Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” Fails to Live Up to All the Hype

February 25, 2011

Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way' single cover.

Lady Gaga’s new single “Born This Way” is meant as an anthem for all oppressed minorities, but many are wondering how can this anthem be liberating when it continues to oppress the people it aims to uplift.

After hyping the single for months, it was finally released—breaking a slew of records. The song debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, being only the 19th song to do so. It is also the 1000th song to hold the number one spot, which is also cause for celebration. The Billboard charts base their numbers off of how many downloads and radio plays the song has had. The single also broke an iTunes record for most downloads sold in the first week. However, the song does not live up to all the hype.

Some of the song’s lyrics—while I personally feel they sound a little contrived and unoriginal— are definitely pro-LGBT, and could be an anthem for many.

For example, “No matter gay, straight, or bi/ lesbian, transgendered life, I’m on the right track baby/ I was born to survive.”

First of all, let’s take a moment to think about the fact that the current number one gives a shout-out to transgender folks. In this current political climate, that is an awesome step towards equality. Can we just bask in the idea of millions of young fans singing about “transgender life”? Surprisingly, there has been no critical backlash from conservative anti-gay groups—but I think they’re all too busy taking away women’s rights to worry about the gays for a minute.

However, a lot of people have problems with the next part of the song, which goes, “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen/whether you’re broke or evergreen/ you’re black, white beige, chola descent/ you’re lebanese, you’re orient.”

Most people, besides Lady Gaga apparently, know that the term “orient” is seriously outdated, and generally pretty racist. Phoenix-based Chicanos Unidos Arizona has also criticized the song for use of the term “chola” saying, “These are stereotypical terms. “Chola” is as derogatory as the “N” word when referring to a Hispanic female.”

Whether that is true or not is up to the individual to decide. Maybe she meant to use the word in order to reclaim it, saying that someone labeled as a “chola”—usually a negative thing — should be proud to be themselves. However, this is not explicit and the exclusion of any other representation of Hispanic people adds to the offense. And as for the term “orient”… well, there is no excuse.

Lady Gaga claims she wrote the song in ten minutes, after consuming a combination of whiskey and marijuana. I guess that explains the lack of proper judgment.

Here Lady Gaga, I rewrote some of the lyrics for you. I am not a poet by any means, and maybe the rhyme scheme isn’t set up very well, but it does eliminate the inherent racism.

“Don`t be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you`re broke or evergreen
You`re black, white, beige, Hispanic persuasian
You`re Middle Eastern, you`re Asian.”

(And yes, I know it’s cheap to rhyme Asian with persuasian, but like I said I’m not a poet.) This took me all of about thirty seconds, and shouldn’t  have messed with Gaga’s ability to write the whole song in ten minutes.

Oh and by the way… Madonna called. She wants “Express Yourself” back.

Check out the ‘Born This Way’ video beneath. Leave us your thoughts as a comment below.

Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” Fails to Live Up to All the Hype was published on February 25, 2011 in Column, Letters to the Editor, Opinions

Print this page Print this page

  • JM

    @Sarah Jeanne Lombardo: Race 101? It’s interesting how you try to hop on the this-song-is-racist bandwagon, citing what would appear to be your own racially tense upbringing: “I went to grade school with the poorest of the brown folks in the south side of Chicago, and there, chola is basically the equivalent of cunt.” But then, in the space of a single sentence, you destroy any chance you had at being taken seriously by insinuating that this discussion is a game to you.

    A “meaningful” critique of a political song is not ended by “Oh and by the way…Madonna called. She wants ‘Express Yourself’ back.” That’s petty harping and definitely not an example of good journalism. Not to mention that I’m pretty sure I’ve read twenty similar articles expressing the same exact points with different wording. In other words, this story is a hit counter devoid of a single original thought.

    Oh, and that 20-something New Yorker (way to lump the younger crowd of NY together into a bunch of culturally ignorant idiots) is considered an “arbiter of hip” by millions of people. What makes your opinion of who is knowledgeable about ‘hip’ more credible than all of those ‘stans’ that you so arrogantly refer to? The fact that you use a juvenile reference like ‘stan’ pretty much smacks any credibility you might have had right in the face.

