Early this week, a video was leaked of Madonna rehearsing for her upcoming MDNA Tour where she did a mashup of her hit Express Yourself coupled with Lady GaGa‘s Born This Way. GaGa’s 2011 hit was heavily criticized for being a replica of Madonna’s hit from two decades ago. When asked about it for the first time earlier this year in an interview on ABC, Madonna famously called it “reductive”.
The irony of the entire situation falls on Madonna as she embarks on what will likely be one of the biggest tours in history when it is complete. Prior to Madonna’s Superbowl performance in February, she was poised to have the biggest comeback of the year thanks to high anticipation for her new album MDNA, collaborations with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. on said record, production by Martin Solveig, Benny Benassi and William Orbit, among others, the aforementioned sold out MDNA Tour and of course, the Lady GaGa effect.
The timing of the interview was definitely in Madonna’s favour as people seemed welcoming of her return following a year of Lady GaGa’s overexposure with her Born This Way record and the tons of media attention she received throughout 2011. Everything suddenly became dumbed down to Madonna vs. Lady GaGa and in most cases, Madonna was the familiar face people wanted.
Or did they? The first single Give Me All Your Luvin’ was off the charts before MDNA even hit stores while the followup single Girl Gone Wild flopped. Even though MDNA did hit #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart its first week out, it has since fallen below the level that her previous poorest performing record American Life (2003) was at the same point in time. It is currently #105 after just 9 weeks while American Life was #89 in its 9th week of release. And it’s looking as if MDNA could become the first album from a major pop star to not have a single released after the album itself, as the first two singles came out before the album and there is no word of a third (though Gang Bang would make a great video).
This leaves Madonna with essentially a flop record, no hit singles and basically no press to rely on at the dawn of her new tour. Once again, Lady GaGa inadvertently to the rescue. Since the leak of the Express Yourself/Born This Way rehearsal video, the comparison of the two has popped up again. Admittedly, Madonna deserves props for creating a better mashup than anyone has made thus far, though while the songs do fit together, it still isn’t necessarily indicative that they’re enough alike to justify the amount of attention it has received over the last year and a half. The mashup ends with Madonna including a small portion of her Hard Candy (2008) album track She’s Not Me at the end, to further prove a point.
This tactic has gotten Madonna some new attention at a time when her new material has failed to do so, although it seems to be out of desperation rather than somehow making a relevant statement. While Lady GaGa faces controversy of our own due to the cancellation of one of her own shows in Indonesia last week, Madonna creates her own by relying on the success of what some might call her successor. She could have passed off the mash-up as her giving homage to the star that has given her so much respect since debuting in 2008, therefore appearing graceful and letting bloggers and tweeters come to their own conclusions about her true motives, but instead she weakens it by adding “she’s not me” at the end, for cheap applause.
Or maybe Madonna deserves the benefit of the doubt and it’s all her way of saying GaGa is her own person, as she has tried to say since the Madonna comparisons came about. Or maybe not. At this point, it wouldn’t matter what the true intentions were because of how obvious such a statement would be taken by the public.
In the end, it’s a petty move for a woman who has contributed as much as she has to pop music over the last thirty years. If anything, though, it can be said that Madonna knows GaGa is a threat which is why she has chosen to create a feud rather than simply letting it go. Perhaps an unwise move for the Queen of Controversy as she once again shows that her reliance on GaGa is perhaps her only way to stay relevant with today’s pop audiences.