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Gay, Gossip, Lady GaGa, Madonna, Music, Uncategorized

Is GaGa really trying to ‘Express herself’?

So first off, I believe an apology is required; I haven’t blogged in weeks. Months even. Why? Well, I’ve been busy. Sometimes life gets in the way.

On the other hand, a break is good for the soul and I have a theory that it’s a bit like not going to the gym for a while: it’s good to do something different until you actively want to do it again, rather than doing it out of routine.

And so to Lady GaGa. In case you’re living on the moon (or not gay), GaGa released her new track this week – Born This Way. You can hear it here.

Obviously it sent the twitter generation into a feeding frenzy, both during the run up to it’s release and for 48 hours afterwards (and it’s still going on, depending on who you follow).

Part of the frenzy was the immediate ‘controversy’ that emerged; the track quickly received a barrage of comparisons to some of Madonna’s most famous tracks, namely Express Yourself and Vogue (but mostly the former). It seemed that this was such an obvious comparison for so many people that Express Yourself very quickly became a trending topic (for which I’m sure Madonna is quite thankful: Nothing like a good ol’ comparison to GaGa to make sure the new generation of pop wannabe’s don’t forget you.)

So is it worth the comparison? Well, frankly, yes it is. At first I couldn’t hear it, but after one or two listens you can hear the similarities; not only in the production of the track, but also in it’s central message which can essentially be summarized as “It’s OK to be you,”.

This isn’t a mile away from what Madonna’s been saying her entire career – go get what you want, because (to use that awful phrase) you deserve it. Whilst on the surface Madonna’s Express Yourself seemed to be about making sure your man treats you right, as so often with Madonna’s lyrics, it goes a bit deeper than that: Express Yourself told every teenager listening in 1989 that no matter who you are, you should shout for what you want – otherwise you won’t get it.

Seeing GaGa take such a stand seems a little lazy. At her concert (which was awesome) she spoke quite a bit about being the freak at school (“Wonder what they think of me now,” she quipped to thunderous applause) and all her ‘little monsters’ in the crowd knew where she was coming from. We’ve all been there right? Freaks are us.

But when I heard a few months weeks ago that her new track was to be called Born This Way I was neither surprised nor intrigued, although I was a little disappointed. Ah, I thought, she’s written a track which will basically state it’s OK to be the freak, the odd one out, the one that doesn’t belong. Which is fine. But it’s not an evolution. It’s not even a step forward for GaGa.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but let me explain: When she first released her album The Fame, I gave it one quick listen and dismissed it as Madonna-wannabe manufactured pop rubbish. But then came along Bad Romance which is not only an absolutely brilliant pop song, but one which is seriously original. And whilst the lyrics might be completely bonkers, they also make quite a bit of sense – no logic, but oodles of truth. And it was good enough to make me buy the re-packaged and extended Fame Monster album, the first 8 tracks of which, I must confess, are all utterly brilliant. They’re the kind of songs most other pop stars dream of having on their albums.

And it’s not just the tunes, it’s the lyrics. “He ate my heart” = awesome. “Take a bite of my bad girl meat – show me your teeth” awesome, awesome, awesome. I could go on, but I won’t (not enough time).

It’s hard to imagine even Madonna coming up with lyrics like that. Whereas you can imagine Madonna trying as hard as possible to be edgy with her words, you get the impression that GaGa just blurted these out whilst banging furiously away on her keyboard. And that’s why we like GaGa: she’s doing what Madonna did, but she’s doing it with sincerity and more than just a splash of natural musicality.

And that’s why Born This Way is a bit of a disappointed. It’s too obvious. Too easy. It’s too much like a politician championing a cause to win the most votes.

And call me cynical, but too much like a clever marketing strategy…  Like she’s trying to be the Glorious Leader to all those freaks out there who feel like they don’t belong. There’s a lot of them (anyone between 13 – 18, for a start) and they’re gonna love anyone who tells them it’s OK to be them.

On the other hand, maybe I’m too cynical for my own good. Must admit I cracked a genuine smile at these lyrics:

Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
‘Cause baby you were born this way
No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life
I’m on the right track baby
I was born to survive
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made
I’m on the right track baby
I was born to be brave

If GaGa is to some of today’s kids what Madonna was to me when I was 11, 12, 13 etc, then the above is a damn fine sentiment to be drumming into their heads. And whilst we’re living in a world where American teenagers have been killing themselves because of bullying -particularly over their sexuality- then the above lyrics are more than welcome.

Not that that’s why she would’ve decided to write these lyrics now… would she? Ah, there I go again. Cynical, cynical…

Anyway, run along now you little monsters. But remember: Express yourself (don’t repress yourself)




8 thoughts on “Is GaGa really trying to ‘Express herself’?

