Born This Way
2011 • POP • INTERSCOPE
Lady Gaga’s 2011 album is a timeless milestone in pop music. Born This Way features the strongest songs of the last decade and shines with its originality.
Back in the late 2000s and early 2010s, no one was as striking as Lady Gaga. When she entered the VMA in 2010 in her classic and memorable raw meat dress, no one shone brighter than her. While Cher, a vegan, held a bag made of meat in her hands, Gaga thanked for winning the Video of the Year award for her video for “Bad Romance,” and announced the promise she had made to herself. “I promised that if I won this, I would announce the name of my new album,” she said before singing a snippet of the album’s title track. That record was Born This Way, a milestone in 2010 pop culture. This year, Gaga announced the arrival of the tenth-anniversary edition of Born This Way, which undoubtedly does not live up to the album’s name.
Born This Way is Lady Gaga’s best album. Perhaps, within all her discography, it is only behind her legendary EP The Fame Monster. It is the album where Gaga delivered the strongest and more remarkable songs of her career. It is the record where she materialized and immortalized the iconic characteristic look that she had been building since The Fame Monster. Also, it was one of the only moments in the past decade where mainstream pop sounded really strong, grand, and ambitious. In other words, Born This Way, alongside Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream and Taylor Swift’s 1989, is the pure definition of what pop music is. That pop music that was the most different and unmistakable in all of history. In an even less technical speech, Born This Way is the definition of Lady Gaga.
Born This Way has one of the most powerful album beginnings in the entire history of pop music. The title track of the record is one of the best songs — if not the best — of Gaga’s career. The song gained a video of more than seven minutes where she declared: “This is the Mother Monster Manifesto,” beginning the prologue. She then explains that she is in “Government Belonging Alien Territory,” and that the birth of a new race is beginning. The singer is sitting on a throne above a planet, legs apart, giving rise to these people. She is then split into two halves, and her new half gives birth to a machine gun, which she fires. The prologue ends with Gaga asking, “How can I protect something so perfect without evil?” The song, in turn, counts as a sharp production, so precise that Gaga has never done anything this grand since the album’s release. As the track progresses, the singer plays with French, paints scenes of oppressed minorities, preaches self-love, and the end of prejudice. As simple and redundant and mundane as this may sound, it’s worth noting that it’s equally powerful. “I’m on the right track, baby/I was born to survive,” she sings on the bridge.
And most of the first songs are just as good as the title track. The opener, “Marry the Night,” is a synthpop about both enjoying the night and Lady Gaga facing her worst faces and fears and reaching the point of self-love. The track has a 13-minute video that begins with Gaga being hospitalized, which can be referenced to the time she was sexually harassed when she was 19, which caused her to be hospitalized and have “psychotic breaks.” “Government Hooker,” meanwhile, features more experimental production, with synthesizers geared towards bright, distorted electronic and digital trends. The song’s composition is inspired by Merylin Monroe and Kennedy’s relationship. She sings, “I wanna fuck, government hooker/Stop shitting me, government hooker.” “Judas,” then brings a bit of “Bad Romance,” with Gaga using onomatopoeias to create memorable and captivating moments. The track takes the point of Mary Magdalene who divides herself between Judas and Jesus, being an allegory for choosing between good and evil. “Jesus is my virtue, and Judas is the demon I cling to,” she sings.
“Americano,” however, is the first sign that Born This Way, while timeless, isn’t perfect. In a nutshell, this track, while cool, can’t help but sound like a cheap song from some cheap Broadway musical. Although it relies on guns firing and Latin influences telling a lesbian love story, you can’t help but feel that she’s desperately trying to be so much more than it really is. Later on, in the record, you come back to see the other negative points of the album. Gaga has always been compared to Madonna, but in “Electric Chapel” it’s undeniable that she tries to sound like the Queen of Pop. “Bad Kids,” meanwhile, feels like the rest of the title track’s feeling, with Gaga singing to her fans, “Don’t be insecure baby.” Also, several times, Gaga sounds like Miley Cyrus and I think she could have made more incessant use of the guitar that just brushes here.
