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Name: Adam Bernard
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About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Review: Lady Gaga - Born This Way
Monday, May 23, 2011

Everyone has already accused Lady Gaga of playing a little Grand Theft Madonna with the title track off of Born This Way. Yes, it’s “Express Yourself,” and yes, we’re over it at this point. On Born This Way Lady Gaga’s penchant for borrowing from artists isn’t limited to Madonna, though, as the seventeen track album wavers between harder dance and dance pop, and Gaga wavers between which artist she wants to emulate next, only occasionally giving us a peek into who she is an artist.

Luckily, or perhaps in a very well planned way, none of the artists Gaga borrows from are likely to be known be her relatively younger fan base. Sure, those of us in our 30s may listen to “Government Hooker,” which is one of the standout songs on the album, and consider it something that’s as close to a pop version of a Sneaker Pimps song as we’ve ever heard, but her audience probably isn’t familiar with the Sneaker Pimps. The same goes for the chorus of “Fashion of His Love,” which sounds very similar to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” How many Gaga fans are old enough to have had Whitney playing at their school dances? I’m guessing very few.

Musically, Born This Way is at its best when it’s pure dance, most notably with songs like “Government Hooker” and “Judas.” If you’re looking for lyrical depth, however, you may want to look elsewhere. On “Bad Kids” she’s happy to concede how one acts to determinism, singing lines like “I’m a bad kid like my mom and dad made me,” and “I’m a bad kid, that’s the way that they made me.” It’s interesting to note that someone so bent on convincing people of her personal uniqueness is so quick to blame others for her faults. Then there’s “Hair.” With lines like “I’m as free as my hair,” and “I am my hair,” I was hoping this was a “wink and a nudge” situation, and that the entire song was done tongue in cheek, like “Just Dance” was, but by the end it kinda made me wish India.Arie, who once famously sang “I Am Not My Hair”, would come into the room and slap some sense into her. The dichotomy is pretty glaring. One artist says she’ll make one aspect of her outward appearance represent who she is and how she's feeling, while the other says she can’t be judged solely based on one aspect of her outward appearance.

Born This Way is an album that shows Gaga is at a bit of a crossroads. She has two forces pulling her in completely different directions - her “Born This Way” ideology, and her love of fashion. If you’re truly embracing being “Born This Way” you love yourself enough to not care what you’re wearing. This pulling in different directions makes for a very mixed message when listening to her music. Here’s the good news, the lyrical content really isn’t that important because the production on Born This Way is insanely good. You’d dance to this even if the lyrics were pure gibberish. Except for the terrible guitar on “Bad Kids” every beat is on point, and in regards to that guitar, if she was going to borrow musical ideas from artists, couldn’t she have slipped a little Roxette in there?

The five song second disc that comes with the special edition of the album dives feet first into the clubs and has an especially great remixes of “Judas” done by DJ White Shadow and “Marry The Night” done by Zedd. The only oddity on it is a country inspired remix of “Born This Way.”

Overall, Born This Way is somewhere in-between The Fame, which was phenomenal, and The Fame Monster, which was, in retrospect, pretty mediocre. The problem I still wrestle with when it comes to Lady Gaga is that I think she’s talented, but I still don’t think she’s created the album she’s capable of creating. It seems like she’s become too wrapped up in all the other BS that comes with being a “superstar” and her music is suffering for it. Yes, it’s still better than the majority of what her peers are putting out, but when you know an artist can do better it’s frustrating. Born This Way is good, but I have this gut feeling Gaga still hasn’t shown us her best yet.

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