I really hadn’t planned on editorializing this early, but this weekend my wife and kids and I were discussing the new Lady Gaga song ‘Born This Way’ and the similarity to the old Madonna song ‘Express Yourself’. So we queued up both on Spotify and listened.
They aren’t identical as some claim, but it is pretty clear that everything about Born This Way is derived directly from Madonna’s song. They are laid out the same, the ratio of ‘rapping’ to singing is nearly identical, the harmonic structure is basically identical, and many melodic fragments are shared. Some have also said that Gaga and her songwriters (since at most she writes words for existing music like most pop ‘songwriters’) borrowed liberally from other Madonna songs of the era such as Vogue and Like a prayer.
That is fine by me – this is pop music, it is SUPPOSED to be derivative! Pop music by its very nature is unoriginal and casts a wide net for mass appeal, so looking for innovation and originality is a stretch. But in athe author takes it further:
We are bombarded with endless products offering up a faux alternative to the reality we once held so dear. Spring fresh detergent, pumpkin pie aroma candles, imitation leather jackets, cinnamon flavored coffee. Many seem satisfied with the replacement, but couple it with an experience of the genuine article and we realize how far apart they actually are.
Sure, the decline of the music industry is in part due to piracy and the death of the CD as a primary format, but it is also due to the major labels finding a formula that marketed faux soul, faux ability, and faux songs as the real thing. When products are fake, they have to carry a disclaimer, warning of their impurity. The music industry would market everything as the real thing and go to great lengths to prove its authenticity. Thus, the skill of the major label became bullshitting.
Finding artists that could be quickly packaged and bumped onto the assembly line, out onto the shelves, next to the scented candles, and knock off clothes.
They would put their bullshit machine into motion. Paying whomever they could to jump on board, with the hope that their Stevie Wonder, Beatles, or Madonna scented product, would connect in some way with the masses.
Lady Gaga is clearly the “Madonna scented product”, who has been successfully marketed and sold to consumers as being ‘edgy’ (she isn’t) and ‘innovative’ (every song is easily shown to be a knock-off), which in turn allows them to feel like they themselves are innovative and hip rather than just paying to have knock-offs stuffed down their throat by a massive boardroom marketing machine.
Anyway, let’s listen to both songs, starting with the knock-off and moving on to the real thing.
Lady Gaga (from Grammy Awards)
Madonna Live MTV Awards
It very much reminds me of how Chris Daughtry from American Idol has been marketed as a rocker, or Nickelback as ‘heavy metal’, when both are over-produced Lite acts derived from successes and homogenized for mass appeal.
Who are your choices as the ‘imitator’ and ‘real thing’ in the current market?