Hello Internet friends! Although this blog is primarily a landing pad for my thoughts on publishing and writing, it will occasionally serve as a landing pad for my generic brain spillage. This is one of those puddles of opinion.
Lady Gaga. The name conjures images of cheek prosthetics, koala bear masks and gyrating gay men. She is the queen of unnecessary sacrilege and contrived controversy. She is the mistress of manipulation, managing to turn Britney Spears bubble gum pop into a radical anthem for the disenfranchised. Her new album, “Born This Way,” has been likened to a battle cry for gay rights, specifically the record’s title track. Yet, her lyrical portrayal of gay culture closely reflects my father’s own narrow-minded and antiquated associations with rainbows, glitter and unicorns. This is not to say that I do not enjoy rainbows, glitter and unicorns. I am only saying that eggs, flour and sugar alone do not make a cake.
So, let it be known that I am not an enormous fan of Lady Gaga as an artist or as an artistic concept. But that is not what an album review is about. An album review cares not for what you have done but what your music does. Chuck Berry is a great example of this. He is a god among roots guitarists, yet he famously peed on women. R. Kelly would later follow in his footsteps, becoming a contemporary musical legend and notorious goldenshowerer. So I shall not be judging Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” based on the manner in which she conveys herself, that manner being an aloof artsy fartsy megalomaniac.
So, without further ado, here is my track-by-track review of “Born This Way.”
Track 1: “Marry the Night”
I am having a hard time getting over the stark image of Lady Gaga that appears on my iPhone as I play this track. She looks like a banshee embarking on her walk of shame. The image is bone white and black with a splash of bright crimson red marking her lips. She’s sporting mega-smokey eyes and a mane of unkempt hair that would make a comb cry. But I digress. The song is actually pretty good. It starts off slow and low key. The Lady is easing us into her world of sexual innuendo and religious iconography. It reminds me of a rock ballad from the 1980s. But, wait. What’s this? Wow! We just went into hyperspeed. We’ve now been teleported to the ’90s. Thumping bass, wailing vocals. Replace Lady Gaga with a large black woman and, I assure you, everybody will dance now.
Overall Rating: 7
Track 2: Born This Way
“It doesn’t matter if you love him or capital H-I-M.” Here we go with the vague religious references. And here we go with the lackluster songwriting. Many were disappointed when this track was released as the album’s first single. And rightfully so. It’s a blatant rip-off of several other, much better songs. This includes TLC’s “Waterfalls” as well as Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” which even has the same thematic idea. I’m sure I’ll be hearing this song at every single gay bar from now until the end of the universe. In fact, this song might cause the end of the universe.
Overall Rating: 2
Track 3: Government Hooker
When I first saw the title of this track, it made me think of whether prostitutes in Nevada have to get licensure from the government. However, I don’t think this song is about state-level compliance. It starts off with some impressive Janelle Monae-style operatic vocals. Next a semi-industrial beat is introduced. Good stuff. My butt’s shaking. Where are we going with this? Oh. The vocals for the verses are so over-produced that they may as well be Britney Spears, the lowest common denominator when it comes to anything (and that includes breathing). The pre-chorus is funny. The call and response with the too serious male vocalist reminds me of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.” And now here comes the chorus and…WHAT THE FUCK? Blue Monday? You ripped off New Order’s “Blue Monday?”Are you trying to make me hate you, Lady Gaga? New Order was one of the best and most influential techno groups of all time. You are like gum on their shoe, and this song is a polished turd.
Overall Rating: 1
Track 4: Judas
If you haven’t been able to tell, I’m not a fan of Lady Gaga’s rampant use of religious references to inspire shock and awe. I mean, first, it’s a cheap shot. I could pee on a statue of the Virgin Mary and probably get a book deal. Plus, Madonna already did this (used religion in a controversial manner, not pee on the Virgin Mary). However, this song actually has legs. The verses and that whole shrieking “Judaaas Ju Daaa” thing is unquestionably hot. But wait, what’s with this chorus? Who let Mandy Moore into the studio? Seriously, we went from Marilyn Manson to the musical equivalent of an Easter basket. How are us gays supposed to have sex to this?
Overall Rating: 7
Track 5: Americano
The lyrics are stupid. Can we just get that out of the way? All of Lady Gaga’s lyrics are stupid. As I said on Facebook earlier: “Lady Gaga has hired me to write lyrics for her next song. Here’s a sample: ‘Red wine, crushed cigarette butts, pant bulge, Jesus, something in French.'” So I’m just going to ignore the words that fly out of her crimson-tinged mouth and instead concentrate on how these words sound. And in “Americano,” they sound awesome. This song is impressive. I’m a sucker for hand-clapping (who isn’t?). I’m also a sucker for Americans reinterpreting world music (see the entire genre known as Exotica). In short, this song makes me want to have sex with men of Latin origin. Good work, Lady Gaga.
Overall Rating: 9.5
Track 6: Hair
Does Lady Gaga whip her hair? Unfortunately that is not what this song is about. This song is about teenage angst as told through hair. It reminds me of my freshmen year of college when I told my parents that I was going to dye my hair blue. Their response: “If you come home like that, you’ll be lucky to still have a head.” The message was received loud and clear. Unfortunately, Lady Gaga’s message isn’t so clear. Though it is loud. This song is just thumping and yelling and a backing “Whoa Oh Oh.” It’s like extensions on a bald woman. There’s nothing genuine about it.
Overall Rating: 1
Track 7: SchieBe
German makes me nervous and rightfully so. But out of the mouth of Lady Gaga, it is more like a dog doing a cute trick than a Nazi-led Kristallnacht. This song starts off with all the attitude of a sexy European runway show. But, as with Judas, we hit the chorus and all things go to poppy cock, emphasis on the “poppy.” This chorus does not belong in this song. It’s like Japanese happy hardcore. I can’t help but to think of a line of cartoon hamsters jiggling on my computer monitor to this sacchrine sweet melody. Seriously, was this lifted from a “NOW That’s What I Call Techno” compilation? Another misfire.
Overall Rating: 5
Track 8: Bloody Mary
The song begins with plucky strings and an operatic overture. We then go into the typical electro-thump that we have come to expect from this album of sound and fury that signifies nothing. But there is a darker edge to this chugging thump. There’s a little more crunch; the vocals have a moodier tone. The vocals in the verses even remind me a bit of Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. But, wait. What’s this chorus? Isn’t this the same fucking chorus I’ve heard twice already on this album. Yes! It’s just slowed down. Really? You are making it hard for me to like you, Gaga.
Overall Rating: 4
Track 9: Black Jesus + Amen Fashion
“Jesus is the new black.” What does that mean? Don’t even try to think about it. Your brain will rot and your skull will cave in. There is a nice retro-Madonna quality to this song. In fact, it’s kind of like “Express Yourself.” Yes, for the second time on this album. Nothing else about this song is notable.
Overall Rating: 2
Okay, so originally I was going to review the whole album in one sitting. But it’s long, and so far it kind of sucks. I’ve never heard music so loud that so severely lacked any element of emotion. Yelling does not equal feeling, Lady Gaga. The worst part is that Lady Gaga can actually sing. Quite well in fact. All of her live performances are spectacular because she is free from the prison of over-production that serves to completely gut her voice of any uniqueness.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my album review, which hopefully I’ll find time to write tomorrow or Friday. Until then, cleanse your ear pallet with some Adele.