Lady Gaga’s career has certainly had its share of what-the-fuck situations, from the meat dress and the boots that caused the infamous airport tumble to the amazingly morose “Bad Romance” video and her welcome political stump speeches. Even when they’ve been obvious stunts, those moments have felt very much of a whole, or instances with purpose from an artist with some bold if occasionally ridiculous ideas for making statements.
That’s why “The Edge of Glory,” the Born This Way tease released today, feels awfully disappointing: A disco thumper undergirded by interesting sample manipulation and beat-to-beat synthesizer attack, Gaga handles “The Edge of Glory” as if she’s reading a script. She tries hard to toe the line between sexual innuendo (this baby she’s taken home as her on the “edge” of “glory”) and a 60 Minutes-profiled motivational speaker (this beat’s built for pumping fists, after all); she mostly trips over that line, delivering a song that falls flat. In lieu of Gaga’s typical stylistic provocation, Clarence Clemons instead offers a saxophone solo that, musically, sounds like ClipArt. It’s as if, all at once, she’s going for the shout-along kids, the hipsters newly in love with saxophones, and the parents for whom the saxophone never fell out of favor. Maybe that’s why “The Edge of Glory,” a track that’s good enough for some Top 40 newbie and not Lady Gaga, sounds stilted and ham-fisted. I wanted to love this collaboration, but–truth is–I don’t.