Easily the most talked about album of the year, it was always going to be impossible for 'Born This Way' to live up to the inflated level of anticipation that Lady Gaga has been meticulously cultivating ever since she turned up to the MTV VMAs wearing that dress. While 'The Fame' almost singlehandedly brought the dance beats of the 90s back into fashion, 'Born This Way' is Gaga's love affair with the 80s, mish-mashing her own club sounds with bubblegum pop, classic rock and almost every other genre imaginable.
Since she is so fond of gimmicks and publicity stunts, it's easy to forget that Stefani Germanotta, the girl under all the make-up, wigs and wackiness, actually has a decent amount of musical talent. Her voice, for one thing, can easily rival the current batch of female pop icons, and when she gets it right she can pen the sort of pop hits that drill their way into your subconscious and refuse to give way until you're forced to concede defeat to their earworming ways. Yet of the 14 songs on 'Born This Way', she gets it right on only a small minority. 'Judas' is exactly the kind of exuberant, extravagant and eminently danceable track Gaga thrives on, while 'Americano' - her musical protest against "unjust" immigration laws in Arizona - is utterly infectious as she demonstrates her skills en español over a Latin influenced beat that sounds like Abba learning the Flamenco.
Though the message of the title track is admittedly to be applauded, its note for note plagiarism of Madonna's 'Express Yourself' is just the most blatant of Gaga's nods to other popular artists and genres. She casts a wide net though, channelling German techno on 'Scheiße' and employing Daft Punk style sounds on 'Bad Kids' before reverting to type, adding cheese-ridden nostalgia to the likes of 'Hair' and 'Edge of Glory' with sprinklings of retro saxophone. In truth, there's not a single original idea to be found among Gaga's entire catalogue, but in many ways she's the Tarantino of the music industry, picking ideas from here and references from there, throwing them all together in one enormous postmodern melting pot. Or perhaps that's giving her too much credit? After all, there's no great social commentary to be found here. While Madonna caused controversy with images of burning crosses and interracial relationships, Gaga's gone so far over the top that there's no meaning left behind any of it, her controversial lyrics and outrageous videos no more than marketing tools designed to garner attention.
So while you could write an entire thesis on Lady Gaga's imagery and iconography (indeed the University of South Carolina is already teaching a module entitled 'Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame'), it's pointless to think too seriously about an artist so entirely ridiculous. The only thing that really matters is whether or not these songs will get you out of your seat on a Saturday night. On that basis, yes, at least briefly, a few of them will.