Album reviews. To each their own, right?
I don't think I've ever had such a tough time reviewing an album as I have Lady Gaga's "Born This Way."
Let me explain.
I like Lady Gaga; I own both her first full-length album "The Fame" and the follow-up EP "The Fame Monster." I thought "Monster" was better than "The Fame." I think Gaga is capable of making extraordinary pop – see "Paparazzi," "Bad Romance," for example – but she can make filler songs, like "So Happy I Could Die," "Money Honey," "Again Again," etc.
She's inconsistent, but an interesting kind of inconsistent: her highs are unbelievably high, but even her worst songs aren't bad, just uninteresting. I'm not sure she's capable of writing a truly horrible song, and I'm certainly not about to attack her because a handful of tracks out of an albumful aren't always cutting edge. If she's pop's messiah, she's already saved it, and her not-so-stellar work won't harm the good she's done.
So many of my friends are diehard fans of hers, and they truly see themselves in her. I understand that: I have my own favorite artists who I consider an extension of myself... or vice versa.
So, the first time I listened to "Born This Way," I heard nothing in it for me. I didn't think it was deep. I didn't think Gaga made any particular statement with the album as a whole, and I was disappointed it was as disjointed as it was (even though I guess I should've expected it). Plenty to dance to, but nothing deep, nothing I could grasp a hold of. Nothing that made me relate to the album, or Gaga, at all.
Then, on a second, closer listen, I heard one line in one song that was me. I won't say what it is here – sorry y'all, that's personal – and finally, I got it.
"Born This Way" is a hard album to review because I think you have to find yourself in it, and from there, you'll determine, for yourself, if you love it or not.
I found myself in it, and I finally found my groove with the record.
That doesn't mean I love it, though.
I still think "Americano" is an indulgent song that mostly annoys me, but it is most definitely interesting.
I still think "Judas" is a wonderful, wonderful song. So is "Government Hooker," "The Edge of Glory," "Bad Kids," "You and I" and "Bloody Mary."
I guess I'm not obsessive about my hair, because "Hair" does almost nothing for me. I think it might one day, though.
It's not a perfect album, but it is most definitely an interesting one. And, as usual, Gaga's highs are worth hearing the "lows."
Really listening to it the second time, I realized Gaga did make a statement with "Born This Way," and the statement is herself. This album is this woman in the form of music. So few artists do that these days, but she did it. Sure, it's campy and over-the-top and indulgent, but so is she.
If you love Gaga, and you know who you are, then you'll probably love "Born This Way." Even if you don't love it as much as you did her first two releases, you'll still find something to dance to.
At some point, you might even find a beat in the music or a lyric that is you.
In one of my favorite books, "Killing Yourself to Live," Chuck Klosterman said (and I'm paraphrasing), that art and love are the same thing: finding yourself in things that are not you.
For some people, every single second of "Born This Way" is them. I found myself in one line. To each their own.