A confused, amorphous, yet often exciting, mess...
Will Kerr

16:00 23rd May 2011

More about:

The problem with being continually talked about is that, eventually, people expect you to weigh in with your own contribution to the writing of your legend. No one in the world of pop is more talked about than Lady Gaga and as a result ‘Born This Way’ comes under a heavy weight of expectation. Given the mysterious, ‘conceptual artist’ caricature that has developed around her over the last two years, it’s easy to forget that Lady Gaga got famous by writing pop songs - very normal pop songs at that - songs about wanting to dance rather than answer the phone, about being in love with the wrong guy etc...

So, the real question facing ‘Born This Way’ is whether Gaga is able to marry her, now massive, reputation for being, for want of a better word, a bit weird, with the public’s desire for straight forward, easy to relate to, pure enjoyment, floor fillers? The answer is yes. Just about.

The album’s best song, ‘Schiebe’, illustrates just how she does it. Most of it’s in German so I’m not entirely sure what it’s about, all I know is that it somehow manages to turn the trashiest euro-trance, happy house influences into something enjoyable. It sounds like a preened pop star being forced to do a gig on the back of a Staines-bound bus, resolutely crooning over the clashing blare of various Gatecrasher endorsed ringtones, which, if it’s possible, I mean as praise.

Other ‘grimey’ tracks like ‘Government Hooker’ pull off the same trick, appropriating the dress code of another genre, before ripping it off to reveal that the costume underneath is nothing other than the plain grey, highstreet maxi dress of AM radio pop. In the end it’s the bog standard stuff that she does best, and this is where the album’s appeal lies.

The reversion to a rigorous normality, which, almost aggressively, permeates each song (generally in the chorus) is Gaga’s biggest strength, as it allows her to simultaneously cultivate her brand, whilst making the most of sometimes anonymous sounding musical moments.  ‘Judas’, already, is a perfect example. The intro, with its overtly twisted cries of “ju-das-ju-ju-da-das-ga-ga” serves almost as a Craig David style ID. The chorus however, taken on its own, could be anyone, singing about anything.

Gaga started her career trying to write material for Britney Spears, and if you had your eyes closed this could be her, or any number of people. This chameleon quality allows Gaga to cover a lot of ground on ‘Born This Way’. The fame monster becomes shape shifter.

‘On You and I’ she is seemingly possessed by the spirit of Shania Twain, adopting a faux country twang which inexplicably gives way to a guitar solo that see’s Brain May relocate to the confederacy. On ‘The Edge of Glory’ she’s Bruce Springsteen, complete with god-awful saxophone. On ‘Americano’ she steps into Ruby Wax on Broadway territory. ‘Bloody Mary’ leans towards dark electro, but they, and the rest of the fourteen tracks her assembled, all give way to inoffensive pop hooks.

Even when the lyrics touch on sexual liberation, rebellion or blasphemy, there’s no feeling that you’re on dangerous ground. It’s to Gaga’s credit that ‘Judas’ probably won’t make any believers feel threatened, that ‘Government Hooker’ has about as much political intent as Nicky Wire’s toe nail clippings.

It’s fairly widely accepted that The Beatles made some of the most well crafted, innovative and enduring pop music ever made. It’s often forgotten that at the time their young fans didn’t care about any of that. At most of their gigs their music couldn’t even be heard, the fans were appreciating it so loudly. This state of affairs prompted the group to complain that the world was using their music as an excuse to go crazy.

The Gaga phenomenon is basically an inverted version of the same formula. She acts crazy as an excuse for the world to enjoy her, relatively straight forward, pop music. It works perfectly.

Those at home in the shallow end of pop are led into some slightly choppier water, whilst having their hands firmly held (“it’s like art or something!?!”); those that want to be shocked in a completely harmless way are regularly obliged (“a suit made of meat, my god!”), whilst those too pompous to listen to anything from the charts are readily invited to invent some post-modern validity to it all (“her almost mechanical costumes put one in mind of the Dadaist paintings of Francis Picabia!”) allowing all concerned parties to grind about on the dance floor together, a confused, amorphous – yet often exciting – mess.

Lady Gaga - Through The Years

  • Way before Lady Gaga, Stefani Germanotta as a young girl taking first communion in second grade at age of seven

  • Seven-year-old Stefani Germanotta sitting at her piano in 1993.

  • Lady Gaga wearing sunglasses in Halloween 2000, age 14. At the time she was a student of the exclusive Convent of the Sacred Heart Catholic school in New York.

