Lady Gaga hatches new album, to mixed reviews

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The Independent Culture

Pop provocateur Lady Gaga unveils her second full-length album this week, three years after taking the music world by storm - but while sales will likely be huge, early reviews are mixed.

True to her social media-friendly form, the 25-year-old is releasing "Born this Way" in unconventional style by posting some songs on online social game Farmville ahead of Monday's launch, as well as other singles already issued.

The title track was released in February, shortly before Gaga - real name Joanne Angelina Germanotta - caused a storm by turning up inside a giant translucent egg at the music industry's annual Grammys awards show.

"I want to celebrate and share 'Born This Way' with my little monsters in a special way that's never been done before," Gaga said of the release of excerpts on her in-game "GagaVille" farm last week.

Her "little monsters" are the legions of fans who worship the star, whose hit singles from her first album, 2008's "The Fame," included "Bad Romance," "Paparazzi" and "Poker Face."

Gaga has sold over 15 million albums and 51 million singles worldwide, won five Grammys and was included in Time's list of the most influential people and the top 10 of Forbes' world's "100 Most Powerful Women," her website says.

Compared by some to chameleon-like pop legends David Bowie and Madonna, she has rocketed into the pop stratosphere despite only having made one full-length album, "The Fame" in 2008, followed by 2009's eight-track "The Fame Monster."

So the spotlight on her new record is intense.

But despite a massive publicity blitz and the likelihood that her fans will buy it in massive numbers whatever critics say, pre-release reviews have been decidedly mixed.

Britain's Guardian gave it four out of five stars, lauding Gaga as "the most exciting, confounding and mind-bogglingly creative artist on planet pop," while MTV talked about the album's 14 "darkly sumptuous tracks."

But Entertainment Weekly, noting that the album has leaked online already, called in "an inconsistent blend of icy techno-pop and greeting-card empowerment that's more a triumph of production than songwriting."

The LA Times sniffed: "Say what you want about Lady Gaga, but nuance is not one of her strong points, nor is musical adventure. She's unsubtle in her message, unsubtle in her dress, and most important unsubtle aesthetically."

The New York-born star's ability to drive fans into a frenzy is already legendary, helped by her being a leader of the first generation of stars to use social media to connect with her audience.

Last week she became the first person with more than 10 million followers on Twitter, while she was the first artist to top a billion views on video sharing website YouTube.

The singer has quickly become part of the pop star firmament: in April Elton John revealed that he and his partner David Furnish had chosen Lady Gaga to be their newborn baby boy's godmother.

She has also made waves on political issues: in November she used her celebrity platform to press for repeal of a US law forbidding gays from serving openly in the military.

But for all her ubiquity, critics say she should focus on the music.

"If Gaga had only spent as much time on pushing musical boundaries as she has social ones, 'Born This Way' would have been a lot more successful," said the LA Times.

The Washington Post's reviewer was more blunt, lamenting: "Whether by fluke, curse or cosmic coinky-dink, Lady Gaga's new music is everything that she's not. It's boring."

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