Born This Way

I downloaded the by now very very leaked Born This Way album yesterday. I played it basically all day long (sorry neighbors!) and here's my track-by-track breakdown:

1. Marry the Night - awesome, catchy song. Yes it sounds like a generic power ballad mixed with a club song, but try not to listen to it and not want to get up and dance. It's hard. And I think that this should have been the single off the album, not "Hair" or "Judas." The lyrics are about prostitution, but who could mix such downer lyrics with such an exuberant dance song?
 I'm gonna lace up my boots
Throw on some leather and cruise
Down the street that I love
in my fishnet gloves
I'm a sinner

Then I'll go down to the bar
Where I won't cry anymore
I'll hold my whiskey up high,
kiss the bartender twice
I'm a loser

I'm gonna Marry The Night
2. Born This Way - the gay-rights anthem that's melody-wise also a direct ripoff of Madonna's "Express Yourself," but somehow has the neurotic beat and knife-like Gaga voice that makes it a very different song. Works better as a live act than as a radio single I think. Only misfire of this song is the overlong middle bridge section which contains these nuggets of wisdom:
Don't be a drag
Just be a queen
Whether you're broke or evergreen
You're black, white, beige, chola descent
You're Lebanese, you're Orient
Whether life's disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
Because baby, you were born this way

No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born to survive
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or Orient made
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born to be brave
"Lebanese or Orient"? That's just bad lyric-writing. I find it interesting that in most live acts Gaga drops the second bridge.

 3. Government Hooker - strangest song of the album, that starts out with a Phantom-of-the-Opera intro and ends with her fantasizing about John F. Kennedy. Lyrically a weird song, but also one of the hardest to get out of your head because of the slow but relentless dance beat that's at the heart of the song. This is a weird comparison but the song almost sounds like a post-KidA Radiohead song, with its wailing existential vocals and electronic synthesizer beats. "Put your hands on me/John F. Kennedy/I'll make you squeal, baby/As long as you pay me" she screams. 

4. Judas - this song is a hot mess, but after 10 listens it becomes lodged in your brain until I found myself singing along to even the bridge. It sounds like four completely different songs looped together, and has a weird bridge that makes the song a good minute too long. I don't think Gaga does "religious symbolism-laden love song" as well as Madonna though.

5. Americano - Gaga meets mariachi! It's like "Alejandro," except about a girl this time. I guess it's about an illegal immigrant, but really it's just this delightfully silly club song with a mariachi melody. Gaga's Spanish is horrible, but I guess that's the point. But you have to love any song with lyrics like these. "Jesus Christo"? LOL.
I will cry for, I have fought for
How I love you
I have cried for I will die for
How I care
In the mountains, las campanas
Están sonando
Todo los chicos, y los chicos
Se están besando

I don't speak your
I don't speak your
Language, oh no
I don't speak your
I won't speak your
Jesus Cristo
 6. Hair - Depending on your POV, either the worst song on the album, or Gaga at her best. The melody sounds like up-tempo 80s, but the song basically repeats lyrics like "I am my hair" and "I'm as free as my hair," and a bridge that intones solemnly:
Sometimes I waltz around, Put on red highlights/Sometimes I want some rocket/rockin' red highlights?)
Just because I want my friends,
To think I'm dynamite.
And on Friday rocks in,
High school dance.
I got my bangs too hot,
That I don't stand a chance.
This is Gaga speaking to her teen fanbase, but it never gets deeper than Gaga talking about her hair. Gaga being Gaga, I can just picture her singing "I am my hair" and her face dripping with black mascara. I remember my parents forcing me to keep my hair short when I was little, so I can relate to the song, but it's overproduced (did we really need a Clarence Clemons sax solo?) and thus a light little ditty becomes either overlong and just flat out annoying or the guilty pleasure of the album. Think of it like the "Boys Boys Boys" of the album - so bad it's good.

7. Scheiße- "I don't speak German, but can if you like" Gaga announces, before doing a game impersonation of European industrial dance sound. This song is getting a lot of buzz from hard-core Gaga fans, but I find the somewhat cold sound and German-glish lyrics kind of pretentious.

8. Bloody Mary - along with "Bad Kids," maybe the worst song of the album. It's very dull, with a very loooooooooooooooong, drawn out melody that never goes anywhere, and more Catholic angst: "I'll dance, dance, dance/With my hands, hands, hands/Above my head, head, head/Like Jesus said."

9. Black Jesus + Amen Fashion - one of the tracks on the bonus edition of the album, and I can understand why it didn't make the album proper. It's not really much of a song, sounds like something Madonna could have written in her sleep.

10. Bad Kids - this is the song I like least on the album. The others I can find something catchy in the song, but "Bad Kids" is again Gaga singing to her tween fanbase, but with lyrics as vapid as the tween generation. "I'm a twit" and "I'm a nerd." I feel like playing that SNL game "Really?" with this one. The melody has more than a passing resemblance to "Holiday." Really, for teen angst and insecurity, nobody did it better than Kurt Cobain, and no one should even try.

