Last night, Lady Gaga‘s Born This Way (out Monday) leaked online. The contents of the disc haven’t been a total mystery – Gaga’s released four singles from the album, her third, since February, and has performed other songs from it in concert – but she still managed to pack in some surprises. Here, Rolling Stone senior critic Jody Rosen goes through the album song by song.
“Marry the Night” – It begins big, with Gaga belting “I’m gonna marry the night/I won’t give up on my life” over tolling, church-like synths. And it just gets bigger. And bigger. And bigger still. The chorus arrives in an eruption of drums and power chords; there’s a pummeling funk-rock breakdown; and the touchstones are Eighties arena pop and hair metal: Pat Benatar, Bonnie Tyler, Bon Jovi.
“Born This Way” – Yeah, yeah: it’s an “Express Yourself” bite. And yes: you’ve heard the song 700 hundred times in the last month. But Gaga’s big hit sounds different in the context of the album that shares its name: like an experiment in the audacious plus-sizing of Eighties dance-pop.
“Government Hooker” – The requisite “kinky” song – though what exactly Gaga is saying here isn’t clear: “I’ll be your hooker/Government hooker,” “I could be Mom/Unless you want to be Dad.” But the techno-pop production, by DJ White Shadow, is gripping: a shape-shifting assemblage of buzzes, beeps and clattering beats. Choice couplet: “Put your hands on me/John F. Kennedy.”
“Judas” – “Wear an ear condom” next time, Gaga sings in a track with one of the catchiest choruses on an album devoted to catchy choruses above all. Gagaologists will spend years pouring over the runes of that rapped bridge. (“But in the cultural sense/I just speak in future tense,” etc.) The rest of us will be busy dancing to Red One’s walloping production. (Watch the video below.)
“Americano” – The campiest song Gaga’s recorded yet, which is saying something. A disco-fied showtune with a pronounced “Latin”-flavor, complete with flamenco guitars and castanets. Possibly about a star-crossed lesbian romance. Definitely set in East Los Angeles. Completely hilarious.
“Hair” – Gaga is not the first songwriter to link self-esteem and liberation to free-flowing coiffure. (Remember that rock musical called, um, Hair? Remember “Whip My Hair”?) But she’s definitely the most committed. “I am my hair!” she cries. Red One supplies the gale force hair-tousling synths.
“Scheiße” – Gaga speaks a little German and intones some inspirational platitudes alongside some generic Eurodisco thump and a wisp of a chorus.
“Bloody Mary” – A sluggish tempo, goofy “goth” atmospherics and a lyric that sounds like bad high school poetry: “We are not just art for Michaelangelo to carve/He can’t rewrite the agro of my furied heart.”
“Bad Kids” – In which Gaga reminiscences about her misspent youth and croons an ode to juvenile delinquents, set to forgettable Eighties synth-pop.
“Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)” – Gaga does her best Springsteen. Or is it Meatloaf? “Get your hot rods ready to rumble/‘Cause we’re gonna fall in love tonight/Get your hot rods ready to rumble/’Cause we’re gonna drink until we die.” Sublime schlock, with the biggest, thuddingest drum sound you’ve heard this century.
“Heavy Metal Lover” – More smutty talk, set against a wall of fuzzy synthesizer sound. “I want your whiskey mouth/All over my blond south,” Gaga commands.
“Electric Chapel” – It earns its title with some heavy guitar riffing and a squealing metal solo towards the end. The lyric holds out hope for monogamous romance: “Together we’ll find a way/To make pure love work in a dirty way.”
“You and I” – Gaga’s signature power ballad – a fan favorite since she first played it live in 2009 – gets the treatment it merits. Produced by “Mutt” Lange, guitar solo by Queen’s Brian May, with a torrid, sturm und drang vocal turn by Gaga. It’s a confession. (Gaga watchers speculate it’s about her on-again off-again boyfriend Luc Carl.) It’s also the greatest Def Leppard song Lady Gaga has ever written.
“The Edge of Glory” – Those hooks! That chorus! That Clarence Clemons sax solo! Born This Way goes out in a blaze of shlock-pop glory. (Listen below.)