You’ve no doubt heard this already: Lady Gaga’s new single, “Born This Way,” sounds more than a little bit like Madonna’s “Express Yourself.” But given that Madge’s vocals have rarely sounded as rich and soulful than they do on that song, this will probably be one of the few times Gaga’s voice sounds like her idol’s. Hey, hey, hey.
“I consider myself to have one of the greatest voices in the industry. I consider myself to be one of the greatest songwriters,” Gaga says in the latest issue of Vogue. This is, perhaps, the only area where she strays from the template designed by Madonna, who has often said that she’s more interested in provoking thought and empowering people than with attaining technical perfection. But as ever, where the Queen of Pop’s messages have typically originated from a distinctly female perspective (and then been applied to or adopted by other minority groups, most famously the gay community), Gaga goes straight to the source—despite a “Vogue”-style rap that also makes reference to race and the disabled. Machine’s “There But for the Grace of God Go I” meets Glee.
“Born This Way” is an unapologetically queer anthem, one you can already bet will be pumping from floats up and down every gay pride parade from San Francisco to Berlin this summer. It’s also hard not to imagine the track playing as the cheesy opening theme to some kooky family sitcom about a brood of dysfunctional misfits. The lyrics, widely snickered at online when Gaga leaked them late last month, work better in this catchy, disco-trash context, but “Born This Way” is still dripping with schmaltz.
In a savvy move, Gaga premiered the single at six a.m. this morning so that all of her “little monsters” could hear it before crawling out of their dens and putting on their armor for another day of battle. In the Vogue piece, Gaga says she doesn’t want them to see her as “human,” as if that would break some sacred monster bond. But to that point, “Born This Way” isn’t about her emotions, or what she’s going through. It’s about her fans. Which raises the question: When the adoration fades, which it inevitably will, what’s going to fuel her? Gaga has set up a creative apparatus that’s inherently designed to break down. Until then, though, there’s a sense, listening to the song, that Gaga has tapped into something truly special, maybe even important. The song’s message is certainly one that the world’s youth needs to hear now more than ever. And I can’t think of a better messenger.