11. Fashion of Your Love - another track that didn't make the album proper. Again, I understand why. Very 80s' Madonna ripoff, but the song doesn't go anywhere or make much of an impact.

12. Highway Unicorn - Album picks up again at this track. Very uplifting, uptempo song. "We can be strong/on the road to love" is so cheesy that it instantly causes replay. I'm not really sure what the song is supposed to be about, but I do know that after four kind of meh tracks, this is the kind of danceable song that the album needed.

13. Heavy Metal Lover - Probably won't get much radio play because of the racy opening lyrics, "I want your whiskey mouth/All over my blond south." Too bad because it's one of the best songs on the album, a follow-up to "Teeth" in its fierceness.

14. Electric Chapel - along with "Marry the Night," probably the best dance track of the album. Starts out like a Bon Jovi song, complete with riffing, wailing guitars, but reverts to the by-now familiar half-sung echo voice of Gaga's "dance" songs. But then the song becomes ... well, I never thought Gaga would use church bells to underline the beat of a song, but she does. The lyrics mix Catholic angst with a delightfully cheeky entreaty to meet her at the "electric chapel." I just love, love, love this song.
Follow me
Don't be such a holy fool
Follow me
I need something sacred from you
Together we'll both find a way
To make it pure
Love work and a dirty way

If you want me
Meet me at electric chapel
If you want me
Meet me at electric chapel
If you wanna steal my heart away
Meet me, meet me baby in a safe place
Come on, meet me in electric chapel
 15. The Queen - a bonus track that didn't make the cut. This is the one extra song I thought should have made the album proper. One of those Gaga self-help songs that actually works, because the propulsive joy of the melody, and the unpretentiously conceited, chest-beating lyrics. I actually think this is a better gay anthem than BTW. I suspect that this will become a future Gaga radio single. It seems like too good of a song to keep as a bonus track.
Whenever I start feeling strong,
I`m called a bitch in the night,
But I don't need these 14 carat guns to win,
I am a woman, I insist, it's my life

I can be, the queen that's inside of me
This is my chance to release it,
Be brave for you you'll see
I can be, the queen you need me to be
This is my chance,
To be the dance,
Our dream is happening,
I can be the queen
 16. You and I - this is a minority opinion, but I'm disappointed by the country-twang mix Gaga chose for the album proper. I also think this is a bad follow up to "Speechless," which is probably one of the best power ballads ever made. I enjoyed "You and I" more when she sat down at the piano and sang this straight. The country mixing somehow goes on for way too long and by the end of the song I was bored. I much prefer live piano versions like this one:

17. Edge of Glory - the album ends on a bang. "Edge of Glory" is one of the happiest, most joyful songs I've ever heard. Yes, the Springsteen-style sax solo is a bit much, but the song is just so over-the-top. Gaga claims that this song is about someone's "last minutes on earth," and I can just say, I hope my last moment on earth is as filled with joy as this song. I think this song plays better if she just admitted it was a love song, because the song perfectly captures the happiness, insecurity, and craziness of being on the "edge of glory" with someone. The song is like one huge fluttering heart and flushed face.
There ain't no reason you and me should be alone tonight
Yeah baby. Tonight, yeah baby
I gotta reason that you should take me home tonight
I need a man that thinks it's right when it's all wrong tonight
Yeah, baby. Tonight, yeah baby
Right on the limb is where we know we both belong tonight

It's hard to feel the rush
To brush the dangerous
I'm gonna run right to, to the edge with you
Where we can both fall in love

The second CD has some remixes. I haven't really listened to any of them the whole way through, except for "Scheiße." Very meh remixes, I thought.

Overall, Born This Way is definitely a more sprawling, ambitious album than The Fame and Fame Monster, and not everything works. It's a long album, and some of the songs sound overproduced, others sound trite. I think it's important to remember though that the now-canonized Fame had "Paparazzi," "Poker Face," "Just Dance," and "Paper Gangsta," but it also had pure filler like "Boys Boys Boys" and "Disco Heaven." When people say that BTW is less consistent than old-Gaga, I think they're really talking about the 8-song whopper of the Fame Monster EP, where there really wasn't a weak song among the lot. But the album also is everything I love about Gaga: over the top, cheesy, frantic, manic, and insanely catchy. She's the only person in the world who can have over 10 million followers on twitter and seem genuine when she talks about being a "freak" -- because she is a freak. She's not beautiful (unlike the too-perfect Beyonce), her voice is not the octave-jumping pipe machine of the younger Mariah Carey or Christina, and she lacks the real "F__k you" brazenness of Madonna. She's just the Mother Monster of Pop Music, that's all.


  1. Re. Born this Way - I agree re. the Express Yourself rip-off.

    I learned a new word today - 'chola'. According to, it means a Latina woman who dresses like she might be involved in gang activity or dating a member of a gang, c.f. Jets v. Sharks.

    (You can tell how out of touch I am - I never heard of that term.)


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