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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