Bad Kids” (reminiscent of Madonna- yes, she's still invoked more than once here- at her most buoyant) and the electroclashy “Heavy Metal Lover” are the best. “Government Hooker” and “Hair” are growers.
Nay– “Bloody Mary” (simply boring) and “Americano” (Ick! Forget about Madonna, on this schmaltzy attempt at a Latin-flavored dance anthem she sounds like Liza Minelli singing at a Quincenera. No bueno, baby).
Yay or Nay?
J-Lo (“Marry the Night” sounds like “Waiting for Tonight”)
Kelly Clarkson (“Edge of Glory” sounds like “My Life Would Suck Without You”)
Linda Perry (“You and I” sounds like “What's Up?” (What's Going On”)
We'll be re-listening to the album in its ultimate environment, the club, this Wednesday, as the Born This Way Haus Party takes over downtown's Belasco Theatre. Bring your proof of purchase for entrance and get there early. We hear the monsters will be out in full force (and that “Mother Monster will be watching”). Full report from the official record release bash on Thursday.