Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Born This Way - The Verdict

A lot of people have been asking what I think of "Born This Way" and, to be honest, at first I wasn't 100 percent sure. I freely admit to suffering from a bad case of Gaga fatigue and didn't want to write the song off prematurely - only to sing its praises in a couple of weeks. But the lead single from the fame monster's third album has finally started to sink in and I kind of wish it hadn't. As much as I enjoy taking the piss out of her and wish she would go into hibernation for a couple of years, it's impossible to deny Lady Gaga's talent. Her first two albums will be looked back on as milestones in popular music and you only have to turn on MTV to see the extent of her influence on other artists. Along with Justin Bieber, she is the closest thing we have to a phenomenon and - for that reason alone - I want her to keep delivering the goods. But "Born This Way" just doesn't cut it and not for the reasons I keep reading on other blogs. Here are my two cents on Lady Gaga's first real misfire.

The Good

I'm not sure if this really belongs in the 'good' category but I really don't give a fuck about the Madonna comparisons. Her trolls will swear black and blue that Madge did everything first - from discovering fire to inventing the wheel - so please take the plagiarism accusations with a grain of salt. It's also particularly ironic that "Born This Way" is being compared to "Express Yourself" because, as other pre-historic gays might remember, that song was accused of ripping of Sly & The Family Stone's entire back catalogue when it was released in 1989. My point is that no one has done anything remotely original since the 80s - besides Ke$ha and Bey. Seriously, half the time I can't tell the difference between Jay Sean, Taio Cruz and Jason DeRulo when they come on the radio and I consider myself a fan of at least two thirds of that trio. Gaga has obviously drawn on 80s pop music for inspiration and probably fell asleep with "The Immaculate Collection" on repeat. So what. At least she didn't steal the song outright, which is more than Madonna can say about "Ray Of Light". The funniest thing about the whole plagiarism scandal is Ryan Tedder coming out from under his rock to put Gaga on blast. Bitch, please. Go and listen to "Halo" and "Already Gone" back to back and write a letter of apology!

Apart from being amused by all the finger pointing by deluded stans, I love that a song by a manufactured pop star (which, like it or not, is exactly what she is) has the power to captivate and polarise music fans to such a extent. I haven't seen this kind of mayhem since the glory days of the Spice Girls. Everyone has an opinion on "Born This Way" and they are not afraid to share it. Happily, the huge interest surrounding the song is actually translating into sales. Despite all the criticism and almost fanatical hate, "Born This Way" is already the fastest selling song of all time on iTunes and has demolished all radio airplay records in the US. The much touted diva battle between Lady Gaga and Britney Spears was settled in a first round KO. If there was any doubt who reigns supreme on the American dance-pop scene, the debate is now over. That doesn't make "Express Yourself 2" (sorry, couldn't help myself) a great record - it just makes it relevant and genuinely popular.

Last but definitely not least, millions of children around the world will be walking around the playground singing "don't be a drag, just be a queen" and asking their parents what a "transgendered life" means. That alone is almost - but sadly not quite - enough to make me love this hot mess.

The Bad

Now for the bad. Firstly, I just don't think "Born This Way" works. The dubious lyrics (which I'll get to in a moment) are clunky, the chorus lacks bite and Fernando Garibay's 80s inspired production sounds like it was lifted from Kelly Llorenna's genre defining debut/greatest hits album. How can you go from the pure pop explosion of "Just Dance" or the spine tingling menace of "Bad Romance" to a song that Dana International would turn down for being too dated and cheap? I'm excited that Gaga has mixed things up and explored a new sound but you can't claim to be music's greatest songwriter and leading pioneer and then regurgitate all that went before you without turning it into something new or at least giving it your own spin. To my ears "Born This Way" is the result of Lady Gaga either smoking way too much crack or being surrounded by too many yes men who tell her she's creating art every time she farts. Her monsters clearly don't care - given the sky high sales figures - but I have a bad feeling this could be the beginning of a major backlash if the rest of the album isn't significantly better.

