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The music of Born This Way stems from the synthpop and dance-pop styles of her previous material while incorporating different forms of instrumentation from that on her previous releases, such as electronic rock and techno. It features a broader range of genres, such as opera, heavy metal, disco, house, and rock and roll, while its lyrical topics include sexuality, religion, freedom, feminism, and individualism. Despite divided opinions among religious and conservative commentators, the album was well received by music critics, who praised the varying musical styles and Gaga's vocals; others felt Gaga was trying too hard to please everyone through the album's self-empowerment message. Several music publications included the album in their year-end best-of lists. Born This Way received three Grammy Award nominations, including Gaga's third consecutive nomination for Album of the Year.
Born This Way debuted in the top five spots of every major music chart worldwide, including the Billboard 200. In the United States, the record sold more than one million copies in its first week—the highest first-week album sales in five years; an estimated 440,000 copies were sold on Amazon in two days of its first week at a price of 99 cents. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), it was the third global best-selling album of 2011. The album has since sold six million copies worldwide. Four of the album's singles--"Born This Way", "Judas", "The Edge of Glory", and "You and I"--charted in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, where "Born This Way" became the 1,000th song to reach the number one spot since the inauguration of the chart in 1958. At the time of its release, the title track was the fastest-selling single in iTunes history. A promotional single from the album, "Hair", also managed to chart in sixteen countries, peaking at number 12 in the United States. The album's fifth official single, "Marry the Night", charted within the top-thirty in the United States.
In March 2010, Gaga disclosed that she was working on a new album, saying that she had written most of the songs for the proposed album. Meanwhile, producer RedOne described it as Gaga's "freedom album" as her manager, Troy Carter, felt her public image would begin to change after the release of Born This Way. A few months after the announcement, Gaga exclaimed that she had finished writing songs for the album: "It came so quickly. I've been working on it for months, and I feel very strongly that it's finished right now. Some artists take years. I don't. I write music every day." In another interview, she declared the album "the anthem of [this] generation," as she continued, "It includes the greatest music I've ever written. I've already written the first single for the new album and I promise you, that this album is the greatest of my career."
The album contains mainly moderate-tempo dance songs, described as "anthemic style melodies with really sledge-hammering dance beats." In the months prior to the release of Born This Way, Gaga characterized her new music as "something so much deeper than a wig or lipstick or a fucking meat dress" and upon hearing it, Akon remarked that she will take music to the "next level." The album includes references to several religious figures of Christianity, notably Judas Iscariot, Mary Magdalene, and Jesus of Nazareth. Several songs on the album give reference to sexuality and feminism. Other themes referenced in the album include individualism, equality, and freedom.
"It's like Whitney, but imagine if Bruce Springsteen had a baby with Whitney Houston - that's what it is", she said. "And that was it! We made a baby. Finally. After all that fornication, miserably long and tedious, Fernando and I finally conceived."
The fourth song is "Judas", which Gaga confirmed to be influenced by the Biblical Judas Iscariot. The song's lyrics are about being betrayed as well as "honoring your darkness in order to bring yourself into the light," according to Gaga. The song is a dance-pop and house track, with influences of techno, industrial and disco, a 1980s-inspired pop chorus, as well as a breakdown containing elements of dubstep and techno music. In parts of the song, Gaga sing-raps with a CaribbeanPatois accent.
The album's fifth track is "Americano", a mariachi song with techno, house and disco influences. Written in Spanish and English, Gaga composed "Americano" in response to the Arizona immigration law Arizona SB 1070. Critics have noted vaudevillian elements within the song, and it has been compared to the work of Judy Garland, with Gaga claiming that she sees influence from French chanson singer Édith Piaf. The sixth track, "Hair" is a song about expressing freedom through one's hair. The song has a dance-pop melody, yet it has influences from rock/heavy metal music artists like Bruce Springsteen, Iron Maiden and Kiss. It has also been noted to incorporate disco and Europop. The seventh track, "Scheiße" contains German lyrics and has a message of feminism, accompanied by a heavy synths, techno beats, as well as Euro disco influences. The song's melody has drawn comparisons to Madonna and electroclash artist Miss Kittin. After "Scheiße" is "Bloody Mary", which is a relatively slow-tempo song containing "plucked strings" and "filthy beats", as well as numerous religious references, and a trance-influenced melody. "Bad Kids" contains 1980s synthpop influences and electric guitars. Its disco beat has been compared to the music of Donna Summer, and influences of heavy metal music have been found within its composition.
"Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)" is Born This Ways tenth track. A dance-pop song, it has been noted to have Bruce Springsteen influences, as well as powerful drums and synths. "Heavy Metal Lover", the eleventh track, is a song of electropop and techno tendencies, which has been noted to contain elements of house music, electro-industrial beats, and has been compared to the power pop of the 1990s. Synthesizers are used as a focal point for the song. Following "Heavy Metal Lover" is "Electric Chapel", a heavy metal-influenced pop song noted to contain elements of Europop that has been compared to the work of Madonna. The album's thirteenth track, "You and I", is a rock and roll ballad which contains elements of country rock music. The song contains a moderato tempo, and Queen guitarist Brian May is also featured on the track. The track, furthermore, samples Queen's 1977 single "We Will Rock You".
The fourteenth track is "The Edge of Glory", which refers to the death of Gaga's grandfather. It is an upbeat song of dance-pop, electronic rock and synthpop tendencies; it also contains a saxophone solo by Clarence Clemons which has drawn comparisons to blues music. One of the bonus tracks is "Black Jesus + Amen Fashion", a pop song which draws influences from 1980s and 1990s electronic and club music. including Broadway. "Fashion of His Love", the second bonus track, is a 1980s-influenced dance-pop song that contains references to the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen.
Release and promotion
On September 12, 2010, Gaga made an appearance on the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. During the acceptance speech for her Video of the Year award, Gaga announced the title of the album and sang the chorus of the its title track. Described by Gaga as "a Christmas gift for my fans", Gaga announced the release dates of the album and its lead single at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2011 via Twitter, supplementing it with a black-and-white photograph in which Gaga is "nude from the waist down, with her hair blowing about, and sporting a jacket with the name of the album emblazoned in what looks like bedazzled jewels."
At a November 2010 show of The Monster Ball Tour in Gdansk, Poland, Gaga announced that the album could have up to twenty tracks, adding that production for the album was coming to a close. In an interview with Vogue in February 2011, Gaga confirmed that there would be a total of seventeen tracks on the album, of which fourteen would make the final cut to the standard edition. The other three songs were initially to be released on an exclusive deluxe edition of the album at Target; however, Gaga later ended her partnership with Target in response to the company's donation of US$150,000 to the conservative political group Minnesota Forward.
Prior to the release of Born This Way, the contents of the album were leaked online on May 18, 2011. Due to a violation of copyright law, it was later removed. The album was formally released worldwide on May 23, 2011, in two separate editions. Several non-singles songs were previewed as part of promoting Born This Way. Remixes of "Scheiße" and "Government Hooker" were previewed at fashion shows presented by Thierry Mugler in January and March 2011, respectively. Several songs were released on FarmVille during the next few days prior to the album's release, including "Marry the Night", "Americano", and "Electric Chapel".
On April 17, 2011, Gaga tweeted her selection for the cover art of Born This Way, which featured Gaga fused into a motorcycle. Gaga's name does not appear on the album cover - the only text is the chrome writing across the top reading the album's name. The cover received a negative response from critics and fans. Sean Michaels of The Guardian expressed that the cover "[looked] more like a cheap Photoshop job than the most anticipated album of the year." He then commented: "Gone are the futurist sunglasses, the asymmetrical haircuts, even Gaga's newly touted magic horns; instead, a mutant motorbike with Gaga's arms and head, plus a cheesy chrome typeface." He also referenced several messages from fans on Gaga's official forum expressing their dislike for the cover. Andrew Martin of Prefix referred to it as "a reject from the last Terminator film". The special edition cover was released on the same day: it featured just Gaga's head from the standard edition cover but the words "Lady Gaga" and "Born This Way" appear in the top left corner of the cover. They are typed in Impact font with "Born This Way" being highlighted in white with black letters. Neither of the words special nor deluxe appear anywhere on the album, as Gaga revealed she disliked them.
