Lady Gaga- Born This Way

 

 

Lady Gaga as Mother Monster

Well, I for one welcome our new Gaga overlords...

When Lady Gaga released her track Born This Way as a single, a lot of people were underwhelmed. There were cries of it “shamelessly ripping off” Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself’, of it being too blatant with its pro-LGBT message (more on that later) or if it being plainly just not as good as her earlier work. Well, if there is one thing we should have learned from her previous efforts, Lady Gaga’s music is nothing without a promo video to accompany it. This fact has never been so true as with the just unveiled video for Born This Way.

Click the image above to watch the video for yourself if you like, but I would recommend you read this first to prepare yourself. Honestly, you don’t want to go in there alone. Ok, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. Much like her video for Paparazzi, the Born This Way promo begins with two and half minutes of introduction before the song itself actually begins. Unlike Paparazzi however, which was presented as a Swedish drama, Born This Way takes its time setting up Lady Gaga’s very own mythology. Gaga takes the nickname given to her by fans, ‘Mother Monster’, and runs with it wholeheartedly. Mirrored images set up idea of birth and the womb, images that border on being downright disturbing, but never quite make it due to the layer of glam and glitter over the whole affair. Gaga sits atop a throne with a third eye on her chin (just go with it) in the role of Mother Monster and recounts the “Manifesto of Mother Monster’. She tells the tale of an alien territory owned by the government, known as G.o.a.t, where a new free race of humanity without prejudice or judgement was born. Evil was also born at the same time, seemingly from the anti-Gaga, an idea shown with the imagery of Gaga pulling rifles out from within her (see what I meant about slightly disturbing?) She then sets up that this is what gave humanity the idea of choice. This leads onto the song  beginning properly, being filled mostly with Gaga dancing in a glittery bikini with a team of half naked backing dancers, interspersed with images from the intro.

Now that you know what the video is like, the next question is whether or not it is any good. Personally, I think it is fantastic. For one thing, it is hilarious! This is the most absurd video Gaga has produced to date, and it is thoroughly enjoyable seeing how many ideas are shoved in to such a small space. Its almost like the video is a direct response to the critics who said that the song itself is bland compared to her other work, giving it the much needed WTF quality we have all come to associate with Gaga. A lot of it seems like a response to critics, playing up the Madonna similarity accusations at one point (you will know it when you see it, think ‘teeth’), and flipping between ignoring the LGBT messages at points, and throwing them in your face with glittery unicorns at others.

Overall, Lady Gaga is still a true artist within herself, but more importantly, an artist at trolling the pop industry. She is constantly pushing what she can get away with, and every time it seems she can still go further. With the song itself, Gaga seems to be testing whether people (read: conservative America) can accept an in your face message supporting LGBT rights, rather than her just existing as a gay icon through veiled ideas. With the video, she is seeing whether we will let her get away with setting up a prog-rock style backstory to her new album, and her most shocking video yet.  Seriously, Rihanna’s S&M got banned for less than a lot of the imagery in Born This Way’s promo. I’m happy for her to keep on pushing, because behind all the facades of eccentricity and insanity, she is still providing us with some of the catchiest, most artistic pop in recent years. I’m happy to let her get away with it, the big question is, will everybody else?

Bottom line, Born This Way is an eclectic and hilarious music video that is also going to fuel her hardcore fans for years to come. No matter your opinion on her, Gaga’s work is always worth keeping up with, either for the artistry or the insanity, and it doesn’t get much more insane or artistic than Born This Way.

Willy for Artist of the Year 2009

"The Big Prize"

It’s inevitable that in a review of the year, I would have to pick an artist to stand above all the others to stand up as the best thing 2009 had to offer. Maybe they summed up everything that made 2009 the year that it was. Maybe they just had loads of great songs. Maybe they had something special about them. Or maybe, they’re Lady Gaga.

Lady Gaga

2009 always stuck me as a year with very little identity of it’s own. We are switching decades, and so it’s a year of transition, looking back to previous eras to work out where to go next. In this way, is there any other artist who could sum up 2009 than the eclectic madness of Lady Gaga? Queen of “so bad it’s good”, Gaga flits between disco, euro-pop, ballads and hip-hop without missing a beat with production values through the roof. Insane costumes, incomprehensible music videos, complete lack of shame. I don’t now if she’s really that crazy, or as I like to think, she’s developed her persona as a big postmodern commentary on the music industry. Whatever the truth is, she’s immensely enjoyable and for the first time in a long while, I’m paying attention to the pop industry again. Also, a total of 7 weeks at No.1 with 3 hit singles isn’t bad either.

