When Lady Gaga first emerged on the scene, my first reaction was that she was much more style than substance. It took more attention and actually attending a live concert (seeing Gaga from the seemingly sterile corporate luxury box was an interesting contrast) for me to fully appreciate what an incredibly talented performer she is. “Born This Way”, her second studio album, is the #484 rated album on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and it built upon the impactful success of her first album.
Like I said, her live performance is what fully converted me as a fan, and in comparison to many of the pop peers of her day, I fully recall her yelling out while dancing complex routines and singing dynamically, “None of this is fucking lip-synching!!” Lady Gaga was a full-on performance bad-ass, and my image of this was only further augmented when I saw her routinely perform “You and I” solo on piano. As a songwriter, musician, singer and dancer, she was about as close as I saw to a female version of Prince.
The album itself has its high points and moments of monotony. Several of the high-energy dance songs seem to blend together, as if the entire album is just an extended aerobics class. Three of the songs that were released as singles stand out above the rest. Many people accused the title track of being too close in sound and style to “Express Yourself” by Madonna, and Gaga herself also suffered from the same comparisons as an artist. My thoughts are this… one, I love both songs, and if there is some similarity, all the better. Two, there is enough distinction between the two to eliminate any true plagiarism concerns, and three, the two songs end up going together great back-to-back if I’m out running or even in a well-constructed mashup.
“You and I” is a classic power-rock ballad, and who better to produce a power-rock ballad than Mutt Lange? I really do love this song as well, and although it may be overplayed and a bit cliché for some, it is still a big hit for me. “The Edge of Glory” is a theatrical closing track that is a perfect Lady Gaga song, and distinct enough to stand out from the rest of the album.
I haven’t always loved what has come from Lady Gaga since this release, but I remain steadfast in my appreciation for her talent, drive, and social conscience in a musical genre that often lacks all three. She is here to stay, and we are all better for her musical gifts as a performer.