Monday, February 14, 2011

Born This Way

Born This Way

The most important action on the marriage equality front this weekend wasn't a bill or a rally.

It was a song.

The most important popular musician of our moment, Lady Gaga, released her new song over the weekend, with a high-profile rollout: a "60 Minutes" interview followed by a live (more or less) debut of the song on the Grammy awards.

"Born This Way" is, lyrically and musically, an anthem, a call to celebrate who and what you are. The very title takes a side in the nature vs. nurture debate, and the message is gay in the old, joyous sense of the word.

"I liked it the first time I heard it," you say in your David Spade mocking voice, "when it was called 'Express Yourself'." But while Madonna was herself very gay-friendly 20 years ago (where do you think "Vogue" came from?), the personal pronouns and imagery of 1989's "Express Yourself" place it firmly in heterosexual relationship territory. "Born This Way" is not specifically about relationships and clearly gay friendly.
Whether life's disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
'Cause baby, you were born this way

No matter gay, straight or bi
Lesbian, transgendered life
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born to survive
"Don't be a drag, just be a queen," Gaga tells her fans.

And they are legion: Lady Gaga has more Twitter followers than anyone else, over six million. And that's why this matters in the context of a political blog in Iowa.

I'm too damn old to be a Lady Gaga fan; she's of my daughter's generation, not mine. But like the blog motto says: too old to be cool, too young not to care, and I've become a slightly late to the party true believer.

Don't lump her in with the shallow Spearses of her musical generation. Behind Lady Gaga's gimmickry there's an actual musician, a serious songwriter and a committed young woman with strong opinions. The gimmicks are just a tool, attracting attention to the real substance: the music.

Here it is: no gimmicks, no meat dress. Just listen to the song and follow the lyrics.

Lady Gaga got her first big break in the gay-friendly New York club scene and she's fiercely committed to equality and justice for the community that first believed in her, literally dancing with those that brung her. Her biggest focus has been Don't Ask Don't Tell: bringing discharged troops as "dates" to award shows, speaking at a Maine rally in an (unsuccessful) effort to persuade Senators Snowe and Collins, and firing up that six million strong Twitter list to bring her "Little Monsters" to the cause.

Now the cause is in the music itself.

While the generation of the past pushes its agenda of hate through the Iowa Legislature, the generation of the future is on their smart phones (iPods are soooo 2006) downloading "Born This Way," even in Sioux County, Iowa. While Dwayne Alons and Richard Anderson are talking about God making marriage between a man and a woman, Lady Gaga sings: "I'm beautiful in my way, 'cause God makes no mistakes."

Lady Gaga is dancing on the grave of bigotry. But some people just can't hear the music yet.

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