not a member? click here to sign up
Born This Way
A troubled step in the journey of an icon
Celina Murphy, 03 Jun 2011
We know now that when Lady Gaga first bounded onto the international stage in 2008, Stefani Germanotta already believed herself to be the most powerful woman on earth. Her off the wall image, grotesque dance pop and headline-making shock tactics appeared like something from another planet, but because she fought so fiercely to defend it all, we couldn’t help but give it a chance.
I don’t need to tell you what happened next. 23 million albums, 69 million singles, five Grammys, one meat dress and an untalliable number of fans (AKA her little monsters) sum it up pretty well.
When things finally did click, we hardly expected it to come at the paws of a 10-year-old girl. Gaga’s status as a pop game-changer was finally cemented when she tweeted a link to a YouTube clip of a minuscule Canadian named Maria Aragon singing ‘Born This Way’ at a ginormous keyboard, a video which has now been viewed 33 million times. The sight of this particularly little monster singing lines like “No matter gay, straight, or bi/Lesbian, transgendered life/I’m on the right track baby/I was born to survive” with all the ferocity and conviction of a 25-year superstar was the oddest and most humbling Gaga moment yet.
There’s just no ignoring the message that thrusts forward on Ms. Germanotta’s second album. Lyrics like “I scream ‘Mom and Dad’, Why can’t I be who I wanna be?” (‘Hair’) and “I’m a bitch/I’m a loser baby I should quit” (‘Bad Kids’) are tailor-made to cater to the insecure and hormone-ridden. Combined with a few indiscernible religious motifs (see ‘Judas’ and ‘Bloody Mary’) and one triumphant piano-driven lovesong (‘You And I’), the twin themes of freedom and self-expression are the backbone of the record. If The Fame was prompting ‘Let’s Dance’, Born This Way is demanding “Love the person that you are”, and saying it with all the might of a rabid ring announcer.
Gaga’s unapologetic 14-tracker simmers with gothic strings, spooky opera vocals, ‘70s cheese guitar (thanks, Brian May!), sultry sax (thanks, Clarence Clemons!) and lyrics in French, German and French, all of which become unfortunately smothered in pulsating RedOne-brand dance wallops. There are a few immediate write-offs; the forgettable ‘Highway Unicorn (Road To Love)’, plodding synth travesty ‘Heavy Metal Lover’ and something horrid called ‘Electric Chapel’ that pretty much speaks for itself.