Honorable Mention: Mumford and Sons

Willy for Music Video of the Year 2009

Other than the radio, the key way people are exposed to new music right now is through music videos. The music video can be a tricky art form to pull off. You have to reflect the content of the song, but without illustrating every lyric (unless that’s an effect you are going for). You’ve got to create a unique style for the artist, but also make them look good and have it fit with the rest of their image. The main thing it needs to be is memorable. This year’s Willy for Music Video of the Year goes to an artist whose videos are nothing but memorable, and one video in particular of theirs. The award goes to…

Lady Gaga’s video for Paparazzi is a 7 minute epic tale of the fall and rise of a betrayed diva. More costume changes than you can count, teams of dancers and crazily high production, this is a video that really sums up Lady Gaga’s persona. That includes the strong sense of overblown irony that seems to inhabit Lady Gaga’s image an music. Very few artists could pull off an introduction to a music video more than half the length of the song itself, with all the dialogue in Swedish, but it seems to work for Lady Gaga.

Honorable Mention: Bad Romance- Lady Gaga

The Willies 2009- Review Of The Year

"I Only Wish I Could Give All The Winners One Of These"

Hello, and welcome to my (admittedly belated) musical review of 2009.

2009 seems to be best summed up as a year of nostalgia. More than any other year in the Noughties, 2009 seemed to be heavily harking back to the 1980s. Synths were making a comeback in all forms of music. 80s stars were hitting the limelight once again, for a variety of reasons from comebacks to deaths. In general, people seemed to wish they were still wearing leg warmers and listening to New Wave in a club somewhere. Maybe we just wanted to be happy in the economic downturn, and with the proliferation of songs telling us to dance appearing in the charts, I think this is a definite possibility.

2009 was the year artists such as Florence and The Machine, Lady Gaga and Susan Boyle came to prominence, showing the power of both originality and the industry’s influence. It was a year of comebacks too, with Blink 182 and Blur reforming, and The Beatles getting a new lease of life through remastered albums and their own video game. As with ever year, the music industry also lost some key bands and musicians to both break-ups and deaths. Oasis finally snapped, as did Chas and Dave. The world also lost the legendary Michael Jackson, and fan favourite drummer ‘The Rev’ of Avenged Sevenfold.

Despite these sad moments, 2009 was a year I think we should all look back on fondly, and so I present to you my awards for the year. Awards which I have dubbed “The Willies”. So without further ado, here are the categories for the First Annual Willy Music Awards:

New Artist of the Year

Live Artist of the Year

Free Download of the Year

Music Video of the Year

Album of the Year

Single of the Year

Overall Artist of the Year

OK Go- Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky

"Sadly, You'll Find None Of This Here"

Let’s set one thing out; a lot of people are probably going to like ‘Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky” if they are into US indie. I don’t like this album much at all, despite being reasonably well aquainted with the US Indie scene. OK Go fall into the seemingly universal trap of the end of the noughties that it’s cool to replace half of your instruments with synths, out the rest through distortion effects and call it a day. The trouble is that it’s now 2010, it’s time for something new. Sure, they’re unlucky in their label’s release schedule, but I’ve got to take the album as I get it, and the album I get is 2009 US indie rock by numbers.

You see, it’s probably my fault for not being as musically well rounded as I like to think I am, but my entire knowledge of OK Go comes from the viral sensation that was their video to “Here It Goes Again”. That song was pop rock joy. It was simple, clean and catchy. The guitars sounded like guitars, the drums like drums, the bass moved around pleasantly and the call and response harmonised vocals were a joy to hear and sing along to. It even had what could be called, admittedly at a stretch, a guitar solo. This new album has none of that, and to be honest, I’m rather disappointed.

It opens with a collection of computer-generated distortion that is a little irritating to listen to, putting the album off to a bad start with “WTF?”. The opening track and lead single has a great video, just like “Here It Goes Again”. However, it’s not catchy in the slightest. In fact, few of these songs are. “This Too Shall Pass” got me singing along with the chorus, but that’s just because it is incredibly simple and I will sing along to most things. I just really don’t enjoy the fact that OK Go have lost all their rock edge. This is a pop album, hiding behind the guise of US indie, and through this, it manages to be both dull and a little irritating for me. Everything is put through effects, making it sound far too overproduced, and by losing the rock edge, you end up with the blandness of pop. It doesn’t help that the US indie scene is a little too dull and cerebral at times anyway, and so by aping that, they lose a lot of the dance around fun they used to have.

