With the Lady Gaga-market reaching oversaturation, it's easy to get a sense of fatigue when listening to her latest effort, "Born This Way."
Delivering her third studio album in just a 3-year span after a nonstop juggernaut that included a seemingly endless tour, hit after hit, countless magazine covers and even social activism, another Gaga offering is a little bit tiring to those who aren't part of her army of "little monsters."
It doesn't help that the standard edition of the album is 17 full-length tracks, clocking in at a little over two hours. A little less than a third of the way through, a "what - there's more?" feeling starts to sink in, and finishing the album seems to be a daunting task.
But "Born This Way" deserves that listen - again and again and again. Though there are a few songs that miss the mark - the Madonna-rip-off title track, for example - overall, the album, like Gaga, is hard to get out of your conscious.
"I could be girl/ unless you want to be man/ I could be sex/ unless you want to hold hands/ I could be anything/ I could be everything," coos Gaga on "Government Hooker," a wicked electro-groove that manages to be more naughty than Rihanna's "S&M" without being as explicit. It's just part of the provocation - both sexual and religious - that Gaga uses to push buttons throughout the album.
Though there are song titles like "Bloody Mary," "Judas" and "Electric Chapel," and lyrics tweak conservative mindsets, at its core, "Born This Way" is mostly an album about themes that have been written about from the beginning of pop music - love, lust and acceptance.
"Americano," with its flamenco-inspired melody, is a love song - it just happens to be about two women. "We can marry, on the West Coast, on a Wednesday," Gaga sings slyly. "Hair," like "Born This Way," is a plea for individual freedom via the follicles - "I don't want to change, I don't want to be ashamed, I'm the spirit of my hair ... I am my hair," she declares on the pop-rock groove, which sounds as if it could have emerged from the soundtrack to a 1980s teen flick.
Much of the music veers from pulsating dance grooves and the retro rock that Gaga showcased on "Fame Monster." The album's best track -"You and I" - sounds as if it could be the companion to "Speechless," another ballad similarly anchored by dominating piano chords.
Gaga, who co-wrote every tune on the record and again worked with collaborators such as RedOne and Fernando Garibay, doesn't show particular musical growth, but establishes a consistency of strong material throughout most of the disc. Lyrically, at times she still perplexes - the whirring "ScheiBe" starts off with German then segues into a female empowerment anthem - but it's those bizarre moments that are part of the Gaga-intrigue.
"Born This Way" needs a bit more editing. A smattering of tracks, like "Bad Kids" or "Black Jesus," could have been left off for a tighter disc. But it doesn't take away from its strength, and overall, it's an album that should add to Gaga's growing status as this generation's cultural icon.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: Most won't know what she's saying, and most won't care, on "ScheiBe" - the German (or is it gibberish?) that comes out of Gaga's mouth is still undeniably catchy.