  1. Great little synopsis and your take on the single… I have only listened to it once last night in the Kazbar… it is great from what I heard !!

    Oh and lovely to read a blog which is not self indulgent like so many blogs we read these days 🙂

    Well done Jimbo!!

    Posted by Simon | February 13, 2011, 8:41 pm
  2. I always thought the lyrics to Express Yourself were contradictory. On the one hand, she sings about being strong and independent (“You don’t need diamond rings or 18ct gold…”). But what you do need is a “big strong hand to lift you to your higher ground”.

    Jesus, I can believe I’m analysing Madonna’s lyrics, lol.

    Posted by James McCoy | February 13, 2011, 8:45 pm
  3. I meant I can’t believe I’m analysing Madonna’s lyrics…

    Posted by James McCoy | February 13, 2011, 8:46 pm
  4. I think potentially the most scandalous thing about this blog is the amount of time you have given to Gaga. Yes pop is fun to dance around to, yes I’ll sing along if its blaring out of car radio, but you show quite clearly how derivative this particular cultural expression is, you also mark out how reactive Gaga is being in the sentiment of her lead single.

    Firstly the track is entirely reactive, shes positioned herself as the champion of the freaks already with her ‘little monsters’ so pulling them overground kills what was special about her, I have a terrifying feeling that the video may be an utter shocking mess after the crazy/brilliant examples of the Fame&Fame Monster campaigns. Her whole ‘Be who you are!” sentiments have been done before as you note.

    Secondly, in terms of musicality Born This Way sits right over the top of Express Yourself, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u48oWMGZR3E which is notable because the Artists are chasing the same demographic a generation apart, problem is one of them hasn’t realised its time to quit, (hint, its not the younger one). This doesn’t really bother me since in artistic terms people are constantly reinventing the wheel, and especially in a form as limited as pop there are very few ways to push the medium forward, its a very strict discipline in terms of what the companies will push and also what the audience will accept. I remember working on a TV show that used Whitneys ‘One Moment In Time’ on the broadcast edition that was fine for copyright owing to the blanket deal they had, but for the DVD they had to seek a special permission and the advice was don’t bother, Whitney was so cracked out in 2003, they’d never get an answer so pick another track. They used a Kenny Rogers/Sheena Easton track ‘We’ve got Tonight’ which was easy to clear and pay for, but more importantly it followed a really similar structure to the whitney track and musically for the sequence it followed (Pop Idol, 100 get cut down to 50 show, ie half get booted off) the big emotional ups and downs were complemented by the ups and downs on the track easily. Theres a website devoted to ‘truckers gear change’ which shows the moment in power ballads when fat white guys in caps shift hit the gas and shift down to their highest gear, and for the avoidance of doubt TGC usually a big key change upwards, it can best be described as that moment when Westlife get up off their stools.

    I appreciate that in pop, things do move onwards and upwards, and Gaga has been spearheading a massive shake-up, but that said if this is indicative of the album, it could be a bit of a clunker.

    My final point on this area is actually less related to the topic, but more related to the blogger, its lovely to see you come back and say something, it continues to have your highly entertaining style, the form is wonderful and I want more, but the content is for me this time, sadly lacking. I love the way you write, and I love what you have to say generally, but I wonder how relevant this is to you, and your life. Does a 24 year old pop-star thats addressing a 13-18 year old audience actually have any relevance to a 32 year old educated, intelligent man? In a week when a 30 year old dictatorship has been toppled in Egypt, our own Government is being exposed (again) as fundamentally selfish and self serving (Michael Gove being ruled a cunt…I shorthanded it, but thats essentially the story) or even the more trivial news like the Baftas and gay marriage in church your pontification on a popstars apparent death in creative terms feels willowy to the point of dandelion spores dancing on the wind.

    Frankly I thought Gaga was better than this, and I know you are. Could try harder, to both of you.

    Posted by Danboy | February 13, 2011, 11:28 pm
    • “Could try harder” ?! What are you, my fifth grade teacher???
      patronizing little sod. it’s my blog, i’ll blog about what i want.
      Next week: Kerry Katona’s weight loss / gain / loss / gain.

      Posted by JamesMW78 | February 14, 2011, 7:43 am
  5. Also…who is that Thai Post-Op Hooker sat to the left of the fat black guy in that picture please?

    Posted by Danboy | February 13, 2011, 11:31 pm
  6. I’m very shallow so I love the song! Even with it’s heavy borrowings from La Madge.

    Love the blog too – was only thinking the other day that you hadn’t done anything in a while.

    Posted by Steph | February 14, 2011, 11:28 am
  7. Apparently shes coming to the Brits as a piece of white toast, shes slowly ticking off the constituent parts of the full english brekkie.

    Posted by Danboy | February 14, 2011, 12:53 pm

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