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Most people, besides Lady Gaga apparently, know that the term “orient” is seriously outdated, and generally pretty racist.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

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  • Daniel Gonzalez

    This Is A Joke.
    She’s Is Still The Best, And The Song Didn’t Live Up To The Hype You Said? Well Number One In 14 Countries Seems Pretty Big, Number One On Itunes In 23 Countries, Debut #1 In The Billboard Hot 100, And Canada’s As Well, Beat Britney Spears At The Most Female With Downloads Of The Song In It’s First Week. Went To Number One In Three Days. Over A Million Downloads On Itunes In A Week. Yea It Didn’t Live Up To The Hype, Just Keep Telling Yourself That.

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  • No No

    Why does this article even exist?
    You’re pretty late on all of this.

    I’m Asian and I don’t find “Orient” offensive at all. Why do you try to scrutinize a positive message?

  • Deb

    You can’t compare the word Chola to the N word. Chola is not used to refer to all Hispanic women. A chola is actually a type of life or dress style that is more “street”. It’s all in the way you dress, talk, or act. Kind of like Rock a Billy

  • Angela

    I like the song and think it is great. I am half Hispanic and have a gay brother … This song is liberating … And I don’t think it sounds like Madonna but even if it does who cares. It is still a great song… Lady gaga is so talented and refreshing … I love her! Sad people have to hate on other people… Sends a bad message…. Love love love gaga … I think she is here to stay

  • A

    I think whoever wrote this wants fame.

    Yes, it isn’t perfect.

    Even high and a little drunk, she had the sense to not go, your black white beige, hispanic…
    Come on people. It is a great uplifting song!
    She didn’t have to use all the politically correct terms.

  • Drena

    Great song, very sexy, upbeat!

  • Lola

    Orient is only racist to asians who WANT to be offended. Before anyone says anything, I’m Japanese, okay?

  • Jay Singh

    I’m Asian and I don’t find “orient” offensive. It means the east so why would it be offensive?

  • ben

    what a pathetic article. who would bother writing a scathing article like this? and yes, your lyrical abilities are pathetic – those lyrics don’t even fit the song. get over it. born this way is a liberating song and the majority of people love it. BTW Madonna called, to say she loved going to gaga’s show in new york!

  • Tina

    Yeah no… For starters, I’m pretty sure the song has lived up to the hype, considering it’s smashed nearly every #1 song record out there.

    More importantly: The lyrics are not supposed to be politically correct. She has the poetic license to use whatever words she wants, and she chose those words for a reason. If they have been used in derogatory ways to you, then you shouldn’t be offended or ashamed of anything because, hey, you were born that way.

    This is truly an amazing song. I think you just fail to grasp the point of it.

  • lan smith

    It’s all been done before guys her name was madonna. This is not original in any way and lady gag has been ripping off madonna since the start. Get over it monsters – love madonna she birthed all this.

  • dang

    Hmmm… there are like no Hispanics here, so I-ve never heard ‘chola’ or its approriate conext… on-one ever says orient, but I don’t thi8nk it’s paritcualrly offensive

  • wyatt

    I think were attacking lady gag gag for all the wrong reasons. She may have a good message, but is this the person you want sending it to your children. She parades around in clothes made of meat and has a fragrance developed that will smell of semen and blood. She is not someone who just likes being a little on the edge. She is a disgusting and dirty person who is being allowed by far to many people to be there childrens idol.

  • Criss Solano

    I find it kind of sad that people feel the need to write articles that nit-pick successful people’s work just to gain attention. Nobody is actually angry about Gaga using words like “chola” or “orient,” the only people writing about it are the ones that want to, like a parasite, gain from the success of others and attempting to harm in the process. This girl has probably gotten a hundreds of times the views that she usually gets just because she writes an article about someone famous that the world could have went without.

    Chola refers to someone who is of Hispanic descent and dresses in a more urban fashion. I am Hispanic and take absolutely no offense in her use of the word.

    Orient is somewhat politically incorrect but by no means racist specially when written into a song that has the complete opposite message.

    I mean, C’mon! This is a cheap sell-out just for views, a great example of the opposite of real journalism.

  • lilmonstarrr

    Haha…this song is amazing:) and its doing pretty good.

