Lady Gaga, ‘Born This Way’

Born This Way

The litmus test of any new pop record is the opinion of a little girl who already loves the artist unreservedly and will brook no criticism.

So, into this treacherous arena went ‘Born This Way’, and first we gauged recognition: “Is it Lady Gaga?” One hurdle cleared. Further responses to Stefani’s hi-NRG dambuster included bouncing up and down from Junior (five-and-a-half), Junior 2 (two-and-eleven-twelfths) and Junior 3 (a week shy of one) – confirming Gaga’s all-ages appeal – and an unprompted round of applause at the finish.

Then the question we’ve all avoided. Yes, determined to mark ‘Born This Way’’s place in the Gaga pantheon, I asked which was better, this or ‘Bad Romance’.

“Both.”

All that without mentioning ‘Express Yourself’. Unjaded by the past, unworried that all the pop tunes might have been done and everything’s now just a swish rejig, Junior doesn’t hear Madonna in this. Nor does she catch a whisper of ‘Rio’, or Jesus Jones’s ‘International Bright Young Thing’ or even Maxine Nightingale’s ‘Right Back Where We Started From’.

Come to that, she didn’t spot a Joe Satriani noodle recast in ‘Viva La Vida’, nor a short refrain from an 18-minute Cat Stevens song in the same. Because no one really knew them and they weren’t really there.

And she doesn’t fret that Lady Gaga’s courting of the gay audience might be a hard-nosed ploy. Perhaps she knows Gaga’s got plenty of ground there anyway, or perhaps she knows Gaga’s still got some way to go and it’s all fair game. After all, my brother still belongs to Kylie.

Whatever could go through Junior’s head, she takes ‘Born This Way’ on its own immediate terms; a fiery, anthemic, infectious jolt. Let’s all do that.

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[16] Derek And The Dominos, ‘Layla’

Layla. Need those shoes.

Its critical standing has stumbled a bit in recent years, but when I was a kid ‘Layla’ was painted as pretty much the greatest record ever. Haughtily disregarding stiff competition from ‘Stairway To Heaven’ and ‘Hotel California’ (‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was still held in some suspicion), ‘Layla’ had a little bit of manliness about it, and rock critics love that musky whiff. Or whiffy musk. It’s a frightful indulgence, of course, but come on – that’s one deathless riff and a bucket of tasty drum fills. Its swashbuckling energy must’ve taken it out of Eric too, because he never really poked himself out of his slumber again.

I was excited to hear Junior’s thoughts on such a tiresome (yet great) macho rock standard, and she didn’t disappoint. “It sounds like a party,” which is fair on the clatter. I told her that Clapton was once regarded as the best guitarist around and wondered if she agreed. “I don’t know. I know who the best singer is.” Go on… “Lady Gaga.” She and her sister then sang ‘Bad Romance’ over ‘Layla”s endless coda.