Buff Review Show: Born This Way (So please stop pointing and staring)
Having positively engorged myself with the 100 minutes of Gaga that iTunes deposited into my library this morning, I now feel utterly headachey and shattered.
Well, this isn’t due to the album itself, but the weird weather and my lack of macbook charger for a few hours left me feeling a little odd. So I put my iPod in my alarm clock and played it through again, writing my thoughts and, in the end, most of the review, on a pad of paper, using a biro (like some sort of stinking animal, I hear you all cry).
And here it is, I’m off to 1990s Germany for a bit of Bratwurst in a Berlin Nightclub, or maybe that hotdog I had for lunch is doing funny things to my brain…
Lady Gaga- ‘Born This Way’ Deluxe Edition
Thought I’d sneak in that little ‘Deluxe’ word there, because that really is the only way of describing 23 songs and over an hour and three quarters of Gaga. Heck I’ve seen films recently that are shorter than this album, and the final 6 bonus songs (or remixes, as we like to call them, however there are a couple of songs on this version you don’t get on the standard one) still rank high enough to be included, and are a nice change of pace to the rest of the album, and far better in quality than some of the songs used on the Gaga Remix album out last summer.
Anyway, we’re here now. This is what all the countdown’s and single releases and Google Chrome ads and bizarre performances have all been building to. The Monsters have been putting their paws up for some time now, and short of Deep Vein Thrombosis in a few cases and a couple of dead arms here and there, most of us have gotten here intact and ready to be transported to a sleazy club in East Berlin circa 1994– hang on just a minute (or “Einen Minuten Bittern” if we’re going to go THAT way)!
Before I leap right in a start regurgitating everything Wikipedia has taught me in the past 24 hours about the history of German music from 1990 to 1999, let me start right at the beginning (there’s a Sound of Music reference in there waiting to happen). The choice of opening song for ‘Born This Way’ is utterly crucial is helping listeners understand the direction Lady Gaga has taken for her 2nd (or 3rd, however you want to count to three, I really don’t mind) studio album. A lot of people were surprised that first single, namesake of the album itself and most definitely the catchy, well written pop we’ve known to come from Madon– Lady Gaga, (sorry, had to squeeze that in there, to appease conspiricists who believe that the same series of chords can’t be used more than once in twenty five years, how silly we’ve all been), would have been the opener, and with it having sold 1 million copies in less than a week and since then having sold some preposterously large figure of records (as well as combined figures of the other three singles released prior to the launch of the album itself).
No. There is a real intent with the opening track, ‘Marry the Night’, to set the record straight (pardon the pun), by preceding ‘Born This Way’ on the track listing. It kicks things of with about thirty seconds of suspiciously Bad Romance-esque pacing and some organ synthing, before the dance beat interrupts and commands the presence of the listener.
The album, is, by all rights, a dance album, with familiar pop flecks hidden amongst the German, western Europe techno sounds (so I’m told- not my forte, I must say), although by the time ‘Sheisse’ kicks in (I couldn’t find an Eszett at short notice, accept my double ‘s’ and lump it), the themes and varying flavours of the album begin to blur rapidly.
Taking a few moments to perform a keyword search on Born This Way proved fruitless in filling an entire screen in an almost Scrabble-fashion. Just picking out a few; religion;fantasy;political commentary; gay friendly; unicorns; love; birth; blasphemy; sacrificial imagery and so on and so forth, triple word score, 214 points. I don’t necessarily believe all of these really encapsulate the meaning behind this behemoth of an album. To call this piece of likely musical history a ‘mixing pot’ is skirting dangerously away from the hyperbole at break-neck speed.
But let’s talk the songs, before I drag this out into a thesis. As mentioned, ‘Marry the Night’ and ‘Born This Way’ introduce is to the two-headed beast that is equal(ish) parts dance and pop, working in equilibrium and fused together like the GagaMobile that growls from the front cover of the album. Judas is another fusion piece and introduces the first running theme of the religious references that fill ‘Born This Way’ (see also ‘Bloody Mary’ and ‘Black Jesus’), both of which are great tracks that explore more the Euro-pop side of the beast, ‘Bloody Mary’ being as close as we get to a “proper” piano piece for the most part of the first half of the album, at least in the opening melody.
‘Americano’ has hints of ‘Alejandro’ to it, but I think this is more coincidental as the subject matter of both songs is different, but the formation and beat (banjo-nonwithstanding) had me humming the former ‘Fame Monster’ hit on and off, when I wasn’t imagining I was celebrating Cinqo de Mayo techno-style with ‘Americano’ castanetting (real word, so shush…) in the background. And suddenly we’re leapt upon by ‘Hair’, the closest the opening act of the album gets to a big ‘Just Dance’ number.
The German disco sounds and both 70’s and 80’s throwback sounds in other parts of the album give the impression that this album has been crafted over the course of about thirty years, taking snippets of the essence of each decade and music scene here and there, and yeah there are still a few filler tracks in the middle third of the album, but The Fame wouldn’t be the same without some of the tracks such as ‘Starstruck’ and ‘Money Honey’.
The album ends strongly, ‘Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)’ appearing as another surprise favourite alongside ‘Scheisse’ as the synth winds down (and up, and down), but bringing us neatly on to “You and I” (and yet another track with some infuriating German punctuation to cause me a headache), which is as close as we get to a ‘Speechless’ or ‘Brown Eyes’, and although seems to be a love song written to some distant long-lost-lesbian-or-otherwise-inclined-love, but doesn’t pull the heart-strings and fails to fill the void I’m not sure this album actually has or not, but it is a personal void for not only myself but a selection of the fans.
Edge of Glory caps off the album brilliantly and shows the heart and true soul to the beast that frolics and plays with us as we follow the journey this album takes, and the journey Gaga herself and every Monster out there has taken, to get to where we are now. Each of us fighting but knowing that one person is continuously fighting the same battle, albeit in eight-inch heels and a studded bra, but nonetheless powerful and foreboding as an opponent to such difficulties could be.
I’ve been asked (already, some of you wasted little time) if this is truly Lady Gaga’s ‘raison d’Etre’, and my answer can only be a glitter-covered, spandex concealed no. Of course not. This girl can churn out some 40 songs across 2.5 albums and sell a hundred million records (or as close to) in three years. There is very little in the world who will be able to stop this woman, other than her own undoing. I could have talked for much longer about the hype and marketing behind this album and it’s release, but you know what, all I wanna do is go back and listen to it again. Once I find my German dictionary that is of course. Tun ihrer Pratzen rauf Scheusale. Or something. I dunno.