She expressed herself with the baptismal “Born This Way,” but Lady Gaga saved her prayers—or something like them—for the urgent follow-up, “Judas.” Slated to be released at the beginning of Holy Week (before a leaked snippet ostensibly forced a slightly early debut), Gaga’s “Judas” spins a satyrical tale of history’s worst romance, plotted with heavy, foreboding beats. Though she gives Jesus a shout out as her “virtue,” Gaga’s Mary Magdalene sock puppet keeps sidelining Our Savior in favor of history’s greatest scapegoat, whose dark destiny fuels her desire for self-fulfilling, star-crossed prophecy. “In the most bibilical sense, I am beyond repentance,” she admits, but the recrudescent exclamatory bullet points peppered throughout the chorus (“Ju-DAH, Ju-duh-AH-AH, Ju-DAH, Ju-DAH, GA-GA!”) suggest Gaga’s not actively seeking redemption either. The whole production bears more than just a passing resemblance to “Bad Romance,” and in this case, it feels like a willful resurrection. Happy Easter, Roma-ma!
The connection and deviation from her previous single couldn’t be more pronounced. Musically, “Judas” is pitched at about the same glitter-jackhammer level as “Born This Way,” though the big anthemic chords are almost inverted—not unlike Inner City’s “Big Fun” vs. “Good Life.” It’s a good twin, evil twin thing. “Born This Way” was a utopian alternate Pan(sexual)gea whose euphoric chords posited something greater than heaven, a little slice of acceptance in the Kingdom of the Now, in direct opposition to the enemy’s promise of a miserable life on the off chance for a reward in the Kingdom of the Not Yet. “Judas” is a disturbed vision of a hell that—what do you know—ain’t so bad after all. In a warped sense, it’s the new single that seems more forward-thinking, though the message is certainly a great deal more muddled than the “gay = great” equation at the heart of “Born This Way.” “In the cultural sense, I just speak in future tense,” she chants. NostraGagas says buy stock in “ear condoms” with great haste.
Incidentally, if the ersatz sensuality in the song’s lyrics seems overly conceptual and not especially convincing, it may be that “Judas” confirms Gaga’s latent, strident asexuality. Ever since her admission of celibacy last year, I can’t stop seeing and hearing everything she does through the lens of our shared embrace of that chestnut: “It’s complicated.” Gaga is poz on sexuality, not sex itself. And, with “Judas,” she takes dry humping into the realm of the theoretical.
But the entire concept sort of raises the question: What does Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (S-JAG) seek to gain from this bad religion? To comment on it? To exploit it? To undercut it? No doubt a number of her little monsters, having freshly temporary-tattooed “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen” on their tramp-stamp/cum-puddle zones, might take exception with Gaga’s decision to extend her excursion into Madgeland with a day trip into the Queen of Pop’s complicated relationship with God. To read her bibilical parable as a simple endorsement of the Holy Gospel is simplistic, and misses the central point: that Gaga’s heart belongs to the Good Book’s bad guys. In entangling herself with the legacy of the man who, depending on how you look at it, either condemned God’s incarnation to agonizing death or set into motion the apparatus that redeemed all of humanity, Gaga’s self-described “holy fool” flips one of the Christian right’s most arrogantly passive-aggressive catchphrases: The chorus of “Judas” may as well be “Love the sinner, love the sin.”