Lady Gaga’s second full-length album Born This Way opens with “Marry The Night,” one of the most epic pop songs you will ever hear. Clearly aimed to kickstart the album with the kind of massive statement MJ nailed with Thiller‘s ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” “Marry The Night” opens with somber church organ and decidedly pensive vocals before erupting into a blast of synths, and never lets up. It sounds like classic Whitney Houston produced by Max Martin, and it is arguably the best song Lady Gaga has ever released. It’s that good.
Born This Way should crumble under the weight of such a masterful opening salvo (not to mention unbelievable hype), but it doesn’t. Not by a long shot.
Lady Gaga is one of very few artists that seem to have taken up the challenge Kanye West laid-out to his peers with last year’s sprawling My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy; essentially, go big or go home. Gaga goes gargantuan with Born This Way, injecting her irresistible, Madonna-influenced dance-pop with the weighty stomp of Heavy Metal and the arena-rock grandeur of Bruce Springsteen. The energy this sonic mixture conjures gives the album an inexhaustible source of momentum that propels the listener through its weaker moments with ease. This is music tailor-made to fit a stadium, or the biggest gay club on the planet, and it is impossible not to love. Musically-speaking, Born This Way is a marvel to experience and a shockingly cohesive listen.
Thematically, Gaga is obsessed with a three-way relationship between identity, spirituality and freedom. Classic symbols of liberation like motorcycles and unruly hair abound throughout Born This Way. And while these might not be the most unique lyrical references in the world, they work because Gaga commits so wholeheartedly to them. “Hair” sounds dumb on paper, but on record its a passionate, gorgeous declaration of individuality. “Bad Kids” should make you cringe with its cheesiness, but instead you’ll smile at its sincerity and sing along to its insanely catchy (and utterly adorable) chorus.
And Gaga doesn’t forget to let her freak flag fly either. The downright fierce “Scheiße” opens with some strange rambling in German, while “Government Hooker” boasts lines like “Put your hands on me/John F. Kennedy,” over the sexiest, shadiest beat on the entire album.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Gaga takes things to an entirely different level with “You & I” and “The Edge of Glory,” a one-two punch of a finale that is shamelessly excessive in the best possible way. “You & I” features a welcome guitar solo from Queen’s Brian May, and production from the legendary Mutt Lange (Def Leppard, anyone?), who gives Gaga’s now-signature rock n roll power ballad a near-perfect balance of sleekness and grit. And “The Edge of Glory” is somehow even more epic, bringing together every style and influence employed on this album into one massive burst of sonic joy. You won’t know whether to dance your ass off or put a lighter in the air.
It’s the kind of song that lays bare the intentions of an artist; Lady Gaga clearly set out to make the greatest Pop album ever made. No hyperbole. No bullshit. Literally, the best ever.
Did she achieve this? Eh, I doubt it.
But you’ll be very, very glad she tried.