The Problem With... Lady Gaga's "Born This Way"

For every good idea that Lady Gaga has, she also has a bad one. Bad enough, even, to make you reconsider how good the original idea was in the first place.

This even applies to her image. Hey, I'm all for creating fantastical characters -- they're inseparable with popular music culture, from Bob Dylan to Ziggy Stardust -- so Gaga's over-the-top persona is, mostly, a welcome thing. Even if all that she's actually offering is a transparent mash-up of Marilyn Manson, Madonna and Bjork.

Maybe it's original. Maybe it isn't.

But, as anyone who has heard Gaga's latest single, "Born This Way," knows, her disco remix of Madonna's "Express Yourself" is about as unoriginal as Gaga gets.

Sorry, folks, but I'm gonna have to get all Level 9 drag with a +2 heavy blade on this one.

Let's start with the good. For starters: How about that disco beat!

And, uh, that's about it.

Unfortunately, that might be be enough to satisfy Gaga's established demographic. But lyricism matters, too. Gaga once said she wrote the words for this song in 10 minutes and, let's face it, it's pretty obvious when you hear generic lines like "We are all born superstars" and "I'm on the right track, baby." Her choice of words in the breakdown is also pretty sloppy, doling out labels for people who may want to express themselves beyond said labels.

But who uses the word "Orient" anymore? Takes me back to subjugation under the British.

The aim here, obviously, is to exalt Gaga's audience across the board. But the messages are mixed. Is Gaga telling her listeners that they should be happy with themselves as they are upon birth? Or is she telling them to change and express their "true" characters?

I'm not really sure. We all know that there's room in life to occupy different identities without hiding oneself or living in delusions. All we ask is that, whether the role is original or a tribute, you put some effort into the concept and execution. In other words: A tiara from Hot Topic does not a princess make.

Which is fitting -- because "Born this Way" needs more than a tiara. It needs a makeover.

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you know...generally speaking, I really like Lady Gaga. her aesthetic is always interesting and her songs are catchy and fun. However, this current sound and look with the Born This Way single is just completely unappealing, from her weird face and shoulder prosthetics and bad make-up to the lazy song and lyrics itself.

Born This Way made the biggest pop music sin of's just boring. It's so processed to be a gay anthem that it hits every stereotypical note we've all heard before, like to the point of being patronizing.

I don't think it's going to be a fatal mistake for Lady Gaga, and maybe the music video will pull everything together, but this song was definitely a big misstep.

Duffy George
Duffy George

Ga Ga exploits gay people the same way Anne Geddes exploits small naked children... Both are just wrong and they both should be punished... Please, Please, Please let this be the last of Ga Ga's 15 mins of fame...


This song is just not good. Wholly unoriginal beat/melody/sample (whatever you call this), poorly or lazily written lyrics. But as long as it's a hit, who cares, right? Wrong. Pop music is a major part of our cultural output. It is a reflection of what we value as a society. If we're content with "just good enough" or "catchy", what does that say about what we expect of ourselves in other aspects of our lives? Furthermore, if Ms. Gaga really cares about what she's writing about, doesn't it deserve more that 10 MINUTES of thought and consideration?

Maybe it's time we start expecting a little bit more from ourselves, each other and our artists.


Well, the idea of reinventing yourself to be your "true" self is a big part of the gay identity, and that's where Gaga comes from, and it's where her base of fans are. The song is obviously a gay anthem. You have to look at in that context, and the rules are different.

Now you're also correct. It's a contradiction to say you were born this way and to then reinvent yourself, you know, adopting this completely different fake persona. It seems completely artificial. True. It's an embrace of artificiality, but it's also blurring the lines between artifice and authenticity! So when you come out of the closet (what do you think that egg was all about?), you're embracing a construction but also expressing who you *really* are. It's like the duality of the human condition, or... something. It's also a recognition that we're all performers -- we were all born superstars. We're *all* actors, and even what constitutes behaving in a "natural" way is itself just a performance, like a peacock's feathers. We were born to be performers, and that's entirely natural and who we are.

Confused? It's a bit of a philosophical argument, but it shouldn't be that maddening. Drag queens tend to understand this better than anyone because they're constantly blurring these distinctions. The lyrics are a bit shallow but it's pop music. It's not supposed to be high poetry, and that's OK.


I've read a lot about members of the gay community being fairly offended by this, equating it with some white guy making "THE african-amercan anthem!".


To add to this, I'd ask to look at your own public persona and private persona and think about it seriously. We all "act" in our public lives in ways that are different from who we "really" are -- but it's still us. The distinction between being born in a certain way and adopting artificial identities become very blurry indeed.

Another thing is that it's a bit of bad faith to criticize pop music for being unoriginal. A lot of these other acts like Madonna, Manson, Ziggy Stardust, etc. were themselves rip-offs of other acts. Manson with Alice Cooper and Nine Inch Nails. Bowie cheesed off the glam rock culture in a big way. Madonna was a reinvention of Marilyn Monroe. And all art, film, music, works in this way.

But they made it their own, and Gaga does too. And pop music is collective experience. It's supposed to appeal to mass audiences, so it can't be too complex because everyone has to be on the same page, dancing to same beat, and so on. And watch it turn into a huge hit!

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