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Thursday, March 3, 2011

"Born This Way" - Lady Gaga Song Analysis

Whether you love her or hate her, Lady Gaga is #1 this week on the Ultimate Chart with "Born This Way," so let's do a song analysis. As with all analysis, we'll break the song down into four parts - the song itself, the arrangement, the sound and performance.

The Song - "Born This Way" is a straight down the middle pop dance song that follows a familiar form with a 124bpm tempo. The form goes like this:

Spoken intro, music intro, verse, chorus, spoken interlude, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus, spoken outro

About the only thing that's different about the song form itself is the spoken intro, interlude and outro. That said, the song does have a good melody and a strong chorus, once again in the tradition of all great pop songs.

The Arrangement - When you have a song that's built on a traditional form you have to play some tricks to keep the song interesting and "Born This Way" does just that. One thing that always works in any genre of music is dynamics and that's what the song employs to keep the interest high. Listen to the following places:

     The first half of the verse with just the vocal, pad and rhythm.
     The first 4 bars of the 2nd verse with just the vocal and kick drum.
     The first half of the bridge with spoken word, synth bed and sound effects.
     The first half of the first outro chorus with just vocals and kick drum.
     The last outchorus vocal where it breaks down to just the lead and harmony vocals.

The 5 elements of the mix (check out this post for an explanation) look like this:
  • The Foundation - Like most songs, it's the bass and drums.
  • The Pad - Like most dance songs, it's a synth pad that you can hear predominantly in the first verse, but it's there for the whole song adding the glue to the tracks as well.
  • The Rhythm - This element utilizes an aggressive synth with a saw-tooth wave shape that you can hear predominantly in the 2nd half of the first verse.
  • The Fills - Like most hit pop songs, there's something in almost every space where there's not a vocal. Usually it's some sort of synth but there are lots of sound effects as well.
The Sound - Once again, like most dance-oriented songs, "Born This Way" is compressed pretty hard, but the kick and snare are really squeezed to the point where they don't sound natural at all. Maybe that was the point, but I think they would've sounded better with more dynamics and better sounds.

The Performance - I think my favorite part is the breakdown to the vocals in the outro chorus. There's some nice ad libbing by Gaga, and the vocal harmony twists at the end is something that's small, yet attention grabbing.

As always, feel free to send me your suggestions of songs to analyze. I'll get to them in the first part of the week.


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Craig said...

When I heard my wife playing this song in another room I immediately wondered who made a remake of "Express Yourself" by Madonna.

Gian Nicola said...

Thank you Bobby!
Craig, exactly what I think.. it sounds like '80 Madonna songs..

Anonymous said...

I thought it was just me. The BV arrangement is what does it. Very Cheeky Tip of the hat to Madge


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