DIVERSOUND | Music Column – Because you’re born that way: Lady Gaga’s LGBT Anthem

Davide Sapienza

As she concluded the world tour that had made her a global star, on November 26, 2010, during her concert in Gdansk in Poland, Lady Gaga (born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, in New York on March 28, 1986), decided to make an announcement. It was time to unveil the arrival of her second album, due out the following year, which was titled Born This Way; but this phrase, she implied, was more than a title. It was an act of awareness that the twenty-four-year-old American artist wanted to share with her audience, which included thousands of people who were “born this way”. And after sharing her excitement about the quality of the music on her second record, she concluded with the key concept of this turning point: “The funny thing is that some people have reduced freedom to a brand. They think that it’s trendy now to be free. They think it’s trendy to be excited about your identity. When in truth, there is nothing trendy about Born This Way.[It] is something so much deeper than a wig or lipstick or an outfit, or a f—ing meat dress. […] Born This Way is about what keeps us up at night and what makes us afraid.”

What frightened, and continues to frighten society about those whom it insists on considering as “born this way” – what makes them so different? The answer came a few months later when, in February 2011, the video of the title track “Born This Way” was released, the single we now all know, that was destined for huge global success (as of January 2021, the official video had been viewed over 274 million times on YouTube). In this official video, Lady Gaga decided to present an extended version – over seven minutes long – of her song. The lyrics, music and images merged to reaffirm a message that is the essence of Lady Gaga. And it was also the words, recited and written by her, which accompany the three extra minutes of the video, that made it clear that the young superstar was leaving no room for misunderstandings; that the ambiguity often attributed to artists is actually too often in the eye and ear – but above all in the mentality – of the beholder, those who judge and who decide what canons define diversity, as in the case in the LGBT universe. Stefani Joanne was telling us that this was her identity; she stated that Born This Way had been written to provide an anthem, even more than a hit single, to everyone who is “born this way”, but also to others. After all, everyone is born this way, in their own way. Her talent had allowed her to do so and to never let us forget it, and so begins the sung part: “It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M / Just put your paws up / ‘Cause you were born this way, baby.”

What had Lady Gaga added to the extended version of the video? Using a narrative musical register that straddles the line dividing the fantastical, science fiction and the apocalyptic, Stefani Joanne tells us about the advent of a new era, an imaginary place where evil can be overcome: “And thus began the beginning of the new race; a race within the race of humanity; a race which bears no prejudice, no judgement but boundless freedom.” I’ve been hearing since I was young that pop music will not change the world: it’s true, because it already has. There has been a connection between pop and sexual identity since its inception; since songs have acquired a global reach, whoever grasps the zeitgeist achieves everything that politics no longer can: uniting, breaking down barriers, helping to achieve the most intimate of dreams. Because if you are born this way, that’s the right way to be: “I’m beautiful in my way … I’m on the right track baby, I was born this way / Don’t hide yourself in regret / Just love yourself and you’re set”.