"Born This Way", the eponymous lead single, was released on February 11, 2011. Described as a "magical message", the Gaga and Jeppe Laursen-written song was produced by herself, Laursen, Fernando Garibay and DJ White Shadow. It was met with mostly positive reception from critics, who noted the similarities with the Madonna song "Express Yourself". "Born This Way" experienced widespread commercial success, topping the charts in over nineteen countries in addition to selling over a million copies worldwide, becoming the fastest selling song in iTunes history. In her native United States, the song became Gaga's third number one hit, where it spent six weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. "Judas" was the album's second single, having been released on April 15, 2011. Critics reacted positively to "Judas", complimenting the song's breakdown, yet noted similarities with "Bad Romance" in its composition. It debuted at number four on the Hot Digital Songs chart with the sale of 162,000 copies while peaking at number ten in the United States, reaching in the top ten of twenty countries and peaked at number one on the South Korean charts.
"The Edge of Glory" was released as the third single for the album on May 11, 2011. It was praised by many critics, who deemed it as an album highlight. The song's points of positive reception include the saxophone solo provided by Clarence Clemons, the underlying message and Gaga's "throaty" and "soulful" vocals. It charted in the top ten of nineteen countries and became Gaga's tenth consecutive top-ten single in the United States, debuting at number three on the Billboard Hot 100. "You and I", the album's fourth single, was also met with positive critical reaction that complimented the musical composition of the song. The song became Gaga's eleventh consecutive top ten single in the United States, peaking at number six on the Billboard Hot 100. The single has received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Solo Performance.
"Marry the Night" serves as the fifth single from Born This Way. Critical reception towards the song was positive, with reviewers calling it a strong dance-pop number. It has charted in fifteen different countries including the United States, where it peaked at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100. The accompanying music video received critical acclaim as well, being noted by some critics as a "pure spectacle" and as one of Gaga's "biggest epics". "Stuck on Fuckin' You", an outtake from the album, was released as a free YouTube stream on Christmas Day 2011 and thereafter as a free download.
The first song from Born This Way performed by Gaga live was "You and I", at the 2010 White Tie & Tiara Ball at Elton John's house, on The Today Show at Rockefeller Center in New York and during The Monster Ball Tour. In 2011, she embarked on promotional tours and live performances for Born This Way in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. It began with a live performance of the album's lead single on February 13, 2011, at the 53rd Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. On April 28, Gaga performed "Judas" for the first time on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. "Born This Way" and "You and I" was also sung on Oprah on May 6. After her Grammy performance, on February 19, 2011, Gaga added "Born This Way" to the setlist of The Monster Ball Tour, where she performed it as a second encore, in a very similar outfit and choreography as on the awards show. In May, she finished The Monster Ball Tour with concerts in Mexico, where she premiered "Americano" by performing the song on the piano, and closed the show with a performance of "Judas".
