So I actually am terribly conflicted about writing this blog, mostly because it disagrees with the opinions of many people I admire and adore, but in the same respect, when a topic like "Born This Way" get's buzzing around my head, I find it difficult to concentrate until I clearly express myself and EQ has always been my platform for self-expression, so at the risk of dividing opinion amongst those I adore and respect, I will write this blog anyways. Twitter and it's 140 character limit would never allow me to clearly express how I feel, so my opinion is being laid out here if you care to read.
First thing you should know about me. I am an equality enthusiast. I grew up in a small and somewhat racist town in Northwest America in the 80s and as the "oriental gay boy" living in a white family, I often felt the pains of racism against my fellow asian-american citizens and the few african-american, latin-american and immigrant citizens who, at the time, made up about 10% of my town's small population. Hardly an unfamiliar story I know but it's what I was born into.
Often at times, music was my only solace in the world. I got it from my asian father who lived 40 miles away in a medium-sized town in Washington. Although my visits to my father were very controlled, I did actually get to soak in the latest music from Madonna, The Police, Duran Duran, Sade, Tina Turner and Robert Palmer every time I visited him. The one thing I will always remember about him was this wise saying –
"When the world becomes too much to handle, just strap on your headphones and listen to Madonna."
That was probably the wisest thing he ever told me. Silly I know, but I carry that notion with me throughout life now.
Let it be known, I'm a huge Madonna fan. I've spent way more money on her in my life than any other artist in my vast music collection. I got all the imports, I went to every tour (outside "The Girlie Show" cuz well, those tour dates never made it even remotely close to anywhere I was at the time) and she's the only artist that was truly relevant to me all throughout the 80s and 90s. You wanna see a smile on my face? Just put on "Into The Groove" and I will forget about anything and everything. Madonna's music is like a drug that I keep well stocked up on.
Let's face it though. Today, Lady Gaga is the new Madonna – well at least for me she is. I've always viewed her as an extension of Madonna's incredible pop legacy. We need powerful and real wonderful women in entertainment like both of them. It's preposterous to me to think that Stan Wars erupt left, right and center when it comes to Lady Gaga vs. Madonna. And often at times, it doesn't stop there, it's Lady Gaga vs. Britney, or Lady Gaga vs. Christina Aguilera or Lady Gaga vs. Beyonce. Enough with the madness I say. She's Lady Gaga and she's brilliant. Both Gaga and Madonna are fans of each other's work – this has been well publicized to say the least. I am just thankful that both can exist in the same world as they are both ambassadors of POP and for people like me, I need POP to survive. Thank you Gaga and Madonna for proudly waving the POP flag.
So yesterday, Lady Gaga releases her new single "Born This Way" into the world to an over-excitable and unbelievable amount of hype. Within 24 hours the single shoots to the top of the iTunes charts in 23 countries. What an amazing feat! Surely the song will be up for debate. What surprised me the most though was that the whole "OMG she borrowed bits from Madonna's "Express Yourself" totally overshadowed the fact that we had just witnessed the birth of one of the biggest EQUALITY anthems in decades. A lot of gays across the world seemed to be way too caught up in the fact that Gaga was borrowing from Madonna instead of applauding the fact that "Born This Way" was written about us- straights, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people overcoming prejudice and turmoil.
But on the other side of the coin, many were also saying the song well – it plain sucks. Never mind the lyrical content, the production and structure didn't live up to the hype. And well, if you think that, that's totally justifiable. I wasn't necessarily going crazy over Britney's "Hold It Against Me" but that's really more to due to personal taste. If Britney's message in her new track were about equality and changing the world, I may have liked it more. But it's just another Britney song to me – I don't identify with it.
For me, when music has a message, it packs more of a punch. I guess that's why I really like artists like Scissor Sisters, MEN and Adam Lambert. It's not necessarily because they are the greatest musicians that ever lived, but the message they bring along with their music is what makes them heroes in my eyes. And it's these pioneers like Lady Gaga who are willing to put their balls on the line and sing songs about equality which bravely reference all sexualities in a clever and totally mainstream pop environment. She has the power to reach so many people worldwide and that's what should be applauded here. Her word is more influential to young people than Obama's or Simon Cowell combined.
We have a long way to go in the war against inequality, and I'll be the first to admit, I definitely get heated when that war extends into pop music (ie: G-A-Y's door policy / Ricky Martin's coming out). But in the end of the day, I think for anyone whose felt the pain of inequality, we should support the message that Lady Gaga is trying to send out. It's impossible for her to live up to the amount of hype WE place on her these days. No one could. Not even Madonna.
Let's just put it this way, if you think "Born This Way" sucks – fine. But I think Lady Gaga didn't get enough credit for what she tried to do yesterday for the war against inequality. If Madonna is really bothered about Gaga's nods to "Express Yourself" there will be a lawsuit for sure trust me. If Gaga did it out of malicious intent, then she deserves to be sued. But let us not forget that Madonna has done exactly the same in songs like "Hung Up" to ABBA, "Future Lovers" to Donna Summer and every other genre and cover song she's borrowed from in-between over the years. Do you honesty think Madonna didn't know about this? I highly doubt it. I think both of them are quite happy with what happened yesterday with "Born This Way".
People are talking, attitudes are changing and in some small way, the war against inequality is getting better. All I can say is "thank you" to Madonna and Lady Gaga - your vision and execution for a better world is what keeps you at the forefront of pop royalty.