Review: Lady Gaga’s Born This Way

My love affair with Lady Gaga’s music began in January of 2008. I’d just dropped my boyfriend and my dad at a location to shoot commercials for AT&T and for some unknown reason was in a real funk. Driving around Anchorage in the dead of winter–it was either 5f or -5f, I can’t recall–cover the roads in pimply ice, the truck bouncing around. I’d heard of Lady Gaga on the fringe, primarily through celebrity gossip blog, but I’d never heard any of her music. That’s when “Just Dance” came on the radio.One minute into the song, I was hooked. I literally turned the corner right there and went into the Best Buy and bought The Fame on the spot, not even waiting to get home to do a digital download. I popped the CD into the truck’s player and couldn’t stop listening to it. When I got home, I sat down for a game of Scrabble with my mom and put the album on, filling the house with Gaga. My mom really got into “Just Dance,” the song I’d heard on the radio that had plunged me into utter Gaga madness.

When Gaga first burst on the scene with The Fame

My boyfriend at the time (we were both visiting my parents for the holiday season) looked at me like I was crazy when I went utterly batshit over this artist. Why on earth would I get excited over an artist called Lady Gaga?

The Fame was pop magic at its best. The Fame Monster, the shorter companion to The Fame, sent me completely over the edge in love with her music. And anyone who knows me in real life knows that I’m the most musically retarded person you’ll ever meet. But to this day, I can still listen to “Bad Romance” over and over, and never get sick of it.

So, having this knowledge, you can imagine how excited I was for Born This Way, even for just the single. “Born This Way” has grown on me a little bit, but I still think it’s a let-down. Next Gaga released “Judas,” which is so much more of the Gaga style that I fell in love with three years ago. But the rest of Born This Way? Dang, I’m pretty let down.

I’ve listened to the whole thing about three times. In “Americano,” Gaga sings parts in Spanish, which just sounds so odd because she’s not singing with an accent, making it sound so incredibly…flat. Then there’s “Scheibe,” in which she says”I don’t speak German but I can if you like.” She then proceeds to sing most of the song in German. C’mon, Gaga. You are reaching. And, quite frankly, I think she’s losing it.

Old-school pants-averse Gaga

Part of the appeal of songs like “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance” is their shroud of metaphor. They’re interpretable, but you can also interpret it how you like. That’s what I like about “Judas,” actually. Because despite the religious parallels, the song is actually about an ex-boyfriend–Judas–who betrayed Gaga–Jesus. She’s not saying she’s Jesus. It’s just a metaphor. But speaking of religion, there are a ton of religious references throughout the album. Why?

Aside from just being excessively literal, which is completely not the Gaga I fell in love with in The Fame (“Just Dance” aside), many of the lyrics on Born This Way feel so completely contrived–just like Gaga herself has seemed to become.

She started out as this figure who was interesting simply because she refused to wear pants. Her quirkiness was so endearing in a way. Nowadays she wears these absurd outfits, claiming things like “I just didn’t feel like wearing X today.” Sticking a large fake diamond in her tea and then holding it in her mouth during the “60 minutes” interview. Eating David Letterman’s notes on Tuesday night’s “Late Show.” Gaga, STOP IT! WHAT THE F*CK?! She looks down at the paper and you can literally see the idea come into her head: “What can I do to shock people?”

Where did my Gaga go? Where is my pop master? Did she just get too big for her britches? Too famous? Is she starting to completely overreach because she feels that she has to keep pushing the boundaries of “abnormal” to keep people fascinated?

Whether her behavior is honest and true to who she is–or the cultivated person that she has fully become–she’s losing her appeal. She seems to be trying too hard, both in trying to express who she is and by trying to create songs more quirky than the last ones. It’s fine for artists to change up their musical styles, but don’t forget where your fans came from in the first place: It’s all about the music. With Born This Way she’s seemingly crossed over into something that feels ripped off. Some of it, especially the obnoxious ode to teen-hood “Hair,” sounds so early ’90s that I was instantly transported back to my days roller skating at The Polar Roller. I don’t need to relive that, thanks.

If this album starts to grow on me, I’ll let you know. But so far, not impressed. And pretty disappointed.

Gaga and the Diamond on “60 Minutes”:

Gaga eating David Letterman’s paper notes on 5/24:


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