Pop Talk: Deconstructing 2011's girl anthems

Pop Talk: Deconstructing 2011's girl anthems
Emma Plant sorts through the mixed messages presented in the videos for Lady Gaga and Natasha Bedingfield's new girl anthems, "Born This Way" and "Strip Me".

Unicorns, ‘V’ motifs, pointy shoulders, and Gaga’s signature open-mouth-vacant-expression, greet us with all the anticipated Gaga-ness one would expect for a brand new concept song. Some have called this clip as "glorious". Others, mind the pun, have said Gaga has birthed a misdemeanour. Either way the belatedly overdue release has induced a frenzy of attention.

"Born This Way", the "Manifesto of Mother Monster", begins with heavily laden cinematic special effects: a salad of old James Bond, Star Trek, Alien, Return to Oz and Pink Floyd, dressed with psychedelia and mysterious poetry. "The birth was not finite. It was infinite... As the wombs numbered, the mitosis of the future began...". Right. Interscope Records, you’ve nailed it again.

Undeniably, it is hard to look away from any of the Lady’s offerings. "Born This Way" lures you closer with a smooth and dark kaleidoscope of drama. And, yes, it’s always lovely to see violent pulling from someone’s nether regions. Giving birth. Got it.

Many questions come to mind after watching, nee witnessing this clip. Is Gaga commenting on yin and yang, the balance of good and evil, perhaps the beauty and mystery of childbirth? Hmmm.

Then "Born This Way" the song, the one we will be hearing on high radio rotation begins. At first, it does appear, and sound like Gaga has enlisted the Sugababes to collaborate. This continues throughout.

"I’m on the right track baby, I was born this way."

Juxtaposed against the dark/ridiculous beginning, the song is all lippy and light; tailor made for the dance floor. The lyrics suggest this song is an attempt at a self-esteem anthem for all to heed. Memories of Christina Aguilera’s "Beautiful" are revisited. However, in this instance, Gaga’s "be your true self... God makes no mistakes", juxtaposed with the layers of pop culture references in the film clip, do not conjure the same sobriety as Aguilera’s.

For someone who has fashioned a name from being a controversial style chameleon (copy cat), the lyrical content seems a little ironic. "I was born this way baby" - really? Because it appears to be your ‘true self’ is very (very) high maintenance. Nonetheless, we know by now her voice will resonate with many teens, pre-teens and fans, especially the ladies.

From one uplifting song to another, British born Natasha Bedingfield has attempted to crack the US with new song "Strip Me". It’s true we have just been talking Gaga, but Bedingfield is not being literal. In line with her previous edifying releases – cite "Pocket Full of Sunshine" and "Unwritten", Ms Bedingfield unabashedly wears her big heart on her fashionable sleeve.

Mattel’s dream, Bedingfield is modern day Barbie personified. Sweet, unassuming, feminine but with her high heels firmly planted in the power of ‘your dreams can come true’ musings. Not to mention her striking looks and uber perfect teeth (a very non-British notion).

Catchy like your new stockings near sharp points, this song has you singing along after one teeny tiny play. “Chase rainbows, take what you want, fill me up, cut me down to size, I’m only one voice in a million but you aint’ takin’ that from me”. It's lyrical déjà vu, as if we know the words before we have even heard them.

Agreed, it is uplifting and all kinds of lovely. Although, through a more critical eye, does it not seem like a bunch of naff, positive rambling that somebody, somewhere knows will sell to ‘independent women’? Download to iPhone, set as ringtone, hear me roar.

Much like Gaga’s "Born This Way", Bedingfield’s video seems to directly contradict her one-in-a million message. At one stage the clip does show her slumming it with some dirt on her legs and matted hair – in a Hollywood-pretty way. At least Miley Cyrus had the decency to don plain ol’ jeans when she was singing "It’s a Climb" atop mountain.

What will fans and women alike will take from both of these songs? We can hear the words, but we also see who is singing them and how they are being sung. What are the repercussions for commitment-free songs such as these?

Emma Plant has a Bachelor of Communications (Writing & Photojournalism) and her work has appeared in Frankie, Yen, Good Health and the Gold Coast Bulletin. When she's not writing, shooting or making social documentaries, she is a high school substitute teacher and makeup artist.

Girl With a Satchel


Laura said...

Wow, excellent article. Personally, I'm not a fan of Gaga but I give her kudos for brilliant marketing. She's tapped into our most vulnerable pockets of society- tween & teen girls, sexually ambiguous youth with self esteem issues - and for better or worse they have made her an idol. She can do no wrong and that scares me. It's scary to think that very few people are thinking critically about what song lyrics really say, or how the video can change a meaning of a song. Look at Rihanna tied to the bed in that Eminem video with him singing out lighting the house on fire to watch her burn... this from a young woman who was previously in an abusive relationship.
What is the music we listen to really saying about us and how is it shaping our opinions and values?