Saturday, February 12, 2011

This is why the Gaga song is crap also why it is amazing

I enjoy the new Lady Gaga track
Yesterday Egyptian Presi-dictator Hosni Mubarek finally stepped down following 18 days of mass uprisings among his people.  Conveniently for him, this happened just moments after the new Lady Gaga single debuted worldwide, so ABSOLUTELY NO ONE NOTICED.

The Gaga track we are referring to, in case you have been in some sort of isolation for the last few months, is called 'Born This Way,' and is all about how no matter how messed up you are it is FINE because you were BORN THAT WAY. 

Off the bat you might notice a problem, as this particular philosophy would allow the Hosni Mubareks of the world to just say "oh I was born this way so you have to deal with my executions and intimidation," but whatever, that's a whole other thing and just illustrates one of our pet peeves about Gaga's 'BE WHO YOU ARE NO MATTER HOW SELFISH AND TWATTISH IT IS' campaign, and it really is best we leave that conversation for another time when we all are drunk.  So to smooth things along let's just all agree to realize that what Lady Gaga is REALLY saying is "you're fine because you were born this way, as long as you fall within my own particular view of social norms and don't eat children or something and also are not Republican or terribly religious." 

So great, the message is super empowering and gay-friendly.  "But what about the music?" you all cry.  Well the easy answer is that it is VERY GOOD but unfortunately there is a giant asterisk after that statement. 

A giant asterisk

See, you might have noticed in the hours since the track's debut that much ink has been spilled over how the song contains the exact same chord progression and, at some points, melody, as Madonna's 'Express Yourself.'  And don't get us wrong - that was a great song and anything that tips its hat to it is fine by us.  But 'Born' goes so much farther than just a wink and a nod, and therein lies its one terrible flaw.

When the general population over 30 (and gays over about 20) listen to 'Born This Way,' they can't help but hear 'Express Yourself' in their head.  So, fair or not, the track is constantly being mentally compared to a 20-year-old bona fide classic.  Judged on its own, 'Born' is a sleek and powerful jam with a killer hook and even killer-ier verses.  But stacked up against its predecessor it all starts to fall apart: 

First, 'Express Yourself' is so much more clever, lyrically, that it kind of isn't even worth comparing the two.  For instance, the chorus of 'Born' is essentially Lady Gaga saying 'born this way' over and over again to the point it becomes a bit tedious and comes off at least A LITTLE BIT LAZY, while Madonna managed to shove an entire poetic discourse on empowerment into her chorus. (insert joke about Madonna managing to shove a lot of things into...NEVER MIND)

Second, the production on the two couldn't be more different, and again, Gaga's comes out as the definite loser.  Not because it is bad, mind you - the production is actually pretty spectacular.  But, the Lady chose to go the "SOUND OF NOW" route which all too quickly becomes "THE SOUND OF TEN MINUTES AGO" and eventually becomes "THE SOUND OF DATED AND TERRIBLE THINGS."  On the other end of the spectrum we have Madonna, who crafted a track that took a classic sound and molded it to her needs, in the process creating a timeless song that sounds as fresh today as it did in 1989.  It has an old school, organic sound which pretty much will never go out of style - and Madonna certainly knew that.  'Born This Way,' on the other hand, has synths that will sound outdated in 2 years, and production that is gimmicky and will be beat to death by every other artist trying to replicate her success.  Long story short:  'Express Yourself' was timeless, and 'Born This Way' is so of the moment that it's almost frightening.

We really could go on for a while about this, but in the interest of responsible time management - and also not being killed by Gaga's rather terrifying army of obsessive "Monsters," we are going to go ahead and skip to our 2 GIANT CAVEATS that render all of the preceding text essentially pointless:


So amazing that it's actually a shame that it so blatantly conjures up Madonna's track at all, because compared with most of the trash that is on the radio these days it's a giant leap forward.  But, when you're taking on a classic, you'd better make damn sure you improve on it, and this time Gaga just didn't. 

Second: At the end of the day, the musical and lyrical content of 'Born' really isn't even the point.  It's not one of those songs that is supposed to stand the test of time and become a classic for decades to come.  It's a song that is supposed to announce something and make a statement, and in its own tiny way make everything seem just slightly different somehow. 

And that, ScopiSubjects, is where 'Born This Way' triumphs over everything.  Love it or hate it, the instant the track debuted the world turned into an ACTUALLY DIFFERENT PLACE.  It became a world where 'Born This Way' is what everything must sound like.  Where people write articles about whether Gaga ripped off Madonna, or one-upped her, or if the two really are in on it together and are one day going to erupt out of a stage at an awards show and do a mashup of the two tracks and then scissor.  It's a world here producers scramble to figure out just what Gaga's people did to get "that sound," and where we've heard a track that is so of the moment that it actually DEFINES that moment.

And at the end of the day, that's really how 'Born' should be judged.  It did what it came to do, and it did it in style.  Gaga has plenty of time to pull a new classic out of her meat dress, and if history is any indication, we're pretty sure she's not going to have any problem doing it.  But for now we can sit back, enjoy a QUITE-ABOVE-AVERAGE rip off of 'Express Yourself,' and rest soundly in the knowledge that somewhere on the tip of the Sinai Peninsula, Ex-President Hosni Mubarek is sitting in a Barcalounger, surrounded by guards, popping in his iPod earphones and singing softly to himself:

"I was born this way."