There’s just something about this album that gets on my nerves; I can’t recommend it at all. Sure, check out the visually impressive video for “WTF?” but a great video can’t really make a good song. Actually, that’s a lie. Lady GaGa’s Paparazzi would be nothing without the video, but she has the inconceivable GaGa factor of being able to make anything catchy, even if it’s terrible. OK Go don’t have the GaGa factor. They tried adding extra weird moments to their songs. It ruined them.

3/10

Standout Tracks:

WTF?

This Too Shall Pass

Last Leaf

Lady Gaga- The Fame Monster

"Does this even need a witty caption?"

Lady Gaga is a confusing artist. I’ll say this right now; her songs are cringe-worthy, and incredibly pretentious at times. However, she creeps up on you, and before you know it you are singing along to every chorus, and trying to join in on the absurd dance moves in her videos. Lady Gaga is the both the worst of pop, and the best of it all at once, and I don’t know if I’ll ever wrap my head around her fully. If her first album wasn’t confusing enough, this special edition bonus tracks-cum-EP-cum-new album that she calls ‘The Fame Monster’ just adds to the Gaga enigma.

Just let me take on the Lady as a whole, first off. She’s incredibly odd, in terms of look, costume, public persona, music, and especially her music videos. By rights, she should have gone the way of Bjork in the public perception, a one hit wonder that drops out of the mainstream but still has hardcore fans who can accept her strange aesthetic and unique musical style. Lady Gaga, on the other hand, endures. I think this is because she isn’t unique. Whether this is pure lack of creativity, or as I like to see her, a big postmodernist comment on the world of pop and celebrity, is still up for debate. What Gaga does well is take on the wide range of what we call pop, smash it all together through massive layers of production and create something decidedly weird, but catchy as hell and so bombastically unoriginal that it comes full circle and feels fresh and new.

I hate to go track by track, but I’m going to party have to for ‘The Fame Monster’ as it is not really a coherent album. Oh sure, it’s being sold as that now, but it was originally planned as a bonus disc for her debut release ‘The Fame’, filled with tracks that were either new or left off that release, depending on which articles you read. The only thing that seems to pull the album together is the repetition of the words “free bitch” in a few of the songs. The reason for highlighting certain tracks will just give you an idea of what to expect, and an idea of how eclectic an album ‘The Fame Monster’ is:

Bad Romance is the closest to what I’ve come to expect of Gaga thus far, with a similar sound to previous songs like Paparazzi, though with a vocal hook that reminds me of Boney M’s Rasputin, and a verse in French for no other reason than it’s a Lady Gaga song. Alejandro opens with a spoken intro in a bad, pan-European accent, and carries on in that vein, sounding like Shakira taken to the Europop extreme. Monster is booming R&B and features the line “he ate my heart and then he ate my brain.” ‘nuff said. Speechless would sound like Abbey Road/Let It Be era Beatles mixed with Christina Aguilera, if it weren’t for the strange accent Lady Gaga puts on to sing it. Try to imagine a country drawl mixed with Dick Van Dyke quality cockney and you’ll be about half way there. Dance In The Dark sounds a little like a darker version of her earlier song ‘Just Dance’, funnily enough. Telephone (feat. Beyonce) opens with a harp, and then breaks out into a thumping club track. If you like random vocal effects and hearing Beyonce for a verse, then you’ll probably enjoy it, there’s not much else to it really. So Happy I Could Die is what Rhianna would sound like if she’d been around in the 90s, pop R&B scene. Finally we have Teeth, which to my ears is the love child of Fanz Ferdinand’s ‘Ulysses’ and everything Scissor Sisters ever released. Though sadly, unlike those bands, Lady Gaga’s tongue is nowhere near her cheek in this one.

So where does that leave us? The Fame Monster is an eclectic mix of songs, which while possibly enjoyable on their own, don’t totally work together. Actually even on their own, just as you start to get into a song something, be it the lyrics, or an odd sound effect Gaga decided to add, will make you cringe. The subject matter is a little more mainstream than her main her first album, with each track seeming more about relationships than celebrity. Here’s the rub. Nothing I or any other reviewer says about this album will matter. This album will sell. It will pump out single after single, and Lady Gaga will make video after absurd video to promote it. I still can’t work out whether Lady Gaga is a genius or just very lucky to hit on some untouched artery of the market, but it doesn’t really matter. She’s cemented in pop culture now, and this album is doing nothing to endanger that.

5/10

Standout Tracks:

Bad Romance

Speechless

Telephone (feat. Beyonce)