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

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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

Starvoice • 12.03.10

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Kara DioGuardi turns 40 on Thursday. Although primarily a singer, songwriter and producer, we got to know DioGuardi as the new fourth judge on American Idol in season 8. Then she called it quits before season 10. Now she’s working on a memoir about her experiences with the show. Of course, we’re hoping for some juicy details about Simon and Paula.

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THIS WEEK

Mercury turning retrograde in Capricorn reveals systemic errors great and small. Look for flaws in hierarchies and collect info to solve problems next month. Mercury’s conjunct Pluto and sextile Venus so challenges in relationships seem to be everywhere. Sexual tension is often, but not always the issue. Be careful.

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SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
If you must argue over money, keep it in your head. Problems with other people is a reflection of your own internal conflicts over values. Some introspection will save you embarrassment.

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Daring outspokenness could be polarizing, but it will win friends. Sitting quietly on problems will only be worse, promoting resentments and continued tension. Have it out in the open at least.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
Finding out what people are saying behind your back can help strengthen your reputation. Fighting some lies might make them seem truer. Be careful what rumors you fight – and how.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
Explore dark or erotic art to challenge your imagination. Be willing to be shocked or scared. New images open new ideas. It’s time to break from unconsciously held dogmas and prejudices.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Assertions of authority go overboard easily. No matter who’s at fault, back off. Think ahead very carefully. Giving up a battle may be necessary to win your long-range struggle.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Once you accept that your partner is always right, life will be much easier. Reasonably nobody is always right, but being open to ideas and rethinking old ones help you in the long run.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
New sexual directions motivate you to exercise more or attend to health matters. Problems with colleagues  explode. Focus on listening and laying the groundwork for future solutions.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
The bedroom is as good a place as any to resolve partnership trouble. Talk about what’s frustrating you, starting with sex. Getting out and having fun together will get you back in sync.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
Awareness of your physical limitations is important for knowing how best to shape up and stay healthy. Dig into the family history to see what strengths and problems you may have inherited.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
Welcome criticism to help solve creative blocks. A good argument can open terrific new ideas. You’re coming off a bit sexier and more challenging than usual. Be careful where you aim that.

LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
Challenges will bring out inherited strengths that you have yet to acknowledge. It may be painful, but admitting your parents were right about something could save your ass.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
Challenge your brain. It may take something as complex as archaeology or surgery to keep you out of trouble. If you can’t get out of your obsessions, at least take a good hard look at them.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens