For crying out–again?
I think by this point Lady Gaga’s legitmately trying to take over the world. Casualties in the Gagapocalypse already include iTunes, concert specials, tv stations, and–no, I’m not making this up–Farmville. Her campaign to appear on every screen you own is part of the promo for Born This Way, which will be released on Monday, meaning that either God or Gaga is going to claim us within a week.
Something I should say because it bears mentioning: I’m not a Gaga hater. To be totally honest, my top seven or eight of her songs get frequent listens in my music library, and I really enjoyed most of The Fame Monster. Her schtick and the fanbase are what bug me. But I digress.
Part of the Born This Way hype storm has been releasing new singles. Between now and my previous Radio Rant, she’s come out with two, and I figured why not make it a double feature? Let’s start chronologically and alphabetically with “The Edge of Glory”.
Unlike just about every other Gaga song out there, “The Edge of Glory” actually takes awhile to lift off. It’s different, and really helps; a lot of Gaga (especially her Born This Way material) doesn’t really get to build because it starts off with such bombast that there’s nowhere to really go. Despite the fact that everything is covered in reverb, there’s nothing wrong with the first verse here.
And that verse leads right into what might be one of Lady Gaga’s best choruses. On top of great production, a (comparatively) less-is-more instrumentation, and a solid hook, the chorus succeeds because it feels so natural and genuinely personable. The arena rock guitar, soaring synth, and steady beat make it a great “lighter in the air” moment, too.
Although why is there so much repetition to these lyrics? I’m fine with repetition, but it’s never been something that Lady Gaga’s done this much. I think the last time I heard this much repetition in a pop song was “I Gotta Feeling”, although this time there are far fewer random Jewish phrases.
But we do get a random… saxophone?! Before the bridge, Clarence Clemons from the E Street Band comes in with a wailing sax solo while a few synths jam out beneath him. It’s not a bad solo at all, but it stops the momentum of the song dead in it’s tracks. But after the sax, let’s deal with the usual Gaga sing-talk bridge.
Wait, where is it?
What’s this? There’s no spoken bridge, just some synth and guitar jamming before the final giant chorus. Well…damn. I can’t hate on “The Edge of Glory”; the production’s great, music’s solid, Gaga sounds absolutely on-target…and most importantly, it sounds different. Gaga’s schtick was starting to wear out by the time “Judas” was released, and “The Edge of Glory” shows that yes, she can do something different and kind of daring. I liked it.
Let’s move onto Hair. At first, it has the same muted intro of “The Edge the edge the edge the edge of Glory”, although the sax makes another appearance this early in (…?). The music is a basic synth/electric piano progression that adds layers and layers as it gets to the chorus, and…oh man…
What the hell, RedOne? As “Hair” gets to the chorus, the production takes a turn from slightly too busy to sheer noise. I mean worse than “Born This Way” levels of noise, this is absolutely horrible. Damn shame, too, because the guitar and drum breakdown at “Free as my hair-air-air-air-air-air” is actually kinda cool sounding. And for the second verse, the song keeps the heavy metal groove going. It’s different, but with all the times that Gaga has said in interviews, “I love heavy metal and rock, really, I do. Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, yeah! PleasecanIgetcredibilitywithyouguys?” it makes sense.
Unfortunately, anything that held “Hair” together falls apart during the bridge, which devolves to Gaga belting “I’m my hair”, or something like it, while the backing music throws piano, synths, sax, and drums at the wall and hope something sticks. One more headache inducing chorus with some admittedly nice vocal embellishments, and “Hair” fades mercifully fades out.
There are a lot of problems with “Hair”. It’s got two or three hooks, none of which really stick out; the production, as mentioned, is a terrible wall of sound mess; and the song’s too long (despite having a shorter run time than “The Edge of Glory”) and doesn’t go anywhere. I’m sure there’s a good song in there somewhere, but as it stands, “Hair” is an overstuffed disaster.
And the lyrics, my God. Did Lady Gaga pull out her old diary from when she was 14 and use that for inspiration? “Dear Diary: Today my mom and dad wouldn’t let me dye my hair, and like, my life is so ruined!!!! Why won’t the let me be who I want to be?! They just don’t understand!!! Love and Unicorns, Stefani”. “Whenever I’m dressed cool/My parents up up a fight”, “Put on red highlights/Just because I want my friends to think I’m dynamite”, and “Mom will cut my hair at night” are just a few selec–wait a minute. Didn’t she say in “Born This Way” that her mom said, “We are all born superstars”, and that she “Rolled my hair and put my lipstick on”? Make up your mind! And did I mention she says the word “hair” more than Willow Smith did?
Then there’s the whole “Free as my hair” thing. Yeah, yeah, you were (cough) born this way, baby, be yourself…I get that, but am I really supposed to believe that Lady Gaga, of all people, has her self-expression suffocated? Also, “I am my hair”. Right, I can agree with that, we’re all our hair. We’re all our dyed, frequently manipulated, and falling out hair. This is a dumb metaphor.
This turned out to be a polarizing pair of songs. On one hand we have “The Edge of Glory”, an absolutely wonderful pop song that’s, at least I think, in the top five as far as her singles go. Then we have “Hair”, an utter trainwreck with a metaphor that’s “Firework” bad. Well, come back next week for the album review!