Born This Way
It’s like trying to review a volcano. Not that Lady G spews out molten lava – although we’d be surprised if Her People hadn’t thought about adding that to her live act – but rather that she is now so dominant a feature on our popular-culture landscape, it’s hard to remember a time BG (Before Gaga).
When an artist reaches monolithic stature, it seems she’s either vilified without reason, unquestionably adored or allowed to wriggle under the critical fence altogether. Not in our world. But Born This Way arrives with a tsunami of hoopla in its wake – especially puzzling given how overfamiliar it sounds. Shorn of their grand guignol live context, these songs play like plain old Eurotrance/hi-NRG house, dominated by a mahoosive, doofdoof beat. This is the robodynamic without which no commercial electro-pop record will ever leave the starting gate and boy, is it numbing over 15 tracks.
Lady G has never sounded more like a figure in an ascent-of-man line-up than she does here, joining Grace Jones, Debbie Gibson, Madonna and Cher. She sidesteps into fidget house (on cut-and-shut stomper ‘Scheisse’), a confused blend of polka, mariachi and Tex-Mex that suggests a nil-points Eurovision entry (‘Americano’) and Shania Twain-style country rock with a twist of Queen (the grisly ‘You & I’). Gaga’s declared interest in exploring hybrid metal and rock shows on the dark ‘Heavy Metal Lover’ and preposterous ‘Electric Chapel’.
It’s a MASSIVE record and highly impressive on that count, but big rarely equals clever. Canny, but Gaga’s always been that. We look forward to the day when her music strikes us as much as her costuming.