A very strong side of Gaga in Born This Way is her ambition that reaches to the edges of an experiment with potential. “Scheiße” is one of the highlights, with the track starting as a remix made for progressive German underground ballads. However, when Gaga arrives at the verses, she seems to let go of it and turn her eyes to something more usual and not quite so flashy. Meanwhile, “Bloody Mary” nicely blends the more normal elements of pop and electronica with terrifying church choirs that burst out relentlessly, “Gaga.” “Heavy Metal Lover,” meanwhile, shows the singer sending a letter to her ex. The track features powerful synthesizers that even drown out Gaga’s voice with its sonic turbulence. However, perhaps the biggest mistake of the song is sometimes trying to sound like a metal track and introducing some super generic and stereotyped elements. In short, these are good experiments that aren’t concrete all the time, making it seem like Gaga fell in love with an accidental nuanced mix and tried to put it on any track. The best example is “Highway Unicorn (Road to Love),” which, although catchy, sounds really messy — but we still kinda love it.
However, while the second half of Born This Way is a bit dull, it has very good casualties, located mainly at the end. “Yoü and I” is one of the most memorable on the album. It shows Gaga in love, but the strong point is the sonic influences, such as Queen’s drums and some experiments that someone can even dare say are inspired by Björk. The final track, like “Hair,” relies on inspirations from Bruce Springsteen. While the first one sounds like practical synthpop, “The Edge of Glory” sounds like perfect pop. The track was dedicated to Gaga’s grandfather and is the last work by saxophonist Clarence Clemons. The complete package is reminiscent of Springsteen’s pop-rock from the 1980s. She sings as the saxophone explodes, “I’m on the edge with you.” It was at this moment that Gaga concretized her image in eternity.
BORN THIS WAY THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY
2021 • POP • INTERSCOPE
Born This Way’s tenth-anniversary edition is a catastrophe beyond measure. The six new reinterpretations of the songs on the album sound characterless and downright dull and don’t do the original version any favors.
However, as iconic, memorable, and progressive as Born This Way is, the 10th-anniversary edition of the album is both deceptive and revolting. BORN THIS WAY THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY, also known as Born This Way Reimagined, features six new tracks all of which are reinterpretations of some songs on the album by LGBTQIA+ artists. And while this is a great way to celebrate the album as it was a great ally of the LGBTQIA+ community, the end result is devastatingly disappointing. Not only is it an example of what not to do to celebrate a record’s anniversary, but it’s also something that both Gaga and her fans will want to forget — and we will.
“Marry the Night” comes to life by Kylie Minogue and you can easily think it totally blew the track. Not only does Minogue’s voice sound bizarrely electronic and unreal, but she also seems to force the song to fit into her latest album, DISCO. In the end, this new “Marry the Night” seems bland. Big Freedia’s “Judas” looks more like a remix they made for Gaga to present the song in a live performance, with sound passages that could fill in as Gaga dances and generic remixes that sure don’t do the original version justice. Meanwhile, Madeline Edwards and Brittney Spencer’s retelling of “Highway Unicorn (Road To Love)” has resulted in something that at the same time doesn’t sound any different from the original, it doesn’t sound anything like that either — it’s just… weird. Finally, “Yoü And I,” sung by Ben Platt, despite his incredible performance and some orchestral moments, sounds like any cover you would see on The Voice.
The only minimally good moments in these new versions are “The Edge of Glory,” sung by Years & Years, which managed to capture the essence of the original track and kept it while working on the main features of the band; and “Born This Way (The Country Road Version)” which sounded beautifully and powerfully in Orville Peck’s thick, strong voice. In both cases, you can feel that the rereading did not hurt the original version. Finally, Gaga’s intention to introduce the reinterpretations of the song was very interesting, however, the performance was catastrophic. While most sound like cheap remixes that often don’t even want to pay homage to the original song, the fact that only six tracks were chosen is curious. Maybe, if only it had been the whole album like that, it would have been more tolerable and less scary. In the end, it’s just better to forget that this edition ever existed because it just doesn’t do the 2011 version any favors.