Born This Way received generally positive reviews from contemporary music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 71, based on 34 reviews. Dan Martin of NME said that "it's a damn good thing" that Gaga "doesn't know when to hold back" and complimented her for pushing musical boundaries to its "ultimate degree." Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine opined: "There's nothing small about this album, and Gaga sings the shit out of every single track." Cinquemani compared the album to The Killers' album Sam's Town, calling it "bloated, self-important, proudly American, an exercise in extraordinary excess."Rolling Stones Rob Sheffield felt that "the more excessive Gaga gets, the more honest she sounds." Caryn Ganz of Spin felt that "excess is Gaga's riskiest musical gamble, but it's also her greatest weapon, and Born This Way relentlessly bludgeons listeners' pleasure centres". Adam Markovitz of Entertainment Weekly said that the album is "rewarding but wildly uneven", although "the album's sprawl still shows off the breadth of her talent." Despite criticizing her for "letting her skills as a songwriter slide ever so slightly," AllMusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine complimented Gaga's composing "sensibility" and "considerable dexterity at delivering the basics." In MSN Music, Robert Christgau found the album to not be on-par with The Fame or The Fame Monster, but added that "both of those keep growing, and with its mad momentum and nutty thematics, this one could too."
In a mixed review, Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune felt that the album was rushed and sounded like "a major artist sprinting to please everyone all the time." Evan Sawdey of PopMatters called it "her weakest album to date" and wrote that it combines "some daring songwriting with some remarkably repetitive themes and beats." Chris Richards of The Washington Post found it "boring" and said that, "at its worst, it sounds like reheated leftovers from some '80s movie soundtrack." Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times opined that Gaga lacks musical adventurousness and that "She's unsubtle in her message, unsubtle in her dress, and, most important, unsubtle aesthetically ... If Gaga had only spent as much time on pushing musical boundaries as she has social ones, Born This Way would have been a lot more successful." Andy Gill of The Independent critiqued that "the broader [Gaga] spreads her net musically, the less distinctive her art becomes."The Boston Globe said that the songwriting "feels thin" and called the album "the most deflated moment in pop music this year". Rich Juzwiak of The Village Voice commented that Gaga's "we-shall-overcome sentiment" is expressed more effectively through the album's "egalitarian use of house beats" than through her "sloganeering", which he found "trite" and "[un]insightful."
Born This Way debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 after having sold 1,108,000 copies during the first week, making it the seventeenth album to sell over a million copies in one week. Born This Way was Gaga's first number-one album and the highest first-week total since 50 Cent's The Massacre (2005) sold 1,141,000 in its first week. Gaga was the fifth woman to sell one million copies in a week, after Whitney Houston (The Bodyguard Soundtrack, 1992), Britney Spears (Oops!...I Did It Again, 2000), Norah Jones (Feels Like Home, 2004), and Taylor Swift (Speak Now, 2010). Amazon sold an estimated 440,000 copies in its first two days at a price of 99 cents (at a loss of over $3 million) which contributed to its 662,000 digital sales, the largest in SoundScan history. Digital downloads accounted for 60 percent of Born This Ways first week total. The album also became the eighth best-selling digital album in United States history after its first week of sales.Born This Way also reached number one on the Dance/Electronic Albums chart, displacing The Fame. In its second week, the album sold 174,000 copies to remain at the top spot on the Billboard 200, but with a sales decrease of 84.27%, set the record for the largest second-week percentage sales drop for a number-one debuting album since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991. Digitally, the album had a 94% drop, selling 38,000 copies. In its third week the album fell to number two being displaced by Adele's 21 with 42% sales decrease after having sold 100,000 copies.Born This Way became the third-best-selling album of the year in the United States, with sales of 2,101,000 copies. It is also the fifth best-selling digital album of all time in the United States, with 877,000 copies sold, as of January 2012. The album received double platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and has sold 2.42 million copies in total in the US as of February 2018. Following Gaga's Super Bowl LI halftime show performance, Born This Way re-entered the Billboard 200 at number 25, selling 17,000 total album-equivalent units.
The album debuted at the top spot in Australia, becoming her second number-one album there after The Fame Monster. Born This Way was certified platinum in Australia in its first week by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) and has since been certified double platinum for a shipment of 140,000 copies.Born This Way also debuted at the top spot on the New Zealand Albums Chart, becoming her second album to chart there, after The Fame Monster. The album was certified platinum in its first week of sales.Born This Way sold 184,000 copies in its first week in Japan, and debuted atop the Oricon chart. It has been certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) for shipment of 750,000 copies.Born This Way was the fourth best-selling album of the year in Japan, with sales of 658,554 copies.