    And if “the orient is not a real place” yet it is archaic shorthand for “the east”, then you essentially just said “the east is not a real place.” Now what were you saying about sounding like a jackass?

  • janice

    JM. The author never said the “orient” did not exist. She merely pointed out that it is indeed outdated, and in fact derogatory to refer to someone of asian descent as from the “orient,” which in fact, it IS. When she pointed out that the term “chola” is also offensive, (which even you admitted) she exposed another faux pas. Your arguments surrounding those two examples are arbitrary, and detract from the author’s original message.

  • Nathan Brown

    Oh dear. What a contrived piece of work. Perhaps you would be in a better position to judge if you had just released the fastest selling number 1 single by a female artist in history.

    It’s about time that someone like this talented artist stood up for the rights of ‘minority’ groups. It’s pathetic that we need to knit pick at individual words or phrases in her lyrics. The song is a beautiful tribute to celebrate who we are, so let’s just enjoy it.

  • CCB

    I love Gaga, but didn’t really like this song. It sounds dated and cheesy, and while the message is definitely positive, the lyrics aren’t terribly strong. It seems like the angriest commenters are being kind of hypocritical – spewing hate at the author that they’re accusing of being a hater. It’s cool to be a die-hard Gaga fan, but don’t freak out when someone says something less than glowing about her. Jesus.

  • sara

    “Oh and by the way… Madonna called. She wants “Express Yourself” back.”

    Actually Madonna did EMAIL Lady Gaga and praised her new song and it fully supportive to her.
    Get your facts straight.



  • xlovelylightx

    I’m a bit disappointed by some of the people who commented on your article because:

    1) You don’t have to have sold millions albums to have an opinion on someone’s music. We’re the ones who pay Lady Gaga’s salary, after all.
    2) Commenting on racial slurs that are used against Latinos and Asians is not “nit picking”. Anyone who really cares about the rights of minorities wouldn’t dismiss their feelings like that because unless we can have an open discussion about race politics without derailing the issue, how can we make our society better?

    Nonetheless, I really enjoyed your article Nicola Vermeer and I do hope Lady Gaga takes on your suggestions if she changes her lyrics.

    Also, would you mind signing this petition? It’s about getting Lady Gaga to acknowledge the controversial content of her song:

  • noel

    well it fits in because it says not be ashamed of who you are and where you cone from. lots of people are ashamed of their culture and race.

  • Nicole Vermeer

    Hey everyone,

    Thanks for all your comments.
    I just wanted to say that there is a reason this piece is in the Opinions section, it is because it is my personal opinion. It is not meant to be a piece of real journalism. So please let that fact guide your further discussion.


  • Val Hispanic

    I’m sorry, but the term “chola descent” is very offensive to me. I wouldn’t describe my Hispanic culture as “chola”. It’s just as offensive as the “N”. “Chola” was used to describe child as “mutts”, born from Spanish and Amerindian ancestry. Then is started describing female Gang Members…so why would I ever consider myself a “Chola”. I’ll admit the song has a great beat, but she should have taken a little more time than 10 minutes to write better lyrics…but that’s what happens when you drunk and high and try to write.

    And for everyone that thinks Lady Gaga is creative, look up…..”I Was Born This Way”, is a disco song by Valentino, released in 1975. It was one of the first gay disco songs written specifically for the Gay community.

    She may think she’s an original artist, BUT she does like to sample work from others….and I think that just makes her a great entertainer.

  • Andy

    Whether this is your dimwitted opinion or not, the last thing “Born This Way” did was fail to live up to the hype.
    The 1000th #1 single, fastest selling song by a female, most airplays in a week, and first artist to hold the #1 position after debuting there, isn’t exactly what I’d call a miss.

  • Yolanda

    I am Hispanic & I was not offended in any way by “chola descent”, because I remember my Art History from High School, she is referring to the Chola Dynasty-a Tamil dynasty, ruled primarily in southern India until the thirteenth century, most of what we know and associate with India comes from the Chola Dynasty. I studied the bronze Chola statues & Chola art, she is referring to Chola descendants, people from southern India. The term Chola which is associated today with men or women who are hispanic & dress or act a certain way, who are “gang members”, that term is extremely offensive. It was deigned by hispanic people & that is embarassing to me.