Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" album is her first as an international superstar -- and in her mind, as queen leader to a needy coven of "little monsters," outsiders who for one reason or another don't fit into the mainstream.
It's a rough position for any millionaire pop star to be in, but Gaga's fans, and the artist herself, don't seem sensitive to the contradiction. And "Born This Way," unlike her more fluffy, see-what-sticks debut "The Fame," bears leftfield 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, a 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.
Which tracks on "Born This Way" are Gaga's latest musical triumphs? Here's our Twitter-length track-by-track review of each song.
You be the judge: What do you think of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" album? Tweet us your own review at @billboarddotcom (using hashtag #bbgaga). The best tweets will be posted on Billboard.com in the coming days.
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.