Madonna vs. Gaga: Material Girl Mashes Up “Born This Way” + “Express Yourself”
Madonna thinks that Lady Gaga ripped her off—and now she’s done a mash-up to make her point. What do you think? Take a listen and weigh in!
When it debuted last year, Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” became a massive hit. Its success was due as much to its message of tolerance as to fast-paced club style; but at the same time, it also received some pretty hefty criticism for its hodge-podge nature. Specifically, many noted that it sounded rather similar to a lot of hits by an earlier ground-breaking pop star—Madonna. Naturally, this prompted the question: Did Lady Gaga actually go and rip off Madonna?
Madge certainly feels so. Earlier this year, the Material Girl called “Born this Way” “reductive” and addressed the similarities between it and her own song, “Express Yourself”: “I thought, this is a wonderful way to redo my song. I mean, I recognized the chord changes. I thought it was… interesting.” Ouch.
And just in case you didn’t pick up on the similarities yourself, she’s now gone and mashed the two tunes together. This video was taken by a fan while Madonna was rehearsing for her recent Tel Aviv concert, so prepare yourself for some shaky camera work:
So: What do you think? Myself, I’m inclined to think that while there are similarities to the two tunes, Gaga most likely didn’t consciously copy “Express Yourself,” mostly because of what Malcolm Gladwell uncovers in his essay “Something Borrowed.” The whole essay about plagiarism, accidental or otherwise, is worth reading, but in particular, check out part 3; it deals with music in particular. This sort of thing happens all the time in music (Vanilla Ice and Queen, much?), but it’s very rarely outright theft. Gladwell points out that composers even copy themselves all the time, so do with that what you will.
I also wonder if Madonna didn’t take on this little rehearsal project knowing that someone would probably record it and get it out in the world—making it kind of a sneaky way for her to drive home her point. It seems like the kind of thing she would do, but maybe that’s just me.
Gaga, for her part, has put in her two cents about the accusations as well: “I’m a songwriter. I’ve written loads of music. Why would I try to put out a song and think I’m getting one over on everybody? That’s retarded. What a completely ridiculous thing to even question me about. … If you put the songs next to each other, side by side, the only similarities are the chord progression. It’s the same one that’s been in disco music for the last 50 years.”
Tell us: Did Gaga rip off Madonna? Or does Madonna just have a bad case of the drama wueens?
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor