Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" is her first as an international superstar. And "Born This Way," unlike her more fluffy, see-what-sticks debut "The Fame," bears left field marks under its pop costume: Heavy use of religious metaphor and repeated mentions of Jesus by name; a hybrid of throwback Euro dance sounds with sweeping rock goddess melodies, à la Bonnie Tyler and Lita Ford; and queer-friendly self-affirmation anthems that range from celebratory to predatory.
Together, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But to maintain her authenticity as a subversive hero, it really couldn't. "Born This Way" is proof that, for better or worse, Gaga is guided by her own compass. Sometimes it leads her to radio-perfect pop hits ("Hair"). Sometimes it goes weird ("Bloody Mary"). But regardless, this is an artist following her bliss - or in Gaga's case, her mission. Here's "Born This Way," track by track.
1. "Marry the Night." The nuptials might be Gothic, but the track is unapologetic disco-powered pop that could have been a production number on "Fame."
2. "Born This Way." You know it, you love it. Gaga's "I Am What I Am" manifesto is the album's first of many freak-power pulpit-bangers.
3. "Government Hooker." Opera vocalizing, minimal techno bleeps, a JFK reference, and conflicting definitions of self as seductive product.
4. "Judas." Calm down folks, it's just a bad-boy metaphor, not religious commentary. A model unification of Gaga's philosophical heresy and sonic poppery.
5. "Americano." Gaga channels Judy Garland with maracas. Could be about gay marriage, immigration, or trying to repeat "Alejandro's" chart coup.
6. "Hair." As in metal? "Glee"-destined '80s power ballad (with a sax solo!) puts the liberation message through a personal style filter.
7. "Scheiße." Apparently she's speaking gibberish that sounds German but isn't, kind of like this dated take on club techno. But what a chorus.
8. "Bloody Mary." Trance-y dirge name-checks Jesus and features a monk chorus chanting "Gaga." Plucked strings up the cathedral creep factor.
9. "Bad Kids." Slacker anthem literally opens with the line "I'm a loser, baby," but the Beck-isms stop there. More Moroder-70s than plucky-90s.
10. "Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)." As bizarrely epic as the title. Can't help but picture Gaga as Rainbow Brite riding toward Burning Man.
11. "Heavy Metal Lover." Relatively forgettable leather & lust, apart from line one: "I want your whiskey mouth all over my blonde south."
12. "Electric Chapel." It's a nice day for a Technicolor wedding. A fat guitar riff leads Gaga down the aisle with her "holy fool" following.
13. "You and I." Hello Middle America! This is a Mutt Lange country ballad that makes no contextual sense but that is definitely not the point.