Imagine this: a woman shows up at an award show in an outfit made of real meat. Imagine this woman STILL planned to make even more headlines that night. If you watched the 2010 VMAs, you didn’t have to imagine it, because that’s exactly what happened. Lady Gaga took the stage clad in what could only be described as a McDonald’s Big Mac to accept the prestigious Video of the Year award for her record breaking “Bad Romance” music video. Gaga had previously promised that if she won said award, she’d reveal the title of her forthcoming record. Gaga tearfully handed her meat purse (yes, she had one) to Cher and accepted the award, poised to keep her promise. Upon bringing it up, she uttered the chilling statement “it’s called… Born This Way.” What followed was Gaga singing an a capella of the chorus from the record’s title track. Gaga took to twitter a few months later on December 31st to announce the album and lead single’s release date. Right when the clock struck 12 and the year of 2011 was ushered in, Gaga tweeted that the lead single, also the title track, would be dropped on February 13th and the album would follow on May 23rd. Fast forward to the release week, and Gaga suddenly announced that “Born This Way” would now be released 2 days earlier, on February 11th. The moment the track dropped, the hearts of many fluttered everywhere as they purchased it and sent it straight to #1 on iTunes. What Gaga had dropped was a disco influenced anthem dedicated to the disenfranchised. If you were white, black, straight, gay, cisgender, transgender, Gaga didn’t care, because we are all born this way and she wanted us to know that and celebrate it. Gaga has previously called “Born This Way” the most important song she’d ever record, and I couldn’t agree more.
The album followed in May as previously announced, and it sold over 1 million copies in the first week. While “Born This Way” is a polarising record, it is also by far her most creative and brilliant album. The record starts off with the autobiographical “Marry The Night,” an 80s influenced anthem filled with church bells to the brim where Gaga sings of her home state of New York and the life that comes with living there. “Marry The Night” would hold on to become the album’s 5th single, with a 15 minute music video detailing what she said was the worst day of her life. The video finds Gaga waking up in a hospital after an unknown procedure, followed by her getting home and being informed that she has been dropped from her original label, Def Jam Records. In a Cheerios infused rage, Gaga bleaches her hair and becomes more determined than ever to prove herself worthy in dance classes, after which she signs her new deal with her present day label Interscope Records.
What follows “Marry The Night” is the bold title track and a track drenched in Marilyn Monroe references, “Government Hooker.” In the track, Gaga sings of having sexual relations with someone high up in the government, later referred to as John F Kennedy, whom Marilyn is known to have had an affair with. It’s a track that sounds as acidic as it is abrasive, with production from DJ White Shadow completing the song’s gritty feel. Gaga isn’t done with the controversy quite yet though as the next song happens to be “Judas,” an edgy rock infused song that recalls “Bad Romance” in its hooks and structure. “Judas” was released as the album’s second single after being leaked early on Easter weekend, a move that garnered Gaga much more controversy than even she could handle. Religious people flocked to their social media to bash the superstar, meanwhile Gaga’s fans were in the other end of the spectrum, citing it as one of the best things she’s ever recorded. The “Judas” music video, in which she portrays Mary Magdalene of biblical fame, starred Norman Reedus of “The Walking Dead” fame as the titular character, where Gaga finds herself torn between him and Jesus. The song is rather metaphorical, with “Judas” representing her darker side and the fact that we all have to acknowledge our own dark sides if we truly want to stand in the light.
Gaga brings back the disenfranchisement anthem formula on the following track, “Americano,” a mariachi and techno banger where Gaga sings in (sometimes incorrect) Spanish along with English and touches on the important subject of immigration that also happens to sample the legendary “Mambo Italiano”. The song was rumoured by fans to be the song meant to get the “Telephone” music video sequel, and while it didn’t happen, I must say it was a perfect fit. As soon as “Americano” ends, Gaga let’s us know that she’s still standing up for us on the RedOne produced “Hair,” a song where Gaga finds herself singing about how in a strict school with a uniform, her only outlet of freedom was her hairstyles. Clarence Clemons, known for his work with rock legend Bruce Springsteen, joins Gaga on the track with his amazing saxophone playing, giving the song a nice touch of jazz towards the end of what is otherwise a very dance oriented tune.
Ready to touch on feminism, Gaga follows “Hair” up with the euro-dance filled track “Scheiße” (German for the word Shit) on which she utters phrases in gibberish that was meant to sound German. As awkward as reading about it may sound, the song is on a whole other level with how truly great it is. Fans commonly cite it as a single worthy song, and while I disagree, it’s still a club ready anthem that did get a place in the commercial for her first perfume “FAME.”
Opting to return to the role of Mary Magdalene, Gaga sings of living between fantasy and reality on the track “Bloody Mary.” The song is a creepy, horror movie ready track where Gaga sings of how Mary Magdalene must have felt so lost, yet had to keep a grave face on after the death of Jesus. Jesus himself gets a mention in the following song “Black Jesus + Amen Fashion,” on which Gaga speaks once again of New York life, however this time she chooses to touch more on the underground fashion and poetry community the state is home to.
The moment the song ends, the guitars blare on “Bad Kids,” a song that tries to find a balance between light pop in its verses and chorus and hard rock in its pre-chorus. “Bad Kids” has become infamous among Gaga’s fans, placing last in a poll hosted by fan site GagaDaily that asked fans to say what song they wanted as the album’s 4th single. With musical trends straight from the 80s literally everywhere on this album, it’s no surprise that there happens to be a song very inspired by Whitney Houston, as the following track “Fashion of His Love,” a beautiful tribute to fashion designer and Gaga’s close friend Alexander McQueen, sounds very much like the iconic hit “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).” The song is also a special treat for fans, as some of the lyrics happen to be lifted from another Gaga song which, while unreleased, was leaked with the title “Earthquake.”
For the next song, Gaga decides to take a trip down what seems to be a highway of freedom, as Gaga once again sings for her love of the LGBT community on “Highway Unicorn (Road to Love),” a song which may remind one of Gaga’s previous hit “Poker Face” in the song’s structure. “Heavy Metal Lover,” a very danceable banger where Gaga sings of hitting up the town and engaging in leather filled orgies, was quick to become a fan favourite, and was even rumoured to be the album’s 6th single. Bringing back the electric guitars for the following track, Gaga sings of wanting a love that’s not just sexual, but also intimate. Gaga doesn’t forget to pay her love to her fans in “The Queen”, with a soaring bridge that contains Gaga’s best in studio vocals to date.
The final two tracks, which happen to be the biggest singles from the album aside from the title track, are perfect for blasting in a stadium. “Yoü and I” is a country and rock crossover track that became a favourite as the 4th single for people across the United States, although the mermaid, robot, and barn intimacy filled video may have thrown people off, and of course it wouldn’t be a Gaga era without her performing the song at the 2011 VMAs dressed as her male alter ego Jo Calderon, who also appears in the song’s music video.
The final track on the album, “The Edge of Glory,” was rush released as the album’s 3rd single when it performed well on iTunes following the previous single “Judas” performing poorly across multiple platforms. The song is a beautiful anthem in which Gaga remembers her late grandfather, and recalls how he had accomplished so much in life to the point to where he truly was in the edge of glory.
All in all, “Born This Way” has solidified itself as a solid album and also as a career changing one. Like the title track, the album is sure to remain the most important piece of work Gaga ever puts out, and may it no on to inspire future generations to love themselves.
(8.5 / 10)