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)