  • great

    Nicole’s article is a perfect example of what happens to writers when they let their personal opinions about the subject get in the way of the story. Thus, there’s no story here, only the writers POV. This is a weak attempt at a hit-piece. Born This Way is not meant to change the entire world. It’s symbolic. It’s meant to change the world of the younger people, her fans, or anyone who needs affirmation and to hear positive message of “you’re on the right track, hold your head up” and simply be inspirational. It speaks exactly to who needs to hear it. I live with and work with Mexicans. “Chola” is not offensive to these young girls. Gaga is not trying to write War & Peace or deep, penetrating Nietzschian philosophy. Lady Gaga is 24 years old and from New York City! haha – You don’t think she knows better than anybody what’s up in her own youth culture?? Many artists drink, maybe smoke, relax and create their work. Not unusual she she drinks and had a joint in her recording studio – big whoop! The song is fun and has a awesome message. I’m in my 30’s male from NY and i’ve been around and seen some things. This girl, Lady Gaga, is pretty exciting for the pop music world. Too bad Nicole can’t see this young woman up their believing in herself as a good thing.

  • Frank the Tank

    As an educated person, I say What..How…I’m stunned at this article! What a GREAT MESSAGE Gaga is sending out to the world! Yes! Some people ARE born different from the NORM, and that is something to CELEBRATE that GODS chooses to be “Creative” in His Workmanship!! There are quite enough assembly line looking people out there to choke a horse! It is time we ALL celebrate diversity! Besides, I think the song is GREAT, but it definitely falls short for NOT being long enough! Hopefully there will be a club extented version on the way, so the DJs don’t have to get creative and start doing cut and fill editing messes! There is something that sucks when you pay over a dollar+ for one song in a juke and get barely one lyric just over a minute. She could easily have made this song 5 minutes and included all the other minorities. Though I absolutlely love Gaga, I definitely think Madonna would have thought this song out more and gave us more to think about!

  • JM

    Okay, the snotty, adolescent comment at the end of your article was not the best way to end what could be considered a valid analysis of the song. It’s a pretty weak comparison to begin with–how hard is it to find another successful, blonde female singer who sang about freedom of self-expression? Not hard at all, obviously. And I think Madonna attending Gaga’s sold-out concert at Radio City Music Hall on Monday night makes your concluding comment sound even more ridiculous.

    But aside from that, obviously Gaga’s new song DID live up to the hype if the numbers (i.e. digital downloads, radio airplay, etc.) mean anything. More importantly though, this kind of under-the-table accusation that Gaga was inadvertantly racist is absurd. There are just a few minor details that people are forgetting to mention.

    First, there are countries all over the world who don’t recognize “Oriental” as an offensive term. Most of them, including many regions in America, see it only as antiquated rather than insulting. In the context of the song, she OBVIOUSLY does not mean it in an offensive manner–insinuations to the contrary are petty excuses to try and chip away at her success, which is apparently what our society loves to do to our beloved popstars, right? Raise them up, then break them down (i.e. Britney Spears)!

    Secondly, the word ‘chola’ as the feminine counterpart to ‘cholo’ is a synonym for ‘mestizo’, which refers to a person of mixed ancestry, especially one of Spanish and Native American heritage. In the ethnic power movements of the 1960s, Spanish-American groups used it as a symbol of pride. Anyway, it’s a word with a very complex history and usage, so to narrowly define it by standards of prejudice in a song intended to fight prejudice is pointless. If some people feel offended because they interpret her use of the word as derogatory, that’s their prerogative. But you know what they say: you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all the people all the time.

    She is trying to inspire self-acceptance and confidence in yourself no matter who you are, and people can’t just take that message for what it is, can they? I mean, the proceeds from her Born This Way music video are being donated to an anti-bullying charity for young teens, for Christ’s sake! But as divisive as Gaga can be, she’s no idiot. She knows people want to weasel out her flaws or see her screw up in some way. In her own words during the recent 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper:

    “Everybody wants to see the decay of the superstar…they want to see me fail. They want to see me fall on stage. They want to see me vomiting out of a night club. Isn’t that the age we live in? That we want to see people who have it all lose it all? It’s dramatic.”

  • Frank-the-Tank Sez

    Are you shitting me! As an educated person, I say, What?..How? Why.. though I think I know the Why..which is to create cheap tacky controversy, over someone that has more guts and more talent than most, and that I am bored enough tonight to respond to…so I will!

    I’m stunned at the point of the article!

    What a GREAT MESSAGE Gaga is sending out to the world! Yes! Some people ARE born different from the NORM, and that is definitely something to CELEBRATE! To think that GODS chooses to be “Creative” enough in His workmanship is call to celebrate!

    There are quite enough assembly line looking people out there…thank you! It is time we ALL celebrate diversity..Liberal, Conservative, Rich, Poor, Thinkers and Doers, Celebrate Diversity which is LIFE!

    Shortcoming; Though I think the song is GREAT, but it definitely falls short for NOT being long enough!

    Hopefully there will be a club extented version on the way, come on Gaga, so the DJs don’t have to get creative and start doing their cut and fill editing messes! There is something that sucks when you pay over a dollar+ for one song in a juke and get barely one lyric just over a minute. I hate to say this but,

    Using the Madonna “Vogue” concept, She could easily have made this song 5 minutes long and included more individuals and creative peoples.

    I absolutely love Gaga’s music, but, I definitely think Madonna would have thought this song out much more, and gave us more to think about!

  • CLR1973

    She is amazing!!!!!!!

  • Nicholas

    Dear Author:

    Jay Leno and all the other interviews she’s done called and wanted to let you know that as an author, you should make sure you check your facts before writing a story. Madonna personally said she loves the song…she even attended the Monster Ball last week.

    Oh, and Gaga specifically said it was inspired by Madonna and TLC.

  • mustafizurahman

    uhmm sorry..this article is just a crap….do you live in earth??the song broke every single record in music industry…and you calling the song is not a hype???lady gaga is the most brilliant superstar ever in my life…including mj cannot beat her popularity and fame..she just down to earth and other artist just cant(imposssible to top her)//

    long live my mother monster…lady gaga!!

  • Dr Gaga

    The song should have been called:
    Borin’ This Way


  • Jr.

    Nicole, honey, I don’t think you understand the meaning of this song. It seems like you’re trying to find everylittle thing to criticize every little thing. I feel like I don’t need to state my reasons why because there already posted by the comments above me. Nicole I think you’re just drinking too much Hateraide on Gaga.

  • Campanil Staff

    Thank you everyone for your thoughts on this post. However if your comment includes threats and/or personal attacks against our writers, they WILL be blocked.

  • EminemFan

    Of course it fails to live up to the hype, it’s a rip off of Madonna.

    And it’s telling that the Gaga stans are hating on the writer of the article. The woman speaks the truth. Gaga overhyped the shit out of this, she said it would be the best selling album of the decade, blah blah blah.

    Gaga is just another attention whore who has become more about the cheap publicity than about the music. Her “music” is nothing more than noise on top of an electronic beat.

    At least my favorite artist, Eminem, doesn’t need to sell out like Gaga does. He keeps it real, and actually makes good quality music that is timeless. You’ll see people in the retirement homes bumping Eminem decades from now, you can’t say the same about Gaga. Eminem was successful without all the cheap publicity: he has 13 Grammy awards, how many does Gaga have again?

    Yeah I’m comparing two artists in two diff genres, so what. Eminem’s worse singing is better than Gaga’s best singing, and Em rarely sings horribly on songs.

    In short, keep on writing what you’re doing Nicole. Gaga stans are going to be mad if someone dares criticize the wannabe pop queen. 🙂

  • Judas

    This song is great and the message is uplifting. The author’s negativity towards Gaga doesn’t even make sense. Lady Gaga is a very talented singer, songwriter, producer, and performer, and there’s no need to disparage her song when it is all about love, specifically self-love. It’s not a rip off of Madonna, and it’s much more original than 90% of what’s out there today, which includes the same rehashed electropop hooks and autotune (Tik Tok and California Gurls are the same song. Google it.) and are all about drinking, partying, and being promiscuous. Lady Gaga is a refreshing, very gifted music artist who is groundbreaking and fearless in a sea of manufactured, talentless pop stars. The lyrics aren’t contrived and unoriginal. Would you rather have her sing something like “boom boom boom even brighter than the moon moon moon” or “zip your lips like a padlock”? No, Katy Perry, I don’t feel like a plastic bag, I feel like I was Born This Way. This song is not just a gay anthem but an all-inclusive anthem. Please don’t bash Lady Gaga’s song just because you don’t like her. It’s #1 worldwide and the fastest selling itunes single ever for a reason: it speaks to many, many people. Hopefully it speaks to you.

