Saturday, 12 February 2011

Review: Lady Gaga, "Born This Way"

"Born This Way" has been hyped to no end by Gaga and her crew as a song of great importance, so why does she sound so impatient in it? Instead of taking time to indicate its importance, the song rushes from verse to verse and hook to hook with very little of it making any impact. Only the chorus leaves any sort of lasting impression, and if Gaga was an artist whose revenue relied entirely on 30-second ringtones, that would be enough.

However, Lady Gaga seems to be advocating for the return of pop music's overblown grandeur through her extended-length music videos and increasingly outrageous wardrobe, so instead of just having a nice chorus and being done with it, the song feels like it has to Make A Statement - and doesn't quite succeed in the process.

Message aside, "Born This Way" itself has attracted - more than any other song by an artist whose style is, essentially, an amalgamation of all her favorite music - comparisons to not only Madonna's "Express Yourself" in theme, but to David Guetta's "When Love Takes Over" and "God is a DJ" by Pink in its music. Analyzing the source of the song, however, can be seen as giving too much credit to the unremarkable co-production by Gaga, Fernando Garibay and DJ White Shadow (the latter being the latest person snatched out of semi-obscurity by Gaga's team), a melody that, like the majority of its lyrics, is quickly forgotten.

If "Born This Way"'s chorus was, as Gaga claims, dropped into her lap by God, it's a shame that He couldn't have done the same thing for the verses as well.  Elton John has, in typically flamboyant fashion, declared that "Born This Way" will eclipse Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" as a modern anthem, a claim one may find hard to believe when comparing the two songs. At least "I Will Survive" has memorable and well-written lyrics; "Born This Way", for a song so ostensibly about a "message", doesn't bother to make most of its lyrics stand out in delivery. It's hard not to squirm at lines like "Subway kid, rejoice your truth" that for all the world sound like poorly-used Babelfish, and when a half-decent, visually strong line like "She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on / in the glass of her boudoir" comes up, Gaga doesn't even give it the time of day. There's a reason why Gaga released the lyrics first, and it wasn't just to drum up hype: on their own, the words look fine and at times, rather admirable, but when Gaga sings those same words over a largely unremarkable melody, their intent becomes lost in translation.

Much of Gaga's music up until this point, for all its melodrama, had a tiny, essential wink at the camera embedded within; "Born This Way", on the other hand, takes itself so seriously that it ends up shooting itself in the foot. Any song that begins with chords of doom and a spoken-voice intro that sounds more like an Amnesty International commercial than a call for freedom is setting itself up for all sorts of falls. According to reports, she recorded the entirety of her upcoming album while on tour, and while it may seem unfair to judge an entire seventeen-song album on the basis of the lead single alone, one could perhaps suggest that the amount of time and energy it seems to take to put on Gaga's Monster Ball Tour leaves little time at the end of the day to give the creation of an album of that length proper attention.

Of course, it matters little what music critics think of "Born This Way"; Gaga's fanbase, devoted as it is, will no doubt react towards the single the same way they do for most of Gaga's work - with enthused and lavish acclaim - and they have every right to. For those that do not see themselves entirely as "Little Monsters", though, "Born This Way" marks an artist becoming more and more attached to her fanbase - an attachment that, one hopes, doesn't lessen Gaga's chances of having an impact on the mainstream.

The single's cover art shows Gaga transforming into something. Transforming, yes. But into what?

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