Following the success of her 2008 debut album The Fame, Lady Gaga released her second studio album Born This Way in May 2011, with the title single released on February 11th of that year. Not only was the song number one this week in 2011, but it debuted in that spot and would stay there for six weeks.
Gaga would start to write the track in England the year prior while on tour. She wrote the song in ten minutes and would describe it as a ‘magical message’ song. In hindsight, that’s exactly what it is.
Gaga was still fairly new on the scene at the time and I think it’s fair to say this was the song that launched the following of her ‘little monsters’ and was part of a revolution, solidifying her as an inspiration for many. She would tour several countries promoting the single and album, such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, The Philippines, and of course North America.
“Born This Way” was a huge success commercially. Like all songs that fit that description, it didn’t come without its critics. Some reporters accused Gaga of being too much like Madonna, which was compromising her unique artistry, specifically citing similarities to the latter’s hit songs “Express Yourself” and “Vogue”. Gaga would counter that argument when being asked about the parallels by an NME reporter by saying “I am not stupid enough to put out a record and be that moronic. I’m a songwriter. I’ve written loads of music. Why would I try to put out a [copied] song and think I’m getting one over on everybody? What a completely ridiculous thing to even question me about.”
Despite the criticism, the song would have plenty of success. It would go on to sell more than one million copies in the first five days of its release, becoming the fastest-selling single in the history of the iTunes store.
More than numbers, the song’s success can also be attributed to what it stood for – freedom and equality. Evidenced by the fact that the song has since become the unofficial anthem for the LGBTQ community.
Tim Cox, a 26-year-old out of the U.S says the song saved him. He was, unfortunately, bullied for being homosexual, thinking the world was against him and that something was wrong with him. He recalls being at a Lady Gaga concert and hearing her play the song live. “I broke down. I was hysterical with joy, with emotion – just completely lost myself in the song”, he recalls. “All of a sudden, the idea that you were born this way and can’t change who you are isn’t just something that you feel. It’s something the entire world is being forced to understand.”
DJ and producer Tracy Young, a gay woman herself, cites “Born This Way” as the life of the party when she played pride events all over the United States. “I think she hit it dead on,” Young says. “It’s one of those songs that will always be played in every pride stage, and I think that was her intention.”
The examples are endless.
“I want to be remembered for the message behind Born This Way,” Gaga said in a 2018 Vogue interview when asked about her desired legacy. “I would like to be remembered for believing that people are equal.”
Gaga, who identifies as bisexual, has credited the LGBTQ community for getting her to where she is in her career today. “I really wouldn’t be here without the gay community, what they have taught me about love and acceptance and bravery,” she said at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival when promoting her film, “A Star is Born.”
There is no doubt that the legacy of “Born This Way” will linger for decades to come. If today we remember Madonna’s “Express Yourself”, we’ll certainly be remembering “Born This Way” in the 2050s and beyond, given what it stood for, especially during its time.