On the cover of the current issue of V magazine, [artist id=”3061469″]Lady Gaga[/artist] can be seen sporting three heads, a symbolic gesture to the many facets of her personality. But after listening to her brand-new Born This Way album, you’ll quickly realize that the V cover is a bit of an understatement: three heads are clearly not enough.
On Born This Way, (which premiered in full on the website of U.K.’s Metro newspaper early Wednesday morning, for U.K. users only, and also leaked online), Gaga proves that she is one of the most multifaceted pop stars on the planet. She takes on roughly 750 different personas on the album — throughout the course of 14 songs, she professes to be “a warrior queen,” “a soldier,” “a winner” (and, later on, “a loser”), “a selfish punk,” “a bad kid” and “a degenerate young rebel” (and proud of it), to name just a few. She is also a messiah, an idol, a down-and-dirty homegirl, a lonely girlfriend, a mother, a martyr, a prostitute and a mother superior. Shoot, she even speaks German and Spanish.
Perhaps she sums it up best on the sumptuously dirty “Government Hooker,” when she proclaims, quite matter-of-factly, “I could be anything. I could be everything.”
That quote is a pretty apt way to sum up Born This Way’s entire mission statement: It tries very hard to be everything to everyone. From the piston-pumping electronics of “Marry the Night” and the tarantula tango of “Americano” to the twitching, “Transformers”-large techno of “Heavy Metal Lover” and the Queen-sized balladry of “You and I” (featuring the one-and-only Brian May on guitar) and “The Edge of Glory” (featuring the one-and-only Clarence Clemons on sax), there truly isn’t a genre she doesn’t attempt to cram onto the disc.
And believe it or not, it all works. This is definitely a long player (the shortest song clocks in at a hair under four minutes), but an album this full of songs and ideas should take all the space (and time) it needs. It is epic. It is excellent. It is exactly the kind of album you’d expect the hugest pop star on the planet to make.
But above all, Born This Way succeeds because it is almost always interesting. Politics aside, this is a sonic smorgasbord, packed with forward-thinking rhythms (the eternally building strut of “Schiße,” the icy synths of “Bloody Mary,” the gnarly electro-guitars of “Bad Kids,” the pulsing pump of “Heavy Metal Lover”) that make it the most compelling pop album in recent memory. Even at its most indulgent, it’s still undeniably real. You get the feeing that there truly isn’t as much as a keytar squiggle that Gaga didn’t obsess over … for all the big names that worked on it, and all the all-star cameos it features, Born This Way is, at its core, a handmade thing. A labor of love.
While I’m still ingesting the majority of it, my first impression is this: Born This Way is a great, unapologetically huge album. It is brave and bold and even a little silly at times, but Gaga pulls it all off flawlessly. You will dance to it and take it to the bedroom; you will probably cry and sing along to it, too. It is everything to everyone.
Catch an exclusive teaser trailer for “Lady Gaga: Inside the Outside” on Thursday at 10:58 p.m. ET/PT on MTV, after a new episode of “Randy Jackson Presents: America’s Best Dance Crew.”