Even after half of the tracks from Born This Way have already managed to creep their way into my ‘Top 25 Most Played’ songs on iTunes, I’m still a little fascinated and perplexed with each listen. The reasons? I could list them all, but plain and simple – what else can you expect from a self-liberating artist going by the name of Lady Gaga?
First things first, Born This Way is not just another album. Whereas 3 years ago, Gaga was singing of her “Summer Boy” and “Brown Eyes” – now, it’s “Government Hooker” and “Judas”. You can connect the dots yourself. Lyrically, and conceptually, Gaga has evolved beyond her humble (in comparison) beginnings. The theme of being born this way isn’t just employed for the title track, and is more laced throughout the album than initial listens would allow you to realise. A track with a similar formula would be “Hair”, an empowering furore wherein the rebel inside Gaga finds it’s realise – even with the somewhat juvenile attitude of going crazy with ‘that’ hair –
“I’ve had enough / this is my prayer / that I’ll die living just as free as my hair”
Gaga herself continued to tweet that she’ll “dye” living just as free as her hair. She’s crazy AND has a sense of humour. Who would’ve known?
Something already established about Gaga is that she pushes boundaries – that much we know. It seems like only yesterday she was bluffing with unmentionable body parts (see ‘Poker Face’) and now she’s blatantly singing about being employed to flaunt said unmentionable body parts (see ‘Government Hooker’). Surprisingly though, the efforts don’t seem forced (in the most case) and it really does make for some incredible dancefloor music:
“Put your hands on me / John F. Kennedy”
I’m not sure how he’d feel about being referred to in such context, but again, one of the stand out tracks for sure. The album is full of moments like the above – a tense silence, a clenched fist and frozen glare, as for half of the first listen you wonder how she gets away with it all. Scheiße (read ‘shy-za’) blares German from the speakers, as ironically, Gaga sings over the noise “I don’t speak German/but I can if you like”. It makes no sense but it works. The controversial Biblical references come thick and fast too – “Judas”, “Bloody Mary”, “Electric Chapel” and “Black Jesus†Amen Fashion”. Maybe she’s converted, but I don’t see her becoming a nun anytime soon (except when singing about her multiple Italian lovers – see “Alejandro”).
Perhaps the clearest thing of all about the otherwise shady record, however, is the sheer musical quality. Crisp and polished on all fronts. It’s a totally fresh sound, like none heard before, and GaGa’s vocals layered on top simply add to the masterpiece. Listening to “Born This Way” and then returning to her roots (“The Fame”), her origins don’t have a patch on her new sound. If this is only album two, her evolution could birth wondrous things still. It’s a term often thrown around, but Gaga truly is a revolution. Comparisons to previous icons (Madonna’s “Express Yourself”) lead only to fuel her to defend her creations, and my, she does a fine job.
Although often shrouded in hooks about highway unicorns and heavy metal lovers, Gaga does allow the softer side of herself to peek through, even if just for a moment, on the closing songs of the record. “You and I” is a throwback to Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and has such a simple sound and idea that is just brought to life with Gaga’s help:
“You said sit back down where you belong / in the corner of my bar with your high heels on”
A break towards the end of the track has Gaga announce that there’s “something about the chase – 6 whole years” and the feeling emerges that she’s not only talking about her Nebraska guy, but her chase of this whole dream, her whole dream.
It’s the track “Edge of Glory” however that has the responsibility of closing the cover on this chapter of Gaga’s life. A power ballad and disco anthem all in one, a lament and yet a song of extreme liberation she leaves us with these final thoughts:
“I’m on the edge of glory / and I’m hanging on a moment of truth / I’m on the edge of glory”.
Another homage to heaven none the less, but, I can’t help but think she’s long past the edge and is on to something glorious.
And that is the pleasure of it all. You need not know what it is that is so fascinating and perplexing about it all. It’s one huge piece of elaborate Gaga fantasy that we, the so-called “Little Monsters” can consume and take a little piece of it back to our everyday lives. Whether for simply a moment, or something infinite, the evolution is upon us all the same.