At long last we are gifted with the eagerly-awaited return from The Mother of Pop herself, Lady Gaga - not that she ever really was away. Born this Way is a 14-track Opus, equally Runway-inspired as it is made for the Dance Floor. And over the course of the past three years those of us who were early supporters of hers have been rewarded handsomely by our investment of faith, seeing no other star shine as brightly as hers. Make no mistake about it, Lady Gaga is a Phenomenon and an Icon in all senses of the word.
Born This Way shows an astonishing amount of growth from Gaga's 2008 debut The Fame. Gone are the days of singing about "riding on Disco Sticks" and "doin' it for the Fame". By golly, she's famous. She's really famous. Musically, vocally and lyrically, Gaga has progressed as an Artist, striking that fine balance between Pop Art and a level of accessibility which even your ten-year old Niece gets. A now-Gaga is '90s-obsessed and fixated on Biblical metaphors, in addition to the concepts of Social Justice and Self Acceptance.
This hour-long Set starts off on a brilliant note - a first Techno-Rock contribution from Fernando Garibay complete with Bongos and Organs. Marry the Night takes you to the Chapel in high gear before fully taking flight late with a Pat Benatar-like Breakdown and Vamp which elevates the listener into a higher state of consciousness - the Album's Title Track, yet another Garibay production.
Government Hooker is a dark, edgy romp which sounds like something played over a Video Montage between costume changes on her The Monster Ball Tour. Industrial, New Wave and with a Hook which melodically takes a cue from Jefferson Airplane's Somebody to Love, this number definitely is among the Cream of the Crop on the Disc. Myself not having gone "gaga" (yes her name can be used as a verb also) over RedOne production Judas, its context is understood better after hearing the Album fully. It serves as a part of a recurring motif - dark, bitter Verses set against the sweet fluffiness of fun Choruses.
Americano with its Flamenco flare delivers more of that passione we heard on prior Single Alejandro, although much more festive and in the spirit of Boney M. and Santa Esmerelda. An ode to Gay Rights, musically it seems out-of-context from the rest of Born this Way, although we will need to see this Garibay production set to stage in all its visual glory to see where Gaga is going with this.
Hair and Scheiße put matters back into focus, both RedOne contributions which center on themes of Release and Self-Expression. The former is one of two appearances which Saxophonist Clarence Clemons makes, while the latter undeniably is an homage to a time in the early '90s when Deee-Lite and RuPaul were on our minds incessantly, Gaga declaring "when you're a strong Female, you don't need permission".
If it weren't for a few missteps - namely Bloody Mary, Bad Kids and Highway Unicorn - this fine sophomore effort would have been that much closer to Perfection. Fortunately though, they are sequenced later on the Disc to minimal impact. Fear not as redemption is achieved once again with the sublime Heavy Metal Lover paying homage to the likes of '90s Chart Rulers Ace of Base and Whigfield. Electric Chapel likewise is exquisite, complete with Church Bells and an Electric Guitar, perhaps Gaga's answer to Billy Idol's White Wedding? And why not make full use of that Wedding Dress she's already been rocking since Marry the Night?
Surprisingly, Robert John "Mutt" Lange has been enlisted to man the boards on Showstopper You and I, a Track which performed live on The Monster Ball Tour was a little more Guns 'n' Roses than the Def Lepard/Shania Twain-esque incarnation it appears on this Disc.
Born this Way's finest moment is saved for last with those five uplifting minutes of The Edge of Glory, featuring another appearance from Clemons, concluding the experience on a high note. The Garibay-produced Track is pure Pop Perfection and undisputedly the strongest Track on Born this Way. The Sound of Summer 2011.
The concept of Disappointment is unfathomable in Lady Gaga's universe. She is a Visionary in a constant state of Evolution and I would not be surprised if this Disc foreshadows the sounds we hear from other Pop Artists in our not-so-distant future. Universal Music Canada releases Born this Way on May 23, 2011. Grade: A+