  • MonsterMimi

    WHATEVER I’m latina and I don’t give a fuck! Mother Monster forever !!!

  • Sarah Jeanne Lombardo

    Uh, actually, a story framed by a writers’ POV would be one that dismisses a song because the writer simply doesn’t like that style of music. This writer is actually drawing upon historically validated cultural analyses of ethnic slurs to meaningfully critique a political song. There is little by way of opinion in this article. I know after years of Star and US Weekly it can be difficult to locate what constitutes “real journalism”, but whatever y’all have been reading clearly came up short.

    On a similar note, I have to laugh at the presumption that 20-something New Yorkers are the arbiters of hip, and that this somehow shields them from any lyrical accountability. Gaga comes from a background of exorbitant class and race privilege, and you are not going to convince me she is better equipped to decide what chola means. 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. It is not Gaga’s place to reclaim that shit.

    And lastly, the orient is not a real place, and orientals are not a real people–the “orient” is some archaic shorthand for “the east” that incorrectly lumps together all of the peoples of Persia, India, and the Asias into this monolithic race that doesn’t exist in reality. Would you say Japanese folks are the same as Saudis? No? Then you don’t say orient, either. Unless you want to sound like a jackass. Oh hey! Too late.

    Ugh. Stans.

  • Sam

    @SarahJeanneLombardo She’s not saying they are the same when she says “orient”…by the same token would you say irish and english people are the same? no, they aren’t, but we can group them as “white” in the same way that you can group chinese and japanese into the category of “asian”…you’re point is completely illogical. And you don’t want to do that unless you want to sound like a jackass. Oh hey! Too late.

  • CholaDescent

    This song is beautiful. Lady Gaga is truly inspirational, and it more than lived up to the hype. Someone’s been drinking haterade.

  • GarageGlamorous

    I’m Latina and I don’t find this song offensive at all. It’s all about loving who you are no matter what! It’s catchy and original. She’s so talented!

  • Oriental Dude

    I am Asian, and have never thought of “Orient” or “Oriental” as a deragatory term. In fact, I LOVE that word…there’s a certain poetry to it. I have always loved that word (and I still do) even after the society tried to convince me that it is supposed to be “offensive.”

  • LeighBessToad

    Hey Madonna — The Staple Singers called and they want “Respect Yourself” back.

    All these Madonna apologists whining like little babies. Well guess what: each generation is inspired and takes from the prior generation. Just as Madonna took from the Staple Singers.

  • Bobby

    I’m sure this “article” was a complete waste of my time. Orient is racist? News to me and it seems most
    others agree. Learn to write a real article. This was crap as is your opinion.

  • adam russel

    Born this way is an anthem for all! This article is wack!

  • T

    Hey, no one really cares! get a life…dont ever say Gaga copy Madonna “Express yourself.” MADONNA LITERALLY COPY the lyrics from “RESPECT YOURSELF” by the staple singers!! (This has been establish a long time ago) anyways MY POINT IS that MUSIC IS ART!! MUST GOT INSPIRED by/from something to create your own original piece! YOU MUST BE A “deaf” idiot if you SAID THIS SONG IS RACIST!!!

  • sahil

    YOU AREE A LOOOOSSEERR!! lady gaga is an AMAZING WOMEN! i wasnt all that big of a gaga fan UNTIL THIS SONG CAME UP!! dude i dont know what you have against her but AS YOU CAN TELL other people dont care about those terms! FYI chola is NOT a racist term! LADY GAGA IS TRYING MAKE A NON-DISCRIMITATING WORLD AND HERE YOU ARE TRYING TO RUIN THAT! oh and i dont think this song even sounds like express yourself but if you think it does WATCHYA GONNA DO TAKE IT TO COURT! haha how pathetic!

  • Prof. Gaga

    It’s not her best song, but the spirit of the message is fantastic and uplifting, and if you’ve heard the joy with which 10-year-old Maria Aragon performs it, it’s all the greater. I agree that the racial references within the song are problematic, but I did see someone else somewhere point out that “orient” may be a play on “orientation” and any lesbian of my generation may note the wordplay joke in “Lebanese.” I’m not excusing it, just taking note of it. And yeah, I’d like Gaga to spend more than 10 minutes on her lyrics. As for the resemblence to Madonna (who has predecessors of her own), it’s there, undeniably–but never in a way that rips her off. Gaga’s music pays homage to many of her predecessors; that may be why you see so many people 40 and up (without their kids) in her audience. She reminds us of our pop music past while at the same time moving pop music forward. Pay attention to the way the older generation of pop musicians uphold her. Get it right! And at the end of the day, whoever you are writing this, baby, you were born this way–express yourself, celebrate good times, COME ON! Et cetera, ad infinitum.