In the United Kingdom, Born This Way debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart dated May 29, 2011, selling 215,639 units, which was the highest first-week sales of the year. That week, the album outsold the rest of the top 10 combined and had the best first-week tally of any album by an American female solo artist since Madonna's Confessions on a Dance Floor debuted with sales of 217,610 copies in 2005. As of January 2017, Born This Way has been certified triple platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), selling a total of 989,000 copies in the UK. The album debuted at number one in Ireland, and Sweden, while debuting at number two in Finland where it was the fifth-best-selling album of 2011. In France, Born This Way debuted at number one on the French Albums Chart and held that spot for two weeks. As of January 2012, the album has sold 180,000 copies and has been certified double-platinum by the Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP). As of September 2012, sales of the album were announced to have reached 6 million copies.
Born This Way was included in several year-end lists by music critics and publications. Rolling Stone magazine, in their list of the "50 Best Albums of 2011", ranked it at sixth place, writing "none of Gaga's previous exercises in musical plussizing prepared us for this kind of anything-goes extravagance".The Guardian, in their list of the best albums of 2011, listed Born This Way at 31st. Slant Magazine ranked the album as the third best of 2011 in their list of "The 25 Best Albums of 2011", calling it a "magnum opus", and describing it as a "sincere ode to the bedazzled hearts of outsiders past and present". Furthermore, MTV ranked it as the tenth best album of 2011, claiming it is the "first multi-national, multi-hyphenate, multi-sexual pop album of our time", and called it "her grandest mission statement to date". About.com listed Born This Way as the second top pop album of 2011, claiming it is a "pop landmark" and a "wild rollercoaster ride of music". Claiming that through the album, Gaga "thinks pop can still move policy, and she might be right", and describing the record as the "biggest pop album" of 2011,Spin listed Born This Way as the 29th best album of the year, as well as the best pop album of the year.Digital Spy included Born This Way in their "25 Best Albums of 2011" list, at fifth place, while the Daily Record ranked it at seventeenth out of twenty, commenting on Gaga having gone "full-scale European underground electro disco".
Several religious groups have condemned the album for its incorporation of several religious icons of Christianity and its stance on sexuality. In Lebanon, Born This Way was temporarily banned by the General Secretary Department, who deemed the album to be in bad taste and mocking of Christianity. Abdo Abu Kassm, director of the Catholic Information Center of Lebanon, highly criticized the themes of the album, expressing that "if they are going to offend us we are going to cancel the album." He continued: "We will not accept that anyone insult the Virgin Mary or Jesus or Christianity [...]. Call us traditional, call us backward, call us whatever you want. We will not accept it." This ban lasted up until June 9.
The music video of "Judas" was criticized by William Anthony Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, notably for Gaga's portrayal of Mary Magdalene. In an interview with HollywoodLife.com, Donohue expressed discontent towards Gaga's focus on Judas and Mary Magdalene, calling her "increasingly irrelevant" compared to people with "real talent", and attacked her for seemingly purposefully debuting the song and video close to Holy Week and Easter. Shortly after its release, "Judas" was banned in Lebanon. In Malaysia, where homosexuality is considered a criminal offense, the government criticized the album for its stance on sexuality and feminism. Shortly after the release of the title track "Born This Way", radio stations across the country edited out several lyrics of the song as ordered by the Malaysian government. Rosnah Ismail, the vice-chancellor of Universiti Malaysia Sabah, condemned the song, opining: "Islam forbids this. We have to abide by the country's laws."
^"Czech Albums - Top 100". ?NS IFPI. Note: On the chart page, select 201121 on the field besides the word "Zobrazit", and then click over the word to retrieve the correct chart data. Retrieved January 31, 2014.