Grammys for Gaga

By Dane Feldman

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Check out other reviews of Grammy nominated albums: Adele rolls into deep success with ‘21’ | Bruno Mars an unlikely contender in Grammys | Rihanna gets ‘Loud’ with nominations | ‘Wasting Light’ not a waste of time

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, better known by her stage name Lady Gaga, has only released two studio albums, but is quite possibly one of the most talked about music artists of the contemporary era.

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Her most recent album, “Born This Way,” was released on May 23, 2011, almost three years after the release of her first studio album, “The Fame Monster.”

“Born This Way” is presumably the product of over two years of long nights sitting at her piano with a pen in her hand. Her hard work has paid off as the album is nominated for Album of the Year at the 2012 Grammys alongside Adele’s “21,” Foo Fighters’ “Wasting Light,” Rhianna’s “Loud” and Bruno Mars’ “Doo-Wops & Hooligans.”

The album, clocking in at just over an hour, contains 14 tracks of Gaga’s original work, as she co-wrote 13 of the songs. “You and I” was written solely by Gaga with heavy influences from Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” In fact, Lady Gaga draws influences from several legendary musicians including Queen, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen among others.

“Born This Way” opens with a track titled “Marry the Night” which sets up the stage for intense lyrics paired with woman-power-fueled ’80s dance music meets a little bit of Elton John’s piano-filled rock and roll. “

“Marry the Night” opens into the title track of the album “Born This Way,” which is perhaps Lady Gaga’s most controversial song. “Born This Way” is a track that expresses a deep message lyrically to her fans – a large quantity of which are part of the LGBTQ community – that they should embrace themselves no matter their gender or sexual identity. This track shone a light on and helped to fuel Gaga as an LGBTQ advocate, making her somewhat of a revolutionary artist.

The core of the album contains more of the same: heavy Madonna undertones, in the sense that many of the songs are largely upbeat and fit for a dance routine, as well as pure Lady Gaga originality. She combines such a gamut of genres while singing about an array of religious issues, sexuality and empowerment.

In “Americano,” she makes more references to the LGBTQ community and she also sings a bit in Spanish. This track contains Spanish guitars mixed in with her aforementioned signature dance-rock sound. Gaga sings in something of an inarticulate version of German on “Scheisse” just two songs later.

The track in between, titled “Hair,” is a mash of several things musically legendary. The opening of it sounds extremely ’90s – minus the saxophone. It almost sounds like Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want To Wait,” the theme song released in 1997 for Dawson’s Creek, only with loads more intensity as it leads into what can only be something of a tribute to Def Leppard’s track “Animal.”

It has a sound resonant of arena rock; the snare drums sound like they are echoing in an empty venue as large as Madison Square Garden. Perhaps more credit is due here considering the song title is, in fact, “Hair.” Meanwhile, towards the end of the track Gaga starts belting it like she’s Steven Tyler when she starts adding syllables to the word “hair.”

The album later completes itself with “You and I” followed by “The Edge of Glory,” which are two of her most popular songs off the “Born This Way” record. These tracks are also a tribute to classic rock and roll all wrapped up in Gaga..

“You and I” contains samples of the famous drum sequence from Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” The track even features Brian May, Queen’s guitarist, slamming some sick solos, and the guitar riff in the intro sounds similar to Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.” Gaga also co-produced “You and I” with the legendary Mutt Lange, who has produced albums for AC/DC, Def Leppard, Foreigner and The Cars, among others.

“The Edge of Glory,” which contains some familiar ties to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, features perhaps the E Street Band’s most famous member: saxophonist Clarence Clemons.

No wonder the track sounds like Bruce, most notably his “Born in the USA” mashed with “Dancing in the Dark.” Clemons’ solo sounds like a continuation of the one he performs on “Dancing in the Dark.” Now that’s ‘80s arena rock.

Gaga even sings with the same rawness of Springsteen that lets us know she truly believes in what she has to say. On top of this, the intro sounds like tribal drums meet techno house beats. As the song blends into the first chorus, we get the first sense of that rock and roll sound as it blasts with amped up electric guitars.

Lyrically, the song is addressing the fact that Gaga is literally “on the edge of glory” and is definitely the right statement to make at the close of her album. Gaga is known for truly belting it, which she does on so many of the songs: “You and I” and “The Edge of Glory” contain some serious vocalizing.

What makes “Born This Way” such a completely original and revolutionary album is the fact that it doesn’t quite feel like a pop album. The fact that “You and I” is up for Best Pop Solo Performance or that the album itself is up for Best Pop Vocal Album is actually almost enraging. The bulk of the album pays homage to southern rock and roll and contains a ridiculous amount of varying instruments.

There is something utterly raw and real about Gaga’s album that seems few and far between these days. At 25, she has many more Grammy nominee albums to come.

Fan or not, Lady Gaga is a legend in the making.

Dane Feldman can be reached at [email protected]