If you are a Lady Gaga devotee, which means you're a "monster" (don't understand that one), it's old news that her new album came out this week, and you probably don't need to read my assessment of it before deciding whether to buy it. There may be others of you, however, who consider yourselves casual bystanders to Gaga Mania and might need some guidance about whether to take the $11.99 plunge ($15.99 for the deluxe version, which I did not opt for).
I could just tell you "yes" or "no" about the decision to buy or not to buy, but Gaga cannot be simplified to that extent; she's very complicated. Since I love lists, I decided to share some of my observations made while listening to "Born This Way" over the past couple days. Please, read on...
She's ethnic. There is a song ("Scheisse") on the album that Gaga sings largely in German and another song ("Americano") that will make you think you're in Spain. The German forced me to recall some of what I was supposed to be learning during my semester in Austria during college, but the only thing I can say with certainty about the lyrics is that she is not ordering a ham and cheese sandwich, which is about all I can remember. "Americano" is actually one of my more favorite songs on the album, largely because it's upbeat and different sounding.
She's a little bit country. "You and I" could be sung by Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood or Shelby Lynn (those are just some random female country singers that come to mind- I don't know the difference between them after their genre). Lest you not notice that it is supposed to be a country song, Gaga treats us to many stereotypical themes (in this order): heartbreak, whiskey, bars, lonely nights, muscle cars and trucks, overdue rent, Nebraska and Jesus Christ. I heard this song on the radio tonight, by the way.
She recycles. Songs, that is. She caused a flap after her debut of the title track during the Grammys because it seemed highly similar to a Madonna song from a couple decades ago, although Madonna claimed she was flattered by the similarity (right). Never a hypocrite, Gaga has also ripped off one of her own songs: every time I listen to "Highway Unicorn" I think it sounds very, very much like "Poker Face".
She might be the next coming of Oprah. Quite a few of the songs on this album beat you over the head with a baseball bat to be yourself, express yourself, etc. Got it, Gaga! Honestly, if you saw what she looked like when she hatched out of the egg on the Grammys for "Born This Way", I very much doubt she really was, in fact, born that way. Anyway, she's particularly keen on girl power- you can be whoever you want. According to the cover of her album, you can even be a motorcycle!
She's not afraid of ridiculous lyrics. My favorite ridiculous lyrics are to the song "Hair", which attempts to reinforce the message in point #4: "Be as free as your hair". Really? I've seen numerous pictures of Lady Gaga's hair that look like it's imprisoned and even tortured.
Part of Gaga's appeal obviously extends beyond the actual music to the persona, which is entertaining and adds to the whole image. At the end of it all, she's supposed to be a recording artist, which is almost forgotten amidst the cartoon character that she's become, so it's nice that she remember that and put some effort into the songs themselves.
If it seems like I'm making fun of Lady Gaga, I sort of am, but that's partly because she takes herself SOOO seriously. Did I like this album? Kind of. I always appreciate when an artist makes an effort to diversify their sound, and Lady Gaga certainly accomplishes that. However, I've been listening to the album for three days and am getting a little sick of it, which is a bad sign if it gets even an iota of the radio play that the songs from her previous album got. I'm sure even without buying the album you'll have plenty of opportunities to hear the songs on "Born This Way".
For now, enjoy the video for "Judas".