Album Review: Lady Gaga - Born This Way

Album Review: Lady Gaga - Born This Way | Random J Pop

Born This Way was a declaration of acceptance, but it’s reception was a strange one, because not everybody accepted the album. It still sold well and it cemented Lady Gaga as a pop fixture (although some would argue The Fame Monster did that). But many weren’t sure how to really take it, making Born This Way the start of a hat trick of albums that would divide fans. The laser focus that seemed to be there for The Fame and The Fame Monster seemed a little bit off, and I think this may have been intentional in retrospect. Lady Gaga came onto the scene as this super polished product, as Lady Gaga. But you can only maintain that for so long. The problem is, what do you do when you have amassed a fanbase on that persona? Born This Way was the start of Gaga wanting to give one thing, whilst many wanted another.

Album Review: Lady Gaga - Born This Way | Random J Pop

Whilst Born This Way wasn’t this drastically different album from The Fame, the singles gave the impression that it was. The lead single “Born This Way” was immediately shat on for sounding like a copy of Madonna’s 1989 single “Express Yourself” (which it does). And the message of the song may have been viewed as a little too normal in comparison to these wildly voyeuristic and exaggerated narratives we got in “Poker Face”, “Paparazzi” and “Bad Romance”. It wouldn’t surprise me if “Judas” was intended to be the lead single because it followed on so directly from The Fame Monster’s string of singles and the sound of “Bad Romance”. I’m not a fan of this song, but I do like the message behind it. It’s very one the nose, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The Madonna comparisons hurt it more than anything, because it really does sound A LOT like “Express Yourself”, which may have been the intention. I do however like that it feels different from what I expected from Lady Gaga at this point in her career where she seemed to have a very templated sound. A sound of which I felt Lady Gaga was torn between on this album.

Album Review: Lady Gaga - Born This Way | Random J Pop

Lady Gaga established a brand and a sound on The Fame and The Fame monster, in large part due to RedOne, who had produced “Just Dance”, “Poker Face”, “LoveGame”, “Bad Romance” and “Alejandro” - so basically most of her singles. So the RedOne sound (which was a sound before Lady Gaga came along) became synonymous with Lady Gaga. But the problem was that it was becoming Lady Gaga’s bread and butter despite only being one facet of her sound. The best moments on Born This Way are when Lady Gaga breaks out of the mould she’d set herself with The Fame, but the problem is that the album as a whole ends up in this tug of war between what people want from Lady Gaga, and how Lady Gaga wants people to see her. And because of this Born This Way ends up sounding like two different albums, with only 2 instances where we get some musical compromise; “Scheiße” and “Bad Kids”. And I for the life of me do not understand how “Scheiße” was not made a single. Stefani and Interscope really chose religious controversy over what was just a plain better song primed for a single.

Album Review: Lady Gaga - Born This Way | Random J Pop

The 90s are a huge influence on Born This Way. I can imagine Lady Gaga having a moodboard for this album and it literally being lots of late 80s, early 90s shit. You can see it in the cover, the inlay shoot and a couple of the music videos. And it’s the one theme that would have run cleanly through the album, if it weren’t interrupted by the compromise songs. The songs that had to be on the album because “Bad Romance” was such a mammoth hit. So in between great new songs which push Gaga in a new direction and really seem to evoke more of she wants us to see at this phase of her career; “Marry the Night”, “The Edge of Glory”, “Hair” and “You and I”, we get songs like “Judas”, “Highway Unicorn (Road To Love)”, “Heavy Metal Lover” and “Electric Chapel”. “Heavy Metal Lover” and “Electric Chapel” are barely pop songs for the charts. No strong verses or a hook. Merely fodder for a runway at a fashion show. Just background noise with enough of a beat behind it.

The likes of “Marry the Night” and “Edge of Glory” are probably a couple of the most divisive songs on the album. Some think they’re great. Some are just pissed that they’re not more in the vein of “Bad Romance”, even though “Judas” is RIGHT there. And this is where the album starts to fall into murky territory, and the start of what would ultimately cause fallout on the future albums Artpop and Joanne. What Lady Gaga wants and what some of the fans want are two completely different things, and Born This Way was the beginning of the two beginning to diverge.

Whilst Lady Gaga sticking to her guns caused two albums to get shat on, sticking closer to her guns on Born This Way would’ve made it a whole lot better. Because the moments of conformity ruin what could have been a really solid album. And with the weaker material being shoved to the second half of the album, it not only drags the whole thing down, but it’s the lasting impression that you have of the album as a whole, even though “The Edge of Glory” is the encore.

Album Review: Lady Gaga - Born This Way | Random J Pop

Born This Way marked an interesting phase in Lady Gaga’s career, because I viewed it differently to everybody else. Fans and spectators will see it as the period when Lady Gaga was at the apex of a career that felt like it came out of nowhere, but had also been many years long. She was huge, made her mark as a pop fixture and was shaping pop in many ways; an influence which even carried over to Japan and J-Pop in artists such as Ayumi Hamasaki. But when I saw Lady Gaga during this time, I saw somebody who was being pulled really thin. A woman who seemed exhausted. I don’t know why, but it just seemed to me that the upkeep of trying to do things bigger and better was taking its toll, and it bled into the music. Leading to Born This Way being stuffed a little too full, and unnecessarily so.

Born This Way is an album which has good material. The issue is that there’s too much of it, and the excess kills what would have otherwise been a consistent and concise album. Born This Way wants to be The Fame Monster. But it also wants to be punk. But it also wants to channel theatre school geek who loved music and grew up listening to 80s and 90s chart radio. I completely get why Born This Way ended up as it did. But keeping a grip on The Fame Monster diluted this album and got in the way of a body of work which could have felt really tight.

Album Review: Lady Gaga - Born This Way | Random J Pop

This is a tough album for me to land on, because no matter which way you cut it, Born This Way delivers what you’d expect from Lady Gaga, even if you weren’t expecting every part of it. And the one thing I find to be an issue with the album, is such a key part of who Lady Gaga is. To be extra, overblown and do the most - and I would never demand that she tones it down or concedes. But, you can still be all of these things without unnecessary excess, and it’s the excess that I have a problem with on this album. Born This Way would have been far better had it been condensed down to a 10 track album. Every filler song feels like a lesser version of another song on the album, and they don’t feel like songs that you’ll remember years from now or will feel classic in the Lady Gaga discography.

There is a decent album in here, but it’s smothered by the filler and the indecision.


■ Marry the Night 🏆
■ Hair
■ Scheiße 🔥
■ Bad Kids
■ Yoü and I
■ The Edge of Glory