Now for the dealbreaker. As a card carrying gay man, I find "Born This Way" borderline offensive. Lady Gaga wants us to know she has our back. That it's ok to be a big old poof. That we're all fabulous. I want her to know that I couldn't give a fuck about her condescending acceptance of my lifestyle. I just need Julia Gillard to sign a piece of legislation and I'm good. When will straight people stop equating gays with landmine victims and Kurdish refugees? I'm not anybody's cause. I could take this kind of pep talk from Rufus Wainwright or K.D. Lang but Lady Gaga should be writing songs that cheer up 24 year olds who look 47 instead of fighting my battles for me. That might sound ungrateful but there is nothing about this song that makes me feel better about myself. Ke$ha and Katy Perry recently tackled similar themes on "We R Who We R" and "Firework" but made their songs inclusive so everyone - regardless of age, sexuality or appearance - can identify without feeling like an outcast or charity case. That is the magic of those tracks and the reason why they will live on as real gay anthems. There is nothing uplifting about "Born This Way". Sure, it might be camp as Kylie's dildo but much like that piece of plastic - it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

The Verdict

Lady Gaga's supposed gay anthem makes me want to delete all the gay porn from my computer, enter into a sham marriage and dedicate the rest of my life to finding a cure for homosexuality.



Anonymous said...

DEATH @ the last paragraph

Diva Incarnate said...

The tune and production are more crammed than an airtight prozzy in Iraq, but it's like she is too embarassed to embrace what her music actually is. "Don't be a drag, be a queen" - what use is that?

And Mike, how dare you drag Dana International's hairy ass into this. Love Boy was like a kinkier Fever era Kylie song, but actually good.

It's phoney, but I do like the noise of it all... (6/10 for me).

Calen said...

"Lady Gaga's supposed gay anthem that makes me want to delete all the gay porn from my computer, enter into a sham marriage and dedicate the rest of my life hunting for a cure for homosexuality."

I am dying at the poeticness of your words. You are my favorite.

tommie said...

*gets some popcorn and waits for the delusional monsters to discover this*

monsterboy said...

sad! gaga is makinh it ok to b gay! she is the 1st to sing about gays like this u should be shamed!

Natty said...

If you ever want to enter a shame marriage I'm free! Imagine the camptastic babies we'll have. I don't hate BlahBlah, but I don't LOVE her either. And the first time I listened to the song I kept thinking I was mishearing lyrics. OK we get it, you're a gay icon, so are most of the other female popstars out there. I don't see why she felt the need to write a fucking song about it. Just make a killer pop/dance song that people will love.

bomitoni said...

I hope this is the beginning of the end of Lazy Gaga. Bravo Mike! The lyrics are horrid. Albeit catchy. Then again so is everything she does. I'll give her that. But that doesn't mean I have to take it. Not looking forward to hearing this for the next few months at the local gay bar.

Mike said...

Monsterboy - I'm glad BTW makes you feel better about being gay but it has the opposite effect on me.

And LOL at Gordon. I would never diss Dana!!

La Chiquitta said...

"Ke$ha and Katy Perry recently tackled similar themes on "We R Who We R" and "Firework" but made their songs inclusive so everyone - regardless of age, sexuality or appearance - can identify without feeling like an outcast or charity case. That is the magic of those tracks and the reason why they will live on as real gay anthems."

A to all the men! AMEN!

La Chiquitta

Matt said...

i luv u mike! <3

Seth said...

That's why i love you Mike. Flop This Way is a dire piece of shite, it's just a major disappointment compared to the masterpiece that The Fame Monster was. Lady Gaga has risen the bar on how to get mediocre songs up to #1, it's just riding on the hype and people's curiosity, as well as an army of vicious fans that even at their short age are already as deluded as Madonna's fans. I would give this shit 1/10.

Besides Gaga is just ridiculous with her Star Trek villian look.

Justin said...

Most spot on review I've read about it and I agree with you so hard on so many things you said.

Like you said I much prefer QUEEN Ke$ha's take on the same issue. So glad I bought Cannibal/Animal on a whim, I'm now a Ke$ha fan because of it. lol!

babyblue558 said...

Forget about Madonna, the real victim of Gaga's shameless thievery is Mylène Farmer... look here at 1:03 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWFjEUk-foE I think you'll find that the blatant similarities speak for themselves. Well, at least it proves Gaga has better taste than Madonna's music, instead, ripping-off a higher class of ageing diva.

Scott said...

Really effective information, much thanks for the article.
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