Lady Gaga’s latest album Born this Way delivers the expected collection of catchy tunes, but divergent tones and lyrics break apart the thematic consistency. Given her previous work, particularly notable singles such as “Just Dance,” Lady Gaga has set a precedent for creating upbeat dance/pop songs. This album continues that tradition. Many of the songs, especially the titular “Born This Way” as well as “The Edge of Glory,” are vibrant and triumphant. These songs are catchy without conceding to mind-numbing repetition, mixing up the rhythm just enough to maintain interest and catch the attention of the listener.
Despite the album’s positive traits, however, the other tracks lack the energy of the rest, and most of them bear the noisy ring of snotty pop songs, full of excessive attitude without substance. “Bad Kids” is especially guilty of this approach, coming off as a whiny statement of shameless teenage rebellion. One of the last tracks, “You and I,” is a slower piece that is refreshingly melodic compared to the dance beats of the other tracks, but the style is so different from the rest of the album that instead of standing out as a unique work, it jarringly separates itself from everything else. In her attempts to branch out stylistically, it seems that Lady Gaga has forgotten the signature style that drew fans to her in the first place.
Another issue with “Born This Way” is Lady Gaga’s oblique lyrics. “Americano” and “Scheiße” obfuscate themselves by mixing in foreign languages. Other songs are simply too vague to gauge any intended meaning. Given its controversial choice of subject matter, “Judas” seems as if it was intended to be the platform for drawing attention to a meaningful message, but any such message is not obvious. Instead, the song is controversial for its own sake, drawing attention to itself rather than any sort of message.
The same is true of the gratuitous use of religious figures and imagery throughout the lyrics of the rest of the album, likely existing merely to shock listeners and add to the controversy. While the musical nature of many of the tracks is exciting and uplifting, these emotions are upset by confusing lyrics that draw attention to themselves, detracting from the mood rather than enhancing it. Whether or not there was ever supposed to be deeper meaning behind her words, Lady Gaga failed to demonstrate this depth with her final product.
Such lyrical failure is a disappointing missed opportunity for the album to come together thematically. In an album with a title and flagship song that reminds everyone to take pride in who they are, the bulk of the lyrical content simply repeats pop music fluff, carrying on about being rebellious, defying the world, and doing whatever you want. Even “Born This Way” fails to add any significant depth, serving best as an all-purpose anthem rather than as a statement about anything specific. After sweepingly addressing a few categories of discrimination, the lyrics fail to commit.
Born This Way is almost what dedicated Lady Gaga fans might want, but is unfortunately a little less. It contains the same catchy style of dance beats that will appease returning fans, and it throws in a bit more diversity to appease those seeking something different. However, as she embraces her pop identity, Lady Gaga’s lyrical quality fades. At least those who only appreciate Gaga’s extravagant flashiness will continue to be satisfied.