Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mother Monster: Judas, Born This Way cover, and Why People Aren't Getting It

So...Lady GaGa. Darling to critics and fans worldwide alike. Chart and record smasher. Fashion and tabloid superstar. Her 2011 return, with her first full length album since her debut in 2008, has been talked up and promoed to death by GaGa and her team. And although it has been having immense initial success...why are some people having trouble "getting it?"

This era has been a long time in the making (GaGa claimed the album was complete as early as last August...this of course was not true, but at least the blueprint of the album probably was finished) and has been taking its time taking off as well. When the single, Born This Way, was released near the beginning of February, it was also announced that the album would not be released until the end of May, with 1 or maybe 2 more singles being released before the release. In comparison to "The Fame Monster" being released just a little bit over a month after its first single, GaGa is taking her time rolling this era out, and it isn't yet clear how it is going to turn out.

Born This Way was an upbeat, thunderous 80s throwback with questionably over-the-top lyrics focused on the LGBT fans, but with a love-yourself theme that is oh-so popular nowadays and could relate to anyone. It has its negatives like any big song does. This one was mostly its acute similarity to Madonna's Express Yourself, the idea that GaGa might be overusing the gay community to get popular, and its departure from what most would expect her to put out as a lead single of the era she has said will be the greatest album of the decade. Of course this didn't stop it from being massively successful, debuting at #1 and staying there for weeks.

Personally, I loved it. The sound is sonically invigorating, the lyrics while a bit heavy handed are offset by the less dramatic tone of the track, and the video was a hilariously camp production. And as for the detractors: (1) Male pop singers constantly hearken back to Michael Jackson and Prince sounds...why can't women embody their idols? And quite frankly...Express Yourself is a fantastic song, and I don't mind an updated version! (2) I am gay. We have loved GaGa from the beginning. What's so wrong with her loving us back? and (3) Would we want another typical lead GaGa single? Born This Way was refreshingly different from the Bad Romances and Poker Faces and I believe we will look back and recognize how genius a lead single the song was.

Which brings me to the second single, Judas. This is the single I think most people expected as the first one. It is essentially Bad Romance 2.0. Same "oooh-ohhh" choruses, similar nonsense yelling (RAH AH AH AH = JUDAH JUDAH-AH-AH), and same hammering industrial beats. And yet again...people accuse the GaGa of copying (herself this time) and not bringing her A-Game. And again...I love it! It is a BIG sounding song, the chorus gets me every time, and while I agree it is a little too similar to Bad Romance, it has progressed in ways that set it apart and signal GaGa's growth. I might only give it a 4/5, but it is going to be a centerpiece of the album one way or another, and I believe that once again, we will look back and see it make more sense in the grand scheme of the album.

The last of GaGa's surprises for us this week was the album covers for the standard and deluxe editions of Born This Way:

The Standard

The Deluxe

In typical fashion, when it comes to style Gaga really comes through with the unexpected yet alluring. I had to look at it for a good 5 minutes before I really came to a conclusion. LOVE IT. It is camp, it is funny, and it is unforgettable. It isn't just a doctored snapshot of GaGa looking beautiful like most pop divas release. It is ugly, over-the-top, and almost looks like it was made on a snap impulse. I imagine GaGa just laughing about how crazy it is and deciding on the spot she wanted it for the album cover. Obviously all of this has been getting people talking, and spending an extensive amount of time reading reviews, music forum arguments, and my own experiences of this era, I have noticed a theme in the negative opinions of GaGa. They don't "get it." But for once, the "it" they are being accused of not getting is not some high style, high substance, elitist presentation that GaGa so loves. In fact, it is her past dedication to layered visuals and musical output that has betrayed her in this era.

Everyone expects an overarching message, some trite preaching and soap-box lecturing, from GaGa. So when she puts out something like the Born This Way video, the same people who hated all of her melodrama were quick to say that she didn't make enough of a statement, and that she was "trying too hard." I have seen this whole era in a different way. I truly believe she is just having fun! Upbeat 80s songs. Songs that play with religion and have big choruses. Videos with horns and good vs. evil references. Award show entrances within an egg. It's all a production...and GaGa enjoys nothing better than a big production. I have been laughing along with her. The egg was ridiculous, giving birth in a video is too much, Transformer and hair band inspired album art is unnecessary: but it's a good time! Gone are the oppressed and dark times of The Fame Monster. She is being reborn (this way) in an upbeat light!

If anyone thinks that means she will simplify her presentation or let go of the antics, they don't know GaGa. If anyone believes that the low-key time of poker games and disco sticks will ever be GaGa again, they haven't been paying attention. If they just give in and remember that at the core of GaGa-mania is 25 year old Stefani Germanotta, a young woman who is trying to find her place in pop music...well then maybe they will be able to laugh along as well.


  1. Best >>> Worst

    1. Born This Way (Song)
    2. Judas (Song)
    3. Born This Way (Video)

    4. Born This Way (Single Cover)

    5. Judas (Single cover)
    6. Born This Way (Deluxe Cover)

    10. Born This Way (Album Cover) I don't think I'll ever like this. Especially the Type. Its not *good* camp.

  2. I really have to agree with you. I'm one of those people who didn't love Born This Way, but you're talking a lot of sense. It's more fun to see people fail than it is to admit they've succeeded. When Gaga was the underdog, everyone wanted to see her succeed. Now that she's proven she's an amazing artist of another level, people want to see her falter. And she's not. She's inventive, and her sound for this album is so unique. It's bound to be a fun ride.