  • MarkyGaga

    I’m Asian and when I first looked at the lyrics I knew it meant something with me. But, was I offended; no. I asked my Hispanic friend what he though of the song and he said it didn’t bother him. Anyone who gets bothered by the song must really be soft or just doesn’t know how to play cool.

  • Ash

    I think you make a semi-valid point, but you really glossed over an appropriate analysis of whether or not these terms might be used so that they may be taken back. I can’t truely speak for any minority, but my understanding of these “offensive” lyrics, especially in light that they were used by Lady Gaga, is that people need to embrace all aspects of themselves, even those which the rest of the world might have at one time labeled negative, inferior, or different. When you consider the message and meaning of her hit single off of The Fame Monster, Bad Romance, you might see a correlation, and further might more fully understand why she chose such “offensive” terms. In some ways you might consider that she is suggesting we are the sum of what people see us as, and if that happens to be labeled in a negative light we should take that and turn it on its head, so that by being that we might make it beautiful; even the lyric “I’m beautiful in my way/ ’cause God makes no mistakes” suggests this notion directly, while also insinuating a sense of destiny and fate that could extend the sense of purpose in oppsition and doubt. I think she is profoundly suggesting at once that we are a product of how we are precieved, and that we are at once much more than that, and that the labels we suffer under can be redefined. I also find that the suggestion she might be promoting racism is absurd considering the diversity of her following and the amount of support she lends to oppressed minorities. Bottom line is that if she is supported and accepted by these very minorities she is “oppressing” or flippantly degrading, as you suggest, than she does so n a way that many of them agree with- which is even more absurd than declaring her a vapid accidental racist.

  • Morales

    You can’t be of Hispanic persuasion. That makes absolutely no sense.

  • Helen

    I actually hadn’t heard her new song until I just read your article and watched the video…and I must agree with what you wrote.

    The others commenting are way too intense, we’re discussing popular music right now, not politics.

  • Nicole T.

    cool, lady gaga dared to say words that regard lgbtq, and underrepresented ethnic populations, big deal. I do find “orient” offending. I also find the fact that she admitted to be drinking whiskey and smoking weed while she wrote this song indicative of the influences that lead to higher rates of substance abuse in the lgbtq community, but shoot, i guess bad things = pop music. I am embarrassed that lgbtq people of color are “inspired” by this not because i think they’re idiots, but because this is in their range of inspiration due to the state of our society.

    what is the point of defending lady gaga? do you really want her to be the only one reppin the lgbtq community? i definitely listen to music that degrades women, but i don’t defend that part of it.

  • Hannah

    Wow, y’all need to calm down. Heaven forbid someone take a stance and express an individual opinion for once. Write your own article if you want to express your opinion.
    Lady Gaga’s great and and all, but “Born This Way” is not her best work, IMO.
    And all of you people hating on the article… Aren’t you being pretty hypocritical for being so negative? Take a moment to appreciate someone’s opinion, instead of calling them and “idiot” or “loser.” That’s so rude.
    And to whomever called the author “a deaf idiot”…. wow. Talk about offensive.

  • LuisGaGaFan

    Im hispanic and chola isnt racist! when she says black white beige chola descent youre lebanese youre orient. she isnt saying all mexican women are cholas she saying it doesnt matter if you are. but if those chicano unido arizona people say its racist well then they should tell all the cholas to stop giving the bad reputation for mexicans. but whatever Born This way is the song of the millinium

  • Sarah Jeanne Lombardo

    @Sam: Irish and English are the beneficiaries of the same white privilege, so yep! I would–and do–classify them as the same race. Thx for playing Race 101! ~Just Dance~

  • BW

    These things are probably the least interesting parts of the song, just this is the least interesting thing i’ve seen all day.
    Stop complaining about a good thing.

  • anonymous

    orient also stands for the way you are sexually ORIENTed