Biyernes, Marso 23, 2012

Revisiting the Music of 2011

BORN THIS WAY by Lady Gaga

A week after the much-anticipated release of Lady Gaga's first single for 2011's much-anticipated album, Pitchfork's Tom Ewing wrote a blog about the whole emergence of pop music's self-empowerment hoopla:

""Born This Way" fits neatly into a current vogue for self-empowerment pop anthems with Pink's "Raise Your Glass" and Katy Perry's "Firework". The Village Voice's Rich Juzwiak has written pointedly about the "Great Gay Pander-Off Of 2010"; Pitchfork's Nitsuh Abebe has talked in New York magazine about how Gaga's rainbow fanbase-building is designed to "open up that circle of self-acceptance to anyone who wants in." And this is what makes the trend so interesting to me-- because these pop songs about self are becoming hits at a time when the presentation of self and the value of self is a bubbling issue across our culture. If Lady Gaga's trick is to make her fans believe their self-empowerment is socially important, she's picked a smart time to do it."

It was one of the most bloated events in pop culture. The self-proclaimed Mother Monster to her legion of Little Monsters gave a gigantic surprise to open the year. It was one that she promised way back September 2010, when she won Video of the Year for 'Bad Romance'. "I'm beautiful in my way coz God makes no mistakes/ I'm on the right track baby I was born this way!" goes the meat dress-donning gay rights activist. It was a fitting present to her admirers who bought in to her hype since the arrival of her renaissance that is 'Bad Romance'. That moment was the peak of her year, and her promise is one her fans held on to until the record finally arrived on February 2011.

A few months after the 2010 VMAs, the trend was all for the fairies. It was timely, that Gaga moment, for in the heightened Facebook Age of 2010 sprang the numerous cases of online bullying and teenage suicide mostly caused by homophobia. A popular case was the suicide of Tyler Clementi which placed LGBT groups in intense action. With these cases, pop music found a cause celebre: bullies. Ke$ha wrote 'We R Who We R' after learning these incidents. This was followed by the release of a series of pop songs including Katy Perry's 'Firework', and Pink's 'Raise Your Glass' and 'Fuckin' Perfect' all addressing the issue, like repackaged Christina Aguilera belters to save the lives of a troubled generation by saying that they're beautiful. Even the hit TV musical Glee was fearless in tackling the issue. The trend was not entirely new. Back in the 80s, when the height of AIDS was surfacing in the United States, artists like Whitney Houston, Madonna and George Michael released powerful songs about self. And in 2002, Christina Aguilera and Linda Perry wrote 'Beautiful' which left a trail of admirers who claim they were saved by such a song. You can watch 'Mean Girls' and see for yourself. Yet no other era underlined the issue more than in the years 2010 to 2011. With all these patriotism in 2010's pop music, it seemed the fight for gay rights has been pushed forward but not ultimately to its success. As of 2011, the only legalization accomplished was in New York City.

And so came February 11, the day of Little Monsters. Lady Gaga's labor of love has surfaced on her website. And you knew the hot air balloon of hype has exploded: 'Born This Way' was both a triumph and a disappointment.

Musically, Ms. Germanotta's first single for her sophomore album is an overproduced industrial disco anthem. It is brash and relentless, a no-holds-barred pop song. It spits its intentions straight to the face, and pounds down to the ear drums that it can be unbearable. Lyrically, it is a poem of patriotism. Perhaps it was the troubled youth Gaga is concerning within the center of her opus since most of Gaga's "Little Monsters" are teenage outcasts. That's what one would think at first but actually it addresses the totality of the human being, the whole of society. It's as if the impulsive superstar decided to finally be everything to everyone. Check the following list of social groups mentioned in the song and see if you're included: drag queens, subway kids, the youth, the insecure, the broke, the evergreen, the blacks, whites, beige, the Chola descent, the Lebanese, the Orient-made, the disabled, the outcast, the bullied, the teased, the gays, the straights, the bisexuals, the lesbians, the transgendered.

That's the size of ambition Lady Gaga injected within her song. No other gay anthem may be as big as this one yet no other artist would dare to do such mindblowing work, too. Not with statements like "Don't be a drag, just be a queen" or "No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian, transgendered life/ I'm on the right track baby I was born to survive". Without a doubt, it's the highlight of Lady Gaga's young career so far, and it will be hard to top this one considering its hype alone.

In fact, it was forced upfront with so much hype and expectations that it didn't just land on top of the charts, it infuriated the community Gaga intended to embrace. Many gays found it too similar to Madonna's own 1989 self-empowerment anthem 'Express Yourself' also at the same time when she was beginning to have a gay following. The controversy heightened when she thanked Whitney Houston rather than Madonna in her speech at the Grammys. It is also possible that Gaga used the gay community for her own profit. After all, her fans are mostly homosexuals. Nevertheless, her song for them was ridiculed and mocked, giving the song such nicknames as 'Bored This Way', and the artist 'Lady FlopGa'. It's ironic to imagine all this hate towards a song written and recorded for love for equality and that love alone but, considering the juggernaut success she has achieved in just 3 years, it cannot be denied that these hateful speculations can be true.

In the end, Lady Gaga triumphed over all of them. Her song was a recordbreaking iTunes chart-topper and the most inescapable tune of the year, getting covered here and there, playing everywhere from clubs to the streets, achieving lots of recognition and saving the lives of countless teenagers. You can say that Elton John was right in describing the song as the new 'I Will Survive'. Flawed at best, Lady Gaga's promise is both the crowning moment and the explosion of the whole self trend. No other song will be as big and proud as 'Born This Way', and it came at the time when it was hugely necessary. - December, 2011

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