Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Paying Homage to Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ For Its Tenth Anniversary

In May 2011, the way in which the world perceived pop music was transformed forever.

 Lady Gaga’s sophomore release ‘Born This Way’ not only landed her three Grammy nominations and spawned some of her biggest singles, including ‘Marry The Night’, ‘Edge Of Glory’ and the album’s namesake, but saw her establish a pivotal role as an open member and spokesperson of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Now, ten years later, Lady Gaga has re-released this ground-breaking project with an additional six covers from queer artists and advocates.

The star-studded track-list opens with a glistening rendition of ‘Marry The Night’ by none other than one of the founders of modern pop music, Australia’s Kylie Minogue. 

Mirroring the opening of the original ‘Born This Way’ album, Kylie’s version of ‘Marry The Night’ offers a powerful start to the record without diverging too much from the source material. Nevertheless, by replacing the massive synthetic organ from the original with airy chords and quirky phasing sawtooth waves, Kylie brings a more traditional dance-pop element to the track’s introduction. Following her eerie reverberated promise that she’s “Gonna marry the night” the song bursts into a series of lusciously layered synths and arpeggiated bass that provides the necessary emotional impact. The track eventually descends into a dark and chaotic outro brimming with acid house influences.


While the instrumentation and vocal delivery of Kylie’s rendition of ‘Marry The Night’ would not feel out of place on the original release, the rest of the album takes a different approach, starting with queer-icon Big Freedia’s cover of the infectious ‘Judas’. While the verses take on a much more stripped-back sound, the percussive and rhythmic elements alongside the brash horns make for an intriguing listen. Although Freedia allows for the backing vocalists to take on the chorus refrain, her presence is still felt as she eagerly ad-libs in the background. The biggest twist, however, is felt prior to the bridge where Freedia provides an original verse exclaiming: “It’s Gaga and Freedia/ You better believe-a / We comin’ for your speaker”. The track is an experimental and fun-filled take on one of Gaga’s classics.  


Gaga’s biggest venture on ‘Born This Way’ came in the form of her willingness to experiment beyond her signature synth and dance-pop sound as established on her debut ‘The Fame’. The track ‘Electric Chapel’, for example, featured a distorted palm-muted guitar as its main motif, and the album’s persistent techno influence is felt through the thumping kicks of ‘Highway Unicorn’ and ‘Government Hooker’. However, the Lady Gaga we know and love today has been through multiple artistic reincarnations. Notably, 2016’s ‘Joanne’ saw her hone her songwriting talent through a country lens. Thus, in homage to Gaga’s love of country, we see two covers from Orville Peck and The Highwomen.


The Highwomen’s take on ‘Highway Unicorn’, although sonically very different, does not feel out of place. In fact, the song’s lyrics of “Ride ride, pony, ride ride” and “She’s just an American, riding a dream” fit perfectly into this country reimagining. Joined by up-and-coming artists Brittney Spencer and Madeline Edwards, The Highwomen exhibit the greatness of their all-female-collaboration approach to country, a genre so often dominated by men. The rendition is rushing and blissful, as if you really are riding a unicorn down the highway to love.


The album’s closing track sees the masked singer, Orville Peck, serve pure country with no frills on his cover of ‘Born This Way’. Kitted out with twangy guitars and a brief flicker of harmonica, Peck does not disappoint. Everything about this cover is warm and feel-good, just as the original intended. The familiar lyrics “I’m beautiful in my way/ ‘Cause God makes no mistakes” provide the same empowering message as they did ten years ago, but sound particularly sweet coming from Peck this Pride month.


The album’s other two cuts don’t go for a dramatic genre change but act as equally effective covers of Gaga classics. Ben Platt, famous for his role as the titular character in the Tony Award winning ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ as well as his part in the ‘Pitch Perfect’ franchise, takes on one of the album’s slower tracks ‘Yoü And I’. Completely discarding the electronic sound of the original and playing to the song’s nature as a ballad, Platt opts for a bare piano to complement his emotional delivery. Surrounded by angelic harmonies and minimal percussion, Platt’s voice acts as the perfect vehicle for the song’s loving message.


The penultimate track is a cover of ‘The Edge Of Glory’ from Oli Alexander’s Years & Years. Backed by pulsating synth arpeggios and a highly danceable beat, Alexander nails this cheesy pop banger. The track’s verses feel like a romantic movie montage as it slowly builds to the explosive choruses. Filled with ecstatic vocals and twinkling embellishments, the cover captures the euphoria of hearing this song in a club for the first time.


Born This Way: The Tenth Anniversary’ provides us with six stellar covers from some of the LGBTQ+ community’s finest artists. Teaming with talent and personality, the album pays its respect to one of the greatest pop masterpieces of our time. 


Monique Lerpiniere


Image: Born This Way Official Album Artwork


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