With Lady Gaga’s album now officially released, here’s an advance look at our take from the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands this Friday.
The gospel of Gaga, as told in Born This Way, goes something like this: Humanity will be damned by its own self-doubt until Gaga the Savior delivers us with the might of her music. On the album’s first two singles, the messianic “Born This Way” and “Judas,” our muffin-bluffin’ Lady of yore is reborn as an earnest dance-party evangelist, retaining the beats but trading in her disco stick for a splinter of the Cross. “In the religion of the insecure, I must be myself/Respect my youth,” the 25-year-old sermonizes on the fanatically inspirational title track.
Luckily for us heathens, most of the 14 songs on Born This Way—Gaga’s rewarding but wildly uneven latest—hold more earthly pleasures, too. The only deity invoked on rollicking cuts like “Hair” and “The Edge of Glory” is Bruce Springsteen, whose E Street sax player, Clarence Clemons, guests on both tracks. And the ’80s worship doesn’t stop there: Nearly every song is tinged with Reagan-era excess, from the evocative Depeche Mode-ian frost of “Heavy Metal Lover” to the misplaced Def Leppard stomp-claps on barroom ballad “Yoü and I.”
If Gaga doesn’t find a stand-alone hit here on the order of “Bad Romance,” the album’s sprawl still shows off the breadth of her talent. She brings expert songcraft to each cut—tectonic chord changes, soaring choruses, and that sawtooth-edged voice—even when her goth-lite lyrics don’t deserve the effort. For all its fire and brimstone, Born This Way doesn’t herald pop’s second coming. But it’s not a bad way to spend the wait. B+
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