Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Born This Way - Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga is not a musician, she is an artistic construct performed 24/7 by Stefani Germanotta, so the chances are that by now your view on her & this album will already be formed and will mostly be based on the videos, TV interviews, concert footage and Tweets that Gaga exists in. However if you can get past there is some good music to be heard in Born This Way which shows off Miss Germanotta's considerable talents, beyond the ability to wear a couple pounds of beef in public.

First thing to note is that over all this is a much more musically complex album than Fame or Monster, which isn't surprising if you consider her first two albums to have been minimalistic Pop. There are more layers, there are more styles, and it's got a much richer production to it all over. Lyrically it's also far more blunt than her earlier work, which comes across as a bold and solid refinement of what she conveyed with her stage shows. However it's also clearly struggling with it's new direction, resulting in an inconsistency between the tracks as they battle between old and new Gaga.

First up is Marry the Night, a throw back to 80's pop but with some stomping rock guitars thrown in over a rolling disco backbeat and the odd multi-instrumental breakdown for the hell of it. It doesn't break down any barriers, picking up nicely from her previous works, but for existing fans it's a nice intro that says 'here's something familiar but with a twist'. For everyone else it's a solid hairdryer track. Born This Way is where things get a bit more interesting, though again it's a thumping disco number (with occasional break into gospel) with overtones of Express yourself. What's interesting here are the lyrics which are blatantly supportive of everyone's  gender, sexuality, nationality & shoe size. This is where Gaga starts to make sense as something that people can just enjoy and feel a part of, hopefully explaining to those who don't get it why people have become such rabid fans of her. Sadly Government Hooker is a duffer of a track, showing where Gaga can fail, and whilst it's attempt at electro-rap blended with buzzword edgy lyrics are interesting it's just a little too try-hard to really mesh with the first two tracks.

Thankfully Judus brings the album back to being listen-able, taking the rap elements but ditching the electro in favour of a mongrel dubstep-disco love story number. This track is all over the place in a wonderful way, and that's before the arthouse silliness of the video. Americano follows up with a fun latino vibe mixed with some house beats and trumpets, maybe not the best track ever but one that will bring a smile to your face.Hair that manages to be a perfect song about a search for self identity and individuality in a cruel world with the sing along battlecry of "I am my hair" and "I'm as free as my hair". Expect this to be played to death on the dance-floor's for the rest of the year, if not longer. It's electro-rock brilliance with a killer saxophone thrown in for good luck.

And then we crash again with Scheisse and Bloody Mary which are a repeat of most of her previous two albums. Not bad, just not that exciting or interesting, also a lot slower than the rest of the album..Bad Kids almost picks things up again but ends up sounding like a repeat of Born This Way but without as much kicks. Highway Unicorn picks things up again, but it's Heavy Metal Lover that brings things back up by just using a lot of multi-layered high-powered pop bouncy lightness. Of all the tracks on the album it's the one that is going to be truly different live, just because it's pace and tone allows for singalong fun. Electrical Chapel is a bit of pop-opera genius that gives you high hopes, but You and I then slows things back and minimalises the sound again. The Edge of Glory has moments of awesome with piano breaks all over the show but overall it's a slow stompy synth number that finishes the album on a bit of a downer.

As a whole its not the best album ever made but one that has moments of clear genius and Pop brilliance which bring it up to an incredibly solid B. The singles are obvious picks as they were the clear highlights of the album but most of the other tracks will become fan favourites and play well live which, as mentioned before, is where they get given the true Gaga experience.
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