Tributing Madonna’s “Express Yourself” Is The Hot New Trend In Pop

Becky Bain / February 11, 2011

So, Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” sounds a lot like Madonna’s 1989 hit song “Express Yourself”, right? (It also has a little bit of “Vogue” in there, too, but we’ll focus on just one song for now.) But Gaga’s not the first to taken an interest in Madonna’s tune in recent months. Why is this 22-year old song suddenly popping up all over the place?

For those of you who were born well after 1989 and all you know about Madonna is whatever was told to you in that Glee episode, well, she had a song that was about not being afraid to refuse people who will not accept you for who you are. And to proudly express yourself! The single peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and comes with a classic music video directed by David Fincher (who just happens to be nominated for an Oscar this year for directing The Social Network):

Obviously, there are some aspects of “Born This Way” that have nothing to do with “Express Yourself” — it’s got a much faster beat with heavy disco synths, and there’s a total lack of subtlety. But the chorus of both songs sound much too similar to be ignored (or to be a complete coