From the very beginning of opener Marry the Night, Gaga’s signature is all over this album. Utilising the blinding pop hooks which made her first album so great, this takes it a step further. This album shows a definite evolution since The Fame Monster.
It’s clear this album had big shoes to fill, and songs like the dark and brutal Government Hooker drive the album to new and exciting places. The song relies highly on Gaga’s superb vocal ability, not only in the form of her singing voice, but her ability to make everything sound like theatre – and that’s what the Lady Gaga phenomenon is all about: pantomime and performance.
It’s clear that when this album was being written and produced, this was the key. Gaga was going to sing the hell out every track given to her, and each track would have a quirky way of making it unique. From the guitar riffs at the start of Bad Kids, to the echoing, screeching German chanting at the top of Scheibe, this “uniqueness” factor bears out throughout, and it really seems to work.
The real stand out is Americano. Part pop record, part fiddle driven latino explosion, this is probably the best song on the album, and it really shows a very different side to what we’ve been used to up to this point (perhaps unsurprising that Gaga would go out on a limb to do something completely unexpected.
Unfortunately, it’s the singles which ultimately bring the album down. It feels weird – usually of course it is the singles which are practically the only tracks worth hearing, but this time songs like Born this Way (and especially the frankly dull and uninspiring Hair) just don’t stand up to the rest of the album.
They feel generic, and like anyone in the world could be singing them – they don’t fit into the Gaga repertoire, and it’s a real shame because every time you’re almost getting into the album, one of these songs comes along, and brings the whole tone down.
Does this album live up to everything that will no doubt be said about it then? Probably not. Of the 17 tracks, there are plenty of great new tunes, but it really doesn’t seem to flow as an album in the way Fame Monster did, and it’s because of this it is unlikely to ever become a true classic in the same way. Interestingly, with the four singles taken out it seems to work better, but perhaps that’s just a personal observation.
What Gaga has managed though is to build a collection of decent – and in some cases fantastic – pop sounds, building on plenty of different styles and influences to find a sound which feels new and fresh. There is no sense of a difficult second album here, and this is an album which is sure to be played on repeat by Gaga’s legions of fanatics for some time to come. Which I suppose is the point