  • Miss Stefani Germanotta singing in Christmas concert (middle), age 14

  • Lady Gaga playing piano and singing at International Night event, age 15 – circa 2001

  • Lady Gaga at a winter dance in 2003, age 17.

  • Lady Gaga in a picture with senior class from 2004 yearbook (bottom row, far left)

  • A personal profile picture of an 18-year-old Lady Gaga when she attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in 2004

  • An 18-year-old Stefani Germanotta appears on MTV's 'Boiling Points' - a reality show which puts unsuspecting subjects in irritating situations and awards them $100 if they stay cool and collected for the duration of the prank. Gaga didn't stay the distance! - 2005

  • An early Gaga live performance at The Bitter End in Hollywood, California – January 2006

  • A brown haired, 21-year-old Lady Gaga plays Lollapalozza Festival in Chicago. The set is regarded as one of the pivotal moments in her career – August 2007

  • Lady Gaga transgresses into the style icon we all know and love at the Michalsky Fashion Show at Uferhalle, Germany – July 2008

  • Lady Gaga performs at Perez Hilton's 'One Night In New York City' event at The Highline Ballroom – October 2008

  • Lady Gaga's very first headline show in London at the G-A-Y nightclub – January 2009

  • Lady Gaga supports The Pussycat Dolls at the Manchester Evening News Arena – January 2009

  • Wearing a teapot inspired outfit, Gaga performs at the 2009 Brit Awards ceremony in London with The Pet Shop Boys and Brandon Flowers – February 2009

  • The second show of Lady Gaga's first gargantuan tour – The Fame Ball Tour - at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, California. The tour, which included an appearance at Glastonbury Festival lasted until the autumn – March 2009

  • Gaga's first, slightly awkward appearance on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross – April 2009

  • Lady Gaga does her first 'nude' magazine shoot for The Rolling Stone – May 2009

  • Lady Gaga rocks Glastonbury Festival – June 2009

  • Gaga baffles at a press conference for Isle of MTV in Malta wearing what appears to be a gimp mask – July 2009

  • Channelling the spirit of the Twilight saga, Gaga flashes her fangs at photographers at London's Heathrow Airport – August 2009

  • Lady Gaga performs at the MTV Video Music Awards,a performance which angered some charities after she pretended to stab herself on stage, unleashing fake blood – September 2009

  • Lady Gaga speaks on the south lawn of The United States Capitol at the rally for the National Equality March – October 2009.

  • Lady Gaga and Madonna's infamous kiss on Saturday Night Live – October 2009

  • Looking slightly freaky at the 13th annual ACE Awards Gala held at Cipriani, New York City – November 2009

  • An iconic still from the 'Bad Romance' music video – a promo which has attracted more than 200million views on YouTube alone – November 2009

  • The opening night of the North American leg of The Monster Ball tour hits Tornoto's Bell Centre – November 2009

  • Lady Gaga meets The Queen following the Royal Variety Performance in Blackpool, England – December 2009

  • Lady Gaga at the Castle Pub, Horn Lane, Acton, London, England after her appearance on the X Factor – December 2009

  • Lady Gaga rings in the New Year at Fontainbleau in Miami Beach, Florida with a typically outrageous show – December 2009/January 2010

  • The headline stealing Lady Gaga 'hair hat' unveiled at the Las Vegas Convention Center – January 2010

  • Lady Gaga dazzles in a space-age outfit on the red carpet of The 52nd Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The singer scooped two awards: best dance recording for Poker Face and best electronic/dance album for The Fame – January 2010

  • Lady Gaga ups the weird outfit ante at her second Brit Awards ceremony. The tearful star won in all three categories she was nominated in – February 2010

  • The opening night of the European leg of The Monster Ball tour kicks off at the Manchester Evening News Arena and Gaga. Featuring giant monsters and awe-inspiring sets, the tour is an emphatic success – February 2010

  • Now an outright pop megastar, Lady Gaga gets a tattoo dedicated to her millions of 'Little Monsters', her fans – February 2010

  • Gaga channels the spirit of The Incredibles following one of her triumphant shows at London O2 Arena – February 2010

  • Lady Gaga stars in the epic, nine-minute Jonas Akerlund directed 'Telephone' video. Easily one of the defining moments of her brief career – March 2010

  • The singer has continued to shock, wearing a meat dress to the MTV Video Music Awards in 2010.

  • Lady Gaga's Monster Ball was one of the biggest tours of 2010 and saw the star perform over 100 dates around the world. It still hasn't finished.

  • On New Years Eve, Lady Gaga revealed that her new album Born This Way will be released in May 2011.

  • The single, which features this incredible photo, was released on February 11.

More about: