Friday, February 11, 2011. Ground Zero. Chicago.
No, not thousands of Egyptian residents rejoicing as Hosni Mubarak steps down, or even gay icon Robyn playing live again, but the first taste of Lady GaGa's new material today. And it's a very familiar flavor at that: a hint of Madonna.
Now trust, there is nothing more clichéd than a gay music critic comparing Madonna to Gaga, I'm aware. But this truly is the first time I've noticed it in her production and writing vs. just in her imagery. The chorus of La'gaga's new single "Born This Way" is directly lifted from Madge's "Express Yourself" (thank you Matthew Harvat for pointing that one out) and the fading clicks at the end couldn't be more "Express Yourself."
As you're probably aware, this isn't the first time someone has tried to cop Madonna's sound. The first one I recollect is one-hit wonder Regina whose single "Baby Love" was so similar to everything off Madonna's self-titled first album that we all thought it was a new Madonna single when it hit the radio in 1986. Turns out Baby Love was written for Madonna with Steven Bray (Madonna's main collaborator in her early years), but Regina decided to keep it for herself instead. Good move for one hit, but she was so close to Madonna but without the sexy charisma that there was no need for Regina in the pop world after that.
Madonna then didn't get much in the way of imitators until the '90s when Kylie Minogue and Cathy Dennis, both in the downward slide of their careers, tried on her mid-period sound on Kylie's Where is the Feeling and Cathy's entire Into the Skyline, produced by collaborator Shep Pettibone. Well, those two attempts bombed. So, lets flash forward to 2009.
The heinous Black Eyed Peas had one glimmer of quality when Fergie and Will.i.am paid homage to the Like a Virgin era with "Meet Me Halfway," even working the word "borderline" into the chorus. If it wasn't for the lame wrapping, it would have been the best Madonna track in years. This tribute, combined with "Born This Way," shows that aping Madonna is truly in "Vogue." Now, if only Ms. Ciccone herself could tap into that, she could still snatch that crown form Ms. Germanotta's little monster head.