by Marc Ridley
So, in preparation for hearing “Born This Way” for the first time on a freesheet’s website (and what a depressing way of first hearing ‘the greatest album of the decade’ that was), we had a listen back to “The Fame” and “The Fame Monster”. It struck us that, whilst not every track is a killer, the albums holds up. We all know that “Again Again” is never gonna be on repeat all day like “Bad Romance” could be, but that’s fine because it’s an album track, and it works in its place on the album.
“Born This Way” needs to have that ability to stand up under its own weight. Anyone expecting an album stuffed with fourteen masterpieces is going to be disappointed, I’m afraid, but surely that wouldn’t make sense as a completed volume of pop music. There are no bad songs on the album, but here’s my advice if you haven’t heard it yet: lower your expectations, enjoy what’s awesome, remember that not everything can be as it should be.
As an opener, “Marry the Night” is perfect. It’s got a haunting, instantly recognisable opening melody, yet soon gives way to classic thumping Gaga, just as you’d hope for. It’s anthemic without peaking too soon – it’s a good start but there’s still more to hear.
It’s hard to get over "Born This Way" as an awesome standalone single, and it’s true to say that the album’s singles are some of its best bits. But “Born This Way” works here, so don’t skip over it on your way to the new stuff.
“Government Hooker” starts all operatic and ethereal, which keeps everything interesting after all that jumping about to “Born This Way”. “I’m gonna drink my tears tonight / I’m gonna drink my tears and cry.” The general consensus is that this is the album highlight – I’m not so sure. It’s very good though – daft and different enough to be distinctive, and good enough to be a grower.
“Judas” and “Hair” (former amazing, latter not so) have pretty much spoken for themselves – we loved them both. “Americano” is cool, driving, and just on the right side of surreal. It’s bold, crazy and really, really good. You’ll love it, seriously.
“I don’t speak German but I can if you like” – “Sheiße” is brilliant. It kicks off with Gaga spitting a mix of Foreign all over an ingenious loop, followed by pounding verses and a stonker of a chorus. Album highlight.
“Bloody Mary” is a bit weird. It’s quieter and spookier, which is good; it won’t blow you away but it’s got some pretty good lyrics in there so it’s by no means a waste of anyone’s time. “Bad Kids” is a favourite of ours – especially the beginning. It’s rocky and gritty yet still soaring pop, and it’s a track that brings “Born This Way” into its own.
“Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)” has a ridiculous name but is awesome. The opening melody is mindblowing, and then you’re pulled back into a grounded, fully-formed pop pounder which WILL be on repeat all day, if not on your iPod then in your minds.
“Heavy Metal Lover” contains no heavy metal, which is a godsend. It’s pretty good and pretty groovy, but it feels a little bit like we’re just marking time before the finale.
“Electric Chapel” looks to be another fan favourite; it’s starts off with a driving guitar riff breaking into an awesome vocal melody. It calms down a bit towards the end, but we can’t have it all can we?
“Yoü and I” seems to have become the album’s hallmark. It’s got a brilliant, stately, Gaga verse in the vein of Speechless, set to Queen-style crowd claps and a rock anthem drum line. It’s gonna be awesome live (it went down well in Carlisle over the weekend), and is perfectly acceptable here.
It seems a shame to close the album with a song everyone has already heard – but don’t forget there’s the extended special addition to come, which we haven’t heard yet. “The Edge of Glory” is a no-holds-barred anthem, and alongside “Yoü and I” it builds a perfect finale to a very good album.
So there you have it – Lady Gaga’s latest condensed into a few hundred humble words. If we’re all boring and realistic then it’s not the greatest album of the decade, but if you’ve been waiting for this for months and already know that this album is more important to you than any other, then you won’t be disappointed.