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A Retrospective Review: Born This Way

NotMyFlop

To help contextualize some of my comments in this, please read my "A Retrospective Review: The Fame and The Fame Monster." This is operating as one massive essay that help reviews Chromatica, her previous albums and how they are interconnected. Thank you for reading! 

Since the dichotomy of fame was explored (both figuratively and very literally), there was alot of pressure for Lady Gaga to release her sophomore record and expectations were immaculate. There was a common thing people wanted to know: Who is Lady Gaga? Despite being a major artist, not much was known about her. The figure of "Gaga" was just as much of an artist as it was a performative statement of the celebrity. There was a sense that her music, videos and performances lacked authenticity, in trade for social commentary. 

Naturally, when Gaga donned her infamous meat dress and announced her next song (and record) was named Born This Way, no one quite knew what to expect. If you followed her online (and, at the time, she was the most liked person on Facebook), you knew this record was equally personal as it was political. The lead single was pro-LGBT+. While not the first celebrity to be friendly with the queer movement, she was arguably the most prolific to risk her career so early to support it. While we know the anthem was highly-successful, more eyes turned to her over-the-top music video, in which she opens by saying "This is the manifesto of Mother Monster." 

It's important to emphasize just how powerful Gaga was in this era; a pioneer of the online fandom(s), more popular than government figures and any message was received instantly by the masses. Any video she released was viral; any single was a hit. Any performance was discussed; any outfit was anticipated. There was nothing that could stop her, and the record that was eventually presented reflected this. Gaga was an artist whose ambitions were so high that it oftentimes became convoluted in execution. It worked because she was so exciting. Born This Way, the song, was her longest-running #1 hit to date and really kickstarted conversations around LGBT+ issues. 

If Born This Way was her manifesto, it tackled quite a bit: politics, representation, love, sex, faith, etc. When Judas was released as a second single, and then The Edge of Glory and Hair as promotional singles, there was nothing that connected them. They all sounded as though they belonged on different records. It doesn't make them bad songs, but it leaves the listener to wonder what exactly Gaga is aiming for; what does Gaga stand for? 

When her 17 song (deluxe edition) record dropped, it reflected the same: Marry The Night was a deeply personal song (and video) about her getting signed to a record, Americano was a Spanish-inspired take on a lesbian wedding, Scheiße is about women's rights, Heavy Metal Lover is about kinky sex, Yoü and I is a Queen-sampled Americana song; The Edge of Glory was a song about death. 

Simply Put: It was overstuffed. It wasn't that political, it wasn't that much about her story, it wasn't that sexual or sensual. While there are threads of narrative cohesion throughout, you leave the experience barely knowing more about the artist behind it than you went going in. Outside of her diehard fandom, a 17-song, 74 minute album was always a bargain to listen to in full. When there is so much sonic detours (club, rock, pure pop, etc) it's hard to even stay focused. However, the same has to be said about the singles: none of them are horrible songs. 

It's no use wondering if this would've worked better as a The Fame situation, in which additional songs could've been added in an EP; or if they should have formed two records entirely. Interestingly enough, despite a "flop" with Marry The Night, an exhaustive 90+ stop tour and promotion overload, most songs have found life of their own outside the record. The Edge of Glory and Yoü and I are bonafide Contemporary Adult classics, Scheiße is the fan-favorite deep cut and even Americano has found a life after being covered on Glee. 

While Born This Way still holds up as a fan-favorite record, it hasn't earned much of a reputation beyond that. It's not bad enough to be as reviled as ARTPOP, but not assertive enough to hold a candle to the success and reputation of The Fame and The Fame Monster. In relation to Chromatica, however, it may represent a lesson learned. Chromatica is a laser-focused record that flows together from beginning to end. There are no tracks that even get an extra second to be overstuffed, and it's both personal and campy. It's what Born This Way could have been if someone was willing to stop her. While there are several songs on Born This Way that are entirely better than anything found on Chromatica, you can't help but feel slighted that an artist who prided herself on being an "album artist" hadn't produced an album worth listening to from beginning to end multiple times sooner. Like The Fame, and arguably The Fame Monster, the album is defined by the pop masterpieces littered throughout (and there are plenty). 

If you're a Lady Gaga fan, you know what era comes next; ARTPOP. It's bleak to think about, but it's crucial to know. There were signs in The Fame Monster and definitely during Born This Way that she was headed for a pitfall. While no one could have predicted how bad it was going to get, it's interesting to discuss in retropsect. 

Coming Tomorrow: 'A Retrospective Analysis: The Fall Before ARTPOP'. I am going to not review ARTPOP, but instead discuss some factors that were brewing that led to the misunderstood record and how it be echoed in Chromatica. If you wanna be tagged when it drops, let me know! Thank you so much for reading.

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pop ate my heart

Omg you're so quick!! Never stop tagging me, I love your insight and interpretations on Gaga's works! ♥♥ And this is no different :firega:

am i-e-i-e-i-e-i-e-i-e-i-p-plastic
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HighRoad

I’ve just read all three of these reviews and I’ll I can say is bravo. Each review is so objective & well put together. Thank you, they are very interesting to read.

B*tch I'm on Chromatica, where are you?
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ICouldntThinkOfOne

Interesting points made, but I tend to disagree about certain points on BTW.

