Just one week before Easter weekend, Lady Gaga (not-so-accidentally) sprung a leak early this morning, resulting in the sudden rush release of “Judas,” the religion-wrought second single from Gaga’s upcoming studio album, Born This Way.
As I pointed out when the track first began to leak, “Judas” come packaged on top of a relentlessly grinding, â€œsledge-hammeringâ€ beat; a natural progression from the noisy, ‘everything-but-the-kitchen-sink’ production of â€œBorn This Way,” now aided by RedOneâ€˜s trademark repeat-heavy styling. (The song also doesnâ€™t sound entirely different from a similarly sledge-hammering RedOne production, Nicole Scherzingerâ€˜s â€œPoison.â€)
As “Poker Face” is to “Bad Romance,” so too is “Bad Romance” to “Judas.” The song follows in a nearly identical structure to “Bad Romance,” from the same soaring chorus down to the â€œwhoa-oh-oh!â€ follow-up. Instead of “ra-ra, ah-ah-ah!”, we have â€œJu-da, Ju-da-ah!â€ (Not exactly the most daring show of creativity, to be sure.)
“Judas” is also quite similar in theme, as Gaga treads lightly across a sprinkling of biblical references (oh hay, Jesus!) and demonic undertones to weave a tale of–well, a bad romance: “I learned love is like a brick, you can / Build a house or sink a dead body,” Gaga speak-sings. It’s not quite blasphemous enough to incite fury amongst bible-thumpers, but still enough to keep the Illuminati fear-mongers pointing their trembling fingers for weeks.
About three minutes into the chaos, the song gives way to an utterly insane, tribal-meets-Bollywood electronic breakdown. “But in the cultural sense, I just speak in future tense / Judas kiss me if offenced, or wear an ear condom next time!” Gaga cries. As it turns out, a nonsensical chant about fame hookers vomiting their mind works well enough when masked by a mile-a-minute mixture of electro-tribal beats. But in writing? It’s one of Gaga’s most embarrassing, cringe-worthy moments in lyricism…ever.
Redemption comes immediately thereafter with the song’s post-tribal bridge, which strip away some of the more noise to expose a gorgeous ’90’s hi-NRG beat: “Jesus is my virtue / And Judas is the demon I cling to…I cling to!” Gaga victoriously cries, her clenched paw raised high. It’s within this brief moment of clarity that the song truly shines brightest.
In short: “Judas” is a good pop song: It’s catchy (increasingly so after each play), full of textured beats, and (mostly) danceable. But in the same breath, it’s loud, grating, entirely derivative and slightly obnoxious, thus ushering in the larger issue at hand: My complete inability to connect with the Born This Way era.
As with “Born This Way,” I’m hopelessly neither here nor there with “Judas.” The beats bang hard and the melodies are catchy, but the song’s breakneck speed, yelping caws and headache-inducing production value are all a bit too much to embrace.
Every song on The Fame and The Fame Monster (MuuMuse Review) made sense from the start: I didn’t have to play “LoveGame” a hundred and fifty times in order to discover a melody buried deep within layers of loud, noisy production–it was a single play, and an instant love affair.
But now, I have to try with Gaga–really, really try in order to love. While she’s busy proclaiming that the late Alexander McQueen penned “Born This Way” from Heaven and that her “Born This Way” face spikes are actual bones she was born with, it’s a song as underwhelming as “Judas” that truly adds weight to the most common charge from critics: That Lady Gaga is style over substance.
While “Judas” isn’t actually bad, I’ve truly had just about enough of Gaga Nouveau: “Born This Way” and “Judas” don’t even slightly hold a candle to the infectiousness of “Just Dance” or “Bad Romance,” nor the slinky beats of “Starstruck” or “So Happy I Could Die,” nor the celebratory joy of “Boys Boys Boys” and “Monster.”
I know this means I’ll have to invest in a few more ear condoms this year, but hey…I was born this way, baby.