Dear Lady Gaga
It’s been more than a year since you released ‘Born This Way’ and I’m still listening to your album. Since my first excited listen I haven’t shaken the belief that this album is representative of almost everything I love about popular music.
Like so much of great popular music, your album reveals its strength in brilliant, seemingly minor details – the slight but strikingly pretty chorus of ‘Judas’; the glitch-y, intoxicating beats of ‘Government Hooker’; the subtle-as-a-sledgehammer opening of ‘Heavy Metal Lover’ (I want your whiskey mouth / All over my blonde south); the swirling synths at the beginning of the title track or the final declamatory minute of ‘Highway Unicorn’. These moments might seem minor in isolation but their cumulative effect is breathtaking.
Thank you for ditching the abstraction of finding happiness through an imagined fame and telling people that real fame is found simply in being yourself (‘baby I was born this way’). Thank you for being unafraid to use your music to repeatedly put the rights of gay people squarely in the political consciousness of Middle America. Is it any surprise Obama has recently put his support behind marriage equality?
Your album didn’t come without criticism and perhaps some of it was the result of hubris – arrogantly trying a little too hard to make a few too many people happy. But at least you were trying. So much of modern music is prefaced on ambivalence and in a society where cynicism seems so ingrained there is something oddly reassuring about someone still caring enough to try.
Maybe ‘Born This Way’ did sound a bit too much like one of Madonna’s songs. But from someone whose career was built on reinvention it did feel a little like the pot calling the kettle derivative. Also, the entire melody of your last relevant song was a sample of a band who made their fame in the 70s. But that is an argument for another day.
In the end, you can put aside the declarations of self-confidence, the inspired political messages, the accusations of plagiarism and I will still be drunkenly dancing to ‘Born This Way’ at 4am having the time of my life.
Lady Gaga, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Even if ‘Born This Way’ is not universally loved, for me the album rightly takes its place as a stunning adornment to the excesses and brilliance of popular music.