 

The Born This Way album is cohesive in the sense that it is inspired, for the most part, by 80's genres; the madonna/whitney Houston style dance on tracks like BTW or Fashion of His Love, Or Marry The Night, the stadium rock on You and I, The Queen, Electric Chapel and Bad Kids, EOG. Glam Punk elements in HML, Government Hooker etc. Even the melodies are incredibly 80's in their delivery. Its basis is very much American Icons of the 80s, with modernity tinged here and there.

However, the biggest differences on both records is on whom the work is about.

 

BTW was primarily focused on the listener and uplifting them.

 

Chromatica is about Gaga.

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Hybrid Rose

i remember somewhere it said that she was channelling whitney houston when writing this album

not sure whitney would've said "Whip me slap me, punk funk" in any of her music :messga:

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ArtpopAct2

I read all this and it’s great points but I don’t like the snuck in ARTPOP shade :deadbanana:

BTW is still her magnum opus though. The quality is there, the variety makes it feel epic, and it’s still so unique.

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NotMyFlop
34 minutes ago, pop ate my heart said:

Omg you're so quick!! Never stop tagging me, I love your insight and interpretations on Gaga's works! ♥♥ And this is no different :firega:

Thank you. :runhug: It really means the world.

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NotMyFlop
15 minutes ago, HighRoad said:

I’ve just read all three of these reviews and I’ll I can say is bravo. Each review is so objective & well put together. Thank you, they are very interesting to read.

Thank you! :runhug: I really love Gaga and love talking about her. I have no real internet Gaga friends so I love coming here sometimes and hearing different perspectives.

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NotMyFlop
13 minutes ago, ICouldntThinkOfOne said:

Interesting points made, but I tend to disagree about certain points on BTW.

 

The Born This Way album is cohesive in the sense that it is inspired, for the most part, by 80's genres; the madonna/whitney Houston style dance on tracks like BTW or Fashion of His Love, Or Marry The Night, the stadium rock on You and I, The Queen, Electric Chapel and Bad Kids, EOG. Glam Punk elements in HML, Government Hooker etc. Even the melodies are incredibly 80's in their delivery. Its basis is very much American Icons of the 80s, with modernity tinged here and there.

However, the biggest differences on both records is on whom the work is about.

 

BTW was primarily focused on the listener and uplifting them.

 

Chromatica is about Gaga.

I think that's a very fair point! We all know the Express Yourself drama, so didn't feel it necessary to add it here; and FOHL is very Whitney. I have never considered the coding of the lyrics to be about us and then Chromatica about her. It's something I will definitely consider when writing my subsequent ones! I still think since it's so ambitious it should have split up in some way (or, maybe in the style of Chromatica, interludes). Dance/Rock/Modernity doesn't all need to be on one album. Imagine a full album of stadium rock songs from here. THE COLLAPSE! :giveup:

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NotMyFlop
9 minutes ago, ARTPOPAct2 said:

I read all this and it’s great points but I don’t like the snuck in ARTPOP shade :deadbanana:

BTW is still her magnum opus though. The quality is there, the variety makes it feel epic, and it’s still so unique.

I'm sorry about the ARTPOP shade. I do really love and respect it, despite its weaknesses (both within the music and the era that made it sour). :toofunny:

I think BTW is definitely the most statement-driven or anthematic of an album. I remember it feeling SO important in 2011 and most of it holds up today. There definitely hasn't been an album like it since, but I am not sure anyone could make a record like it. That's not shade, we support ALL women, but no one has ever been in the position Gaga was when she released this. 

I think had a few songs been removed (for the record to be more cohesive) we would've won AOTY in 2012. 

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ArtpopAct2
Just now, NotMyFlop said:

I'm sorry about the ARTPOP shade. I do really love and respect it, despite its weaknesses (both within the music and the era that made it sour). :toofunny:

I think BTW is definitely the most statement-driven or anthematic of an album. I remember it feeling SO important in 2011 and most of it holds up today. There definitely hasn't been an album like it since, but I am not sure anyone could make a record like it. That's not shade, we support ALL women, but no one has ever been in the position Gaga was when she released this. 

I think had a few songs been removed (for the record to be more cohesive) we would've won AOTY in 2012. 

Oh definitely. I can’t think of anyone who’d release a record like BTW.

And honestly, I like that BTW isn’t that cohesive. Every song it’s it’s own journey. I hated how critics bashed it (and later to less of an extent, ARTPOP) for not being cohesive. I love the variety in sounds she explored. 

I think there’s a place for both, as Gaga has shown now with Chromatica being her most cohesive record yet. Cohesiveness would go against BTW’s meaning of accepting everyone as they are no matter how different they are from eachother.

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pop ate my heart
14 minutes ago, ICouldntThinkOfOne said:

The Born This Way album is cohesive in the sense that it is inspired, for the most part, by 80's genres

I agree w that. But still, that doesn't make it actually cohesive in sound. It's a great album, but a bit messy in a lot parts. I mean, the transitions from Judas to Americano and then to Hair (great songs btw) are awkward af and prove my point perfectly lol

am i-e-i-e-i-e-i-e-i-e-i-p-plastic
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NotMyFlop
42 minutes ago, ARTPOPAct2 said:

I think there’s a place for both, as Gaga has shown now with Chromatica being her most cohesive record yet. Cohesiveness would go against BTW’s meaning of accepting everyone as they are no matter how different they are from eachother.

You snapped with that concept! That's a really cool way to think about it. 

 

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