I was there before Lady Gaga became a thing. I wasn’t literally there curating what would soon become her irrepressibly tacky, media-hungry public image, but I was part of the group who embraced her when The Fame, her debut album, first came out. She was laughable then, still is now-but Born This Way-to those who’ve witnessed her evolution from the embryonic days, will appreciate the album and the value of what Lady Gaga has become and stands for today.
The Fame is self-explanatory, she spoke about owning boats, aspirations of limitless wealth and her entire kitsch quickly turned into just that-Bad Romance was the first turning point of her career, when she dared to veer away from everyday, industrial pop and made a shameless, enjoyable pop song that came along with it everything we now wanted a popstar to be-out came a new theatrical self that was suddenly about haute fashion, advocating for the oppressed and outcasted-a growing cult she’d later idenfify as her “Little Monsters”.
I’ve followed her every news item and public appearance, and I’d have no shame calling myself a reluctant, but devout fan. Her debut took time to gather momentum, it was only a full year before it took full dominance and Gaga and co knew they had to capitalize fast, lest her popularity fade and she’d exit from what was and still is a highly seasonal, indiscriminate industry-at the end of 2010, The Fame Monster was released.
What was initially meant as an extension of The Fame-the original idea was to market both in one huge package, hence the theme and sound of both were similar-was decided against, and The Fame Monster, released at the height of frenzy-was tacky, shoddily produced and aside from Bad Romance and Telephone, it was arguably, just a horrible album.
Born this Way has traces of old Gaga, the first two singles-the title track and Judas-are terribly written, pander to some form of propaganda or biblical musing but are essentially just dumb shit pop tunes, do a good job of introducing old fans to what is now a reinvented persona. The rest of the album is genuinely, unironically great. It sounds new, is mixed and produced in good taste-there are tracks like Heavy Metal Lover that are sung in a hushed, erotic tone althroughout-and standout track Bad Kids has an unabashedly catchy hook in its chorus “Don’t be insecure if your heart is pure / You’re still good to me, if you’re a bad kid, baby”, it is naïve, sweet and-I hate to admit this-reminiscent of early Madonna.
There is no doubt going to be plenty for the haters to complain about, evidenced by the online reactions to Born This Way. The fact that she sings German lyrics in a French accent, that she actually sold out to fucking Farmville (I don’t get it), that she’s Madonna reincarnate and not inventive, that her terrible songs are saved merely by her constant barrage of shock tactics. Little Monsters won’t care for any of this shit, so don’t bother, haters.
I’ve been highly critical of her, but this album is a serious achievement in pop music-that she has used her status and position as a now established star, to venture beyond the usual trappings of pop music, to have paved her own method and carved her own sound for this album-I will now gladly endure the tabloid m-m-monster she has become.