Edge of glory

_sm_Judas_cover_v5-RGBLady Gaga dabbles with new sounds on the album ‘Born This Way’

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Lady Gaga’s Born This Way can be looked at in two different ways: Either as a second chapter, or as a third. Where The Fame Monster was announced as a companion piece to her debut, The Fame, I saw it as a stand-alone album, with enough strength on its own not to rely on a predecessor. Now with her third full-length CD (yeah, third) we see the music phenomenon dabbling with her formula … but not without encountering a few bumps.

As Gaga has blitzed herself into the stratosphere of stardom, she’s finding her role as a self-help guru for the disenfranchised — “the freaks,” as she’s called herself and her “little monster” fans. The plan has worked. And while her first releases were abstract perspectives on celebrity, love and partying, here she’s direct in her message not only to her fans, but to the world. She’s on a mission to change prejudices and discrimination and she’ll do it one media onslaught at a time.

Where here sound has been straightforward dance music, Gaga has begun venturing into new territory. With touches of rock and blues, she’s resisting pigeonholing as a club diva. Gaga shows such growth in “You and I” and “Electric Chapel.” The subtlety of electric guitar punctuates the still dance-y edge of “Chapel,” but “You and I” is solid bluesy despite its Mutt Lange tendencies. That signature background chorus of Lange, mostly heard in his Def Leppard tracks, detracts from the soul of the song, but plays with its gravitas.

With the buzz of her pre-release singles — “Judas” and the title track — Gaga might have known that throwing in a few obvious hits she could get away with some textures she hasn’t pursued before. “Government Hooker” delves in darker territory, but it’s also off-putting, though as it unfolds, we hear her voice in a political stance. The song is not her greatest, but the

Photo_LadyGaGa_300RGB
PAWS THEN PLAY | Even with some growing pains, Lady Gaga expands her artistic vision into some nice maturity in ‘Born This Way.’

girl obsessed with fame is developing into a woman with eyes opening into substance.

Even with its techno-sheen, Gaga does something lovely with “Bloody Mary.” Co-written with DJ White Shadow (as are several tracks on the CD), she shows restraint with visually intense lyrics minus a turbo-charged beat. Words like We are not just art for Michelangelo / To carve he can’t rewrite the agro / Of my furied heart are degrees above what other popsters are doing and refreshing to see her developing this way.

Lots of Gaga’s appeal is in her hooks and the ease of her repetitive chants. They get stuck in your head and perhaps that’s been her plan all along. Some songs still have it (“Judas” most famously), but maybe she’s moving beyond such tricks.

While she generally succeeds lyrically and musically, she does misstep on occasion. She goes Latin again with “Americano,” but not with the sophistication demonstrated on “Alejandro.” The fast beat sounds like a throbbing headache and the chorus is too abrasive to embrace. “Heavy Metal Lover” has an earworm accompaniment, but the song mostly hangs with a 3 a.m. club beat that just drones on and on.

Gaga also gets too simple sometimes, which has its pros and cons, especially in her more empowering songs. “The Queen”(from the 22-track deluxe edition) has anthemic lyrics such as I can be the queen you need me to be / This is my chance to be the dance/ I’ve dreamed it’s happening and the beat works, but the structure lacks excitement. Even the guitar touches can’t save it. The song is really an echo of Gaga’s more popular “Edge of Glory,” another simple song, but one that works much better, even if it does recall an ‘80s confidence-inducing power track complete with, of all things, a saxophone solo by Clarence Clemons.

Gaga likely has a few more hits to come from this CD. “Bad Kids” and “Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)” stand out as enjoyable treats that could score on the charts, but add little to the album’s overall package.

Artistically, she falls short of Monster, but this album is more a gateway to potentially better things. Born This Way may not be easy to swallow immediately, but time should be spent with it to explore some of its hidden parts — good and bad.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 27, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

On Edge

Hubbard Street Dance’s gay leader Glenn Edgerton brings a dancer’s perspective to contemporary troupe

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance Company
MOTION, EMOTION | Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance Company, led by Glenn Edgerton, continues to evolve after 33 years as a leading contemporary dance troupe.

HUBBARD STREET DANCE
Winspear Opera House,
2403 Flora St.
Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. $25–$125.
ATTPAC.org

…………………………….

Ask six people to describe contemporary dance and you’ll get six different responses. As an art form, it encompasses so many varied techniques, styles and points of view, categorizing it as one thing is a fool’s errant.

And that’s perfectly fine with Glenn Edgerton. “As long as they make you feel something and have an emotional impact,” he says, “we’ve done our job.”

For 33 years, Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance Company has been one of the nation’s most celebrated troupes, and under Edgerton, a dancer for 11 years who has  served as artistic director since 2009, it has continued to innovate and excite. TITAS presents the company at the Winspear Opera House Friday.

Edgerton’s background as a dancer, with both Nederlands Dans Theater and the Joffrey Ballet, shaped his ethic and his creative vision.
“I’m always fashioning my decisions, trying to put myself in the dancer’s position. How would it have felt? How would it have been for me if certain things are going in one direction?” Edgerton says. “I try to work so that my dancers will be challenged and inspired. I’m thinking in a dancer’s perspective. I was born a dancer and will die a dancer.”

HSDC’s current roster includes 16 dancers, and Edgerton hopes to add a 17th next year. They’re smaller than some classical dance companies, though they have a great track record for retaining artists and exploring new territory with them as they explore new techniques.

“You have a relationship with them in terms of their artistic output. We have dancers in the company who have been here 10, 11 years and then some that have just joined. I adore each and every one of them,” he says.

Becoming a part of the elite team doesn’t necessarily fit any specific molds, but Edgerton can almost immediately sense in an audition when a dancer might be a good fit.

“You know when you see it and you know when you work with them. It’s one thing to see a dancer in a ballet class who has a wonderful technique, but in a contemporary company you have to be ready to move in a much more extreme way than classical ballet. You have to have an inherent ability to try many different types of dance and just have that overall feel that you’re a dancer and not stuck to one technique or another.”

Diversity of style is a hallmark of HSDC, perhaps most perfectly evidenced in one of the numbers being performed Friday night: “With Physikal Linguistiks, you have Victor [Quijada], who came from Los Angeles where he was a hip-hop dancer. He has a real ballet background also, but when he’s choreographing he’s using all of those kinds of techniques and dance moves into his work. It’s also interesting because he’s taking the dancers out in the audience.”

Edgerton is reluctant to admit that shows like So You Think You Can Dance have a positive impact on exposing new people to dance, but he says they do have their place.

“There’s an accessibility with those programs, but it could be confused when [viewers] come to the theater and see concert dance,” he says. “It’s cool and hip and fun on TV, but in the theater it’s more artful. There’s more thought-provoking imagery built into these pieces. All those TV programs are much more commercially minded and geared to more fantastic technique and movements that are more thrilling. Ours are thrilling, too, but the approach is a little different. People need that awareness going in.”

If that means no celebrity judges screaming like morons for camera time, then that’s an entirely good thing. But HSDC has been judged on its merits by the dance world for more than three decades, and clearly it’s a winning combination of art, choreography and technique that keep it relevant and evocative of the universe around it.

“I’m not boasting, I’m just stating that we’re one of the important, international contemporary dance companies in the world,” Edgerton says. “And I’m excited to bring it to Dallas and this spectacular new performing arts center.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 19, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens