#1. “The Edge of Glory”
Sounds Like: Born This Way‘s victory lap: a thousand ’80s anthems’ worth of drama, Gaga’s best vocals yet and Clarence Clemons’s glorious saxophone coming together to create something absolutely monstrous.
Pros: When “The Edge of Glory” dropped, we called it one of the best pop songs of the year, and we will defend that again today to anyone who disagrees. It’s easy to write an anthem–we’re pretty sure Max Martin alone has about 20 of them sitting on his hard drive–but it takes skill to go this high up the emotional scale without tottering off the peak. The choruses don’t have an inch of space or sound to spare. If the lyrics got any more portentous, they’d sound computer-generated. And the amount of time Gaga devotes to the bridge would be ludicrous were it not a showcase for Clemons’ sax, the deadliest, most unexpected weapon in Gaga’s pop arsenal. Those synth-violin fanfares alongside him aren’t just decoration; they’re earned.
But we knew that already. What brings “The Edge of Glory” to #1 is how well it holds up in context. Everything we’ve heard of Born This Way has been so snippetized and previewed and promoted past hell that it’s easy to forget that it’s an album, one that’s supposed to be at least somewhat coherent. “The Edge of Glory” is the last track, and it crowns everything that comes before: the yearnings of “Marry the Night” and “You and I,” the bumper-sticker mottos of “Born This Way” and “Bad Kids,” the politics of “Americano,” the religion of “Electric Chapel” and the scope of just about everything. We couldn’t ask for a better conclusion.
Yearbook Lyric: What else: “I’m on the edge of glory, and I’m hanging on a moment with you.”
Gaga Hashtags: Saxophone, Pat Benatar, the word “tonight,” freedom.