If Lady Gaga is indeed the mouthpiece of the Illuminati — as was declared in 2009 — then all of her utterances ought to be regarded as urgent portents of things to come, especially as they pertain to the rippling tectonic plates of popular culture. Those who paid strict attention to the lyrics of “Bad Romance” in 2009, for example, were rewarded with much deeper insights into the film “Serious Moonlight.” Gaga willing, those same sorts of auguries will be available to us once again, via the glitter-slicked entrails of her new Upanishad, “Born This Way.” What may we divine from this harmonic convergence about 2011’s summer movie releases? While some connections speak for themselves — especially those linking “Judas” to the film “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer“ – it seems wise for W&F to turn its oracular eye to the future, in hopes that one day we may better understand the past:
The album’s titular track obviously refers to the comic book reboot “X-Men: First Class.” In “Born This Way” Gaga outs herself as a mutant sympathizer, urging her little monsters to put their “paws in the air” in celebration of the fact that “God makes no mistakes.” It’s an anthem after Magneto’s own heart, though it’s hard to imagine Michael Fassbender chanting the slogan “Don’t be a drag — just be a queen” with the same gravitas as Sir Ian McKellan.
No one questions whether “Americano” specifically refers to “Captain America: The First Avenger.” But while many might insist that the “girl in floral shorts” referred to in the song’s intro is Peggy Carter – played in the film by Hayley Atwell – it’s far more likely that the bearer of these bloomers is America herself, stretching from East L.A. to the West coast. Gaga has publicly explained that the song is about immigration law and gay marriage — two issues that Captain America would undoubtedly prioritize if the film were set in 2011, as any great avenger is bound to find him/herself “livin’ on the edge of the law, law, law, law.”
The album takes an apocalyptic turn with “Hair,” a primal scream straight from the heart of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” Seizing control from parental authorities is a natural rite of passage for any clumsy, hirsute teenager, regardless of one’s species. “I’ve had enough / I’m not a freak,” they cry out plaintively, “I must keep fighting to stay cool on the streets.” The apes’ thick wash-n-go pelts set them visibly apart from bald, clammy humans, but they intend to reclaim that hair as a definitive symbol of honor and freedom. Or, as Gaga brilliantly sums up, “I am my hair.” A rallying cry that “Apes” star and all-around sensitive human James Franco can surely relate to — perhaps it’s not too late for him to play a lion instead of a wizard in “Oz the Great and Powerful.”
“You & I” may sound like Nebraska, but it’s actually Edinburgh all the way. The tip-off is the line “You taste like whiskey when you kiss me” — a nod to the Scotch that the singer is so often spotted swilling, and also to the gross excesses of star-crossed Edinburgher — played by Jim Sturgess – in the film adaptation of David Nicholls’ One Day. Additionally, references to high heels, lipstick, and baby dolls make the listener wonder whether Anne Hathaway will ever accept a role that doesn’t involve a soup-to-nuts style makeover.
In one of her bolder moves, Gaga presents “Bad Kids” as an origin-story for Cameron Diaz’s unsavory character in “Bad Teacher.” Apparently this ribald comedy is merely a façade concealing a well of Carrie-esque alienation and self-loathing. “I’m a bad kid like my Mom and Dad made me … I’m a nerd, I chew gum and smoke in your face I’m absurd.” Primed for the film by Gaga’s hooks, audiences will observe the way that insecurities passed down from parent to child become inflicted on that child’s future students, creating a generational cycle of disillusionment — and only then will a meaningful dialogue about the American educational system finally be possible.
In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, author Milan Kundera defined kitsch as “the absolute denial of shit,” claiming that worthless, imitative works provide the masses with a sanitized view of the world. Gaga seems to favor this interpretation in her ode to the upcoming “Smurfs” movie, “Scheiße.” The tiny creatures themselves are rendered as CGI monstrosities, evoking Gaga’s colorful fanbase as they rally to the lyric “Wir sind alle Familie”: We are all family.
While “Born This Way” has yet to divulge all its Sibylline secrets (do the erotic promises of “Heavy Metal Lover” speak more convincingly to “Transformers: Dark Of The Moon” or “Cars 2?”), they can be divined by anyone whose mind is attuned to the proper wavelength. We’ll be watching the comments below for insights about the remaining tracks — this may be the time of year when intelligence goes out of fashion, but overthinking pop ephemera will keep you limber until the good movies return in the fall.