Latin Conference & Awards

Lady Gaga, "Born This Way"

4.5

Last year Lady Gaga promised her fans (perhaps a tad prematurely) that her new album would be the greatest of the decade. But even if the next nine years bring something better, we're unlikely to hear anything bigger than "Born This Way," which opens with Gaga declaring herself a warrior queen over a stomping techno-metal beat and only gets more grandiose from there-witness the goth-gospel choral vocals in "Bloody Mary," the ersatz flamenco guitars in "Americano" or the equality-endorsing stump speech in the Madonna-esque title track. Like a lot of current pop, "Born This Way" is obsessed with the '80s: The bassline in "Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)," for instance, keeps threatening to turn into the bassline from "Don't Stop Believin'," while "Marry the Night" is more or less a rewrite of Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero." (For the power ballad "Yoü and I" Gaga even got Robert "Mutt" Lange to lend his arena-rock production finesse.) Yet the singer uses these unabashedly retro moves to ponder some up-to-the-minute themes, including gay marriage and our always-on gossip culture. It's a wonder Gaga didn't find room for a song about 2012 presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty.