When Gaga released “Born This Way” last month, I met it with a bit of skepticism. Musically, the song sat too much in the middle, taking a backseat to the message it was trying to preach. And while the message was an uplifting one, the song felt lackluster for a debut single. After all, she is in the business of making massive pop anthems.
So four days before the original release date, “Judas” managed to leak online in snippets, followed by an early release on iTunes. Whether a coincidence, or as some fans believe to be intentional symbolism (i.e. Judas betraying Jesus four days before Easter), the song is drenched in Biblical lyrics and imagery. Sure to offend some groups, the song aims to go hard, and fire on all cylinders. Fortunately, this single is more in line with what we want and expect from Gaga. Catchy hooks, hard hitting beats and more theatrics than anyone would know what to do with.
Yet, something is off. From the very beginning of the song when Gaga repeats “Judah Judaaah Judah Judaaah,” you can’t help but think it sounds exactly like “Bad Romance.” In fact, as the song goes on, it becomes evident that the chorus also sounds like “Bad Romance.” I dare you to listen and not think of singing “Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh” in sync when hearing that chorus. Herein is the problem with “Judas.” While this is definitely the sound fans have come to love from Gaga, it borrows too much from her past works – so much so, that it sounds like an inferior version of songs she has done before. At times the song is clunky. The chorus and the bridge in particular sound jarring and mismatched. Sure, at its core the song is catchy, and it will no doubt get stuck in your head. But it really doesn’t do much to prove that Gaga has any new tricks up her sleeve to take the world by storm with Born This Way.
Ultimately, “Judas” feels like an artist retreading past material. Which is a shame – coming from an artist who is always being praised for being “creative” and “original,” the song relies too heavily on past ideas. Bonus points for the hard hitting beat (which might be one of the heaviest songs she has done to date) and the provocative lyrics (probably her most fun song to analyze lyrically so far). As a pop song, it’s catchy, and I doubt most will look beyond that or will care about the song’s glaring flaws. But part of Gaga’s appeal is that she isn’t just a run-of-the-mill mainstream pop star, she’s an artist. And in that sense, it’s a disappointment. Overall on a creative level, it falls short and unintentionally lives up to its name.