Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and Madonna’s Express Yourself

Madonna’s Express Yourself has always been one of my favorite videos. I’m talking all-time, folks. The ripped men (something about a grease-monkey…*sigh*). The pouring rain (the men are wet the whole time for crying out loud). The brilliant imagery (from the cat to the gears to the boxing match, I could go on and on…). Madonna’s gawgeous outfits (though she was mostly half-covered in satin sheets {they’re very romantic, but what happens when you’re not in bed-Ha!}). Her rough and tough, manly yet feminine dancing on top of those stairs. The message. Awesome. Take a gander and slip back into the 90’s:

Doesn’t that just take you back? When videos were seductive without being slutty. (Enrique Iglesias, I’m lookin’ at you and your “Tonight I’m F ‘kin You” garbage.) I’m sure it didn’t take me posting a youtube video for you to remember one of Madonna’s top songs. You probably recently heard Lady Gaga on the radio and thought Born This Way sounded mighty familiar. Have a listen (it’s the chorus that strikes me most):

Even PopEater and the Washington Post caught the similarities between the melodies.

I’m not a bitter fan. I don’t think Lady Gaga stole the song. The lyrics are different. The music is too. This is nothing like Vanilla Ice stealing “Under Pressure”‘s beats from Queen. (Minus adding the little “da da da da-da-da dum”. Gimme a break.) I simply think she was inspired by Madonna’s song and structured her tune around what made that one great.

Don’t we all do things like this as artists and writers? Don’t we study others’ work, discovering what made them “work” and apply it to our own masterpieces? I know when I read I keep a pen and paper handy. I don’t write verbatim. Ever. I don’t even write specifics that strike me as being great (Like, THAT WAS A GREAT LINE. I may think that, but that line is “his/her” line. Not mine. Much like Madonna’s song is Madonna’s and not Lady Gaga’s.) But when I’m reading a novel and, say, start reading fast, I make myself stop. Flip back through the last few pages. Re-read. Focus on WHY my speed increased. Did the sentences become choppy? Was it action-packed? Was there an increasing amount of tension in the dialogue? Likewise, when I get butterflies, I write down what happened. Not exactly, of course. I pause, go back, and figure out when the relationship between the hero and heroine changed into something I was feeling rather than reading. Sometimes the masterful things that happen are so subtle, if you keep reading, enjoying the pacing and story, you lose how the author accomplished the feat of pulling you hook-line-and-sinker into the story.

(Keep in mind I haven’t been able to read the same since I started writing. YES some of the enjoyment is taken out…but dissecting story structure and writing dynamic has ALWAYS been one of my greatest interests. It was one of my strengths teaching English, I think. And, I hope, what will make my work eventually bash into shape.)

What do you think? Do you think Express Yourself and Born This Way are the same? Did Lady Gaga rip-off Madonna’s melody? Did she make it her own?

How do you study craft? Do you dissect what works, like I do, and then apply it to your own writing? Or do you simply write what strikes you and To Hell with how everyone else is doing what?

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5 comments on “Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and Madonna’s Express Yourself

  1. Murees Dupé says:

    I agree with you. The two songs do sound so much a like it is scary. Lady Gaga's song sounds very 9o's. I personally focus on the style of writing. If I like a book then I try my best to achieve the same feel and style but without borrowing words or ideas. If a scene made me happy or flushed then I go back and see if I can write something that forces the same reactions.

  2. This is an awesome post. More than once when watching Lady Gaga, I thought "She's totally ripping off Madonna!". It's smart. People loved her music and her eccentric "In your face" ways. Gaga's figured out the secret and has tapped into it.I agree with you. I think it's wise to look at what someone's done that's successful and try to take it apart and look at the mechanics. Mimicking (not plagiarism) is the best form of flattery. When I see something I like or read something that jumps off the page, I take a moment to figure out why. This works for me in design, in photography, in home decor (cause I suck at that big time).

  3. Larissa says:

    Ooh, they *are* similar, although I didn't realize it until you pointed it out (probably because it's been a while since I listened to Express Yourself).And I LOVE the idea of writing down what happens when you are feeling something you read! Thanks!

  4. Abby Minard says:

    Thats what I thought when I heard it too! It took me a second to figure out which Madonna song, but I had it figured out by the end of Gaga's. I'm a huge fan of Gaga, and you are so right about inspiration. I have some favorite authors that I use as my inspiration. Like, I want my character dynamics to be like Sharon Shinn's characters- she makes you wnat to be their best friends. I want my world building to be like Anne Mccaffrey's. I want my romance to be like Garth Nix's- subtle yet strong. Anyway, so I think we all are influenced by certain writers or books and that's totally fine. I would feel honored if someone said they were influenced by my book to write one of their own. Great post!

  5. Kaitlyn says:

    I don't really see the similarity between the songs. The only link I could find as a musician is that the drum beats are somewhat similar, but that is one of the most basic drum beats out there. SOOOOO many songs are founded on that basic beat.-Kaitlynhttp://nocturnalreadings.blogspot.com

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