Players: Madonna, the blonde Queen of Pop who's basically immortal and in the midst of MDNA tour; Lady Gaga, the blonde Princess of Pop who's on her way to immortality and in the midst of her Born This Way ball
The Opening Serve: This spat actually started a while ago, back before anyone knew the lyrics to the pop perfection known as "Call Me Maybe" and perhaps back when One Direction were still zygotes in that lab in Uzbekistan. Back in February of 2011, Lady Gaga had released "Born This Way"--the song she wanted to become a gay anthem, but never really took off the way "Bad Romance" did, partly because it was shrouded in a lot of chatter about it sounding like Madonna's "Express Yourself." Well, eventually Madonna did comment on the similar sounding chords, and it was not pretty, telling 20/20 that the song felt "reductive." (She told her puzzled interviewer to "Look it up." And we did, and we really think she meant derivative, but, oh well.) Let's fast forward to Madonna's current MDNA tour, where the 53-year-old has now opened her MDNA tour with a mashup of the two songs:
The Return Volley: Lady Gaga has fired back by ummm... Not firing back. The freshly-concussed Gaga was performing her song "Hair" and added an interlude seemingly aimed at Madonna. "It sometimes makes people feel better about themselves to put other people down," Gaga purrs (video below). "That doesn't make me feel good at all... That just makes me feel like I'm not a good human being... At the end of day I learned so much this year about that." She continues, "I learned about negativity and I learned a lot about people trying to tear you down... and I don't even want to fight back. Because it's more important to me to keep writing music."
What They Say They're Fighting About: "Born This Way" and if Gaga copied Madonna. Sure, they sound similar and sound similar to other pop songs, and everyone's seemingly already weighed in on this. But what Madonna wants to make known is that it's her pop song that sounds like other people's pop songs that should be the standard.
What They're Really Fighting About: Madonna's relevance. We've grown accustomed to Madonna creating controversy and latching on to the next big thing with the release of every new album to stay current. Remember when she lip-locked Britney the same year American Life came out? Or when she taught us all about Kabbalah in 1998 for Ray of Light? Her collaboration with the then-hot Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, or the now-hot Nicki Minaj? Sure, Madonna might be miffed with the similarities between the two songs, but feuding with (arguably) the world's biggest pop star of the moment certainly keeps you in the conversation, doesn't it?
Who's Winning Now: Gaga by a hair (get it?). If Madonna were really that offended by the song, she wouldn't give it the time at her concert, right? But she knows the "reductive" "Born This Way" is working to her benefit--it keeps "Express Yourself" in a conversation that it wouldn't have been in and it conveniently lets her work "Express Yourself" into her set list. And we're guessing connecting the two opens Madonna to newer, and younger fans. Winning those fans over might prove harder since the Madonna slam is just one more example Gaga can use for her anti-bully, anti-hate, anti-negativity crusade--something her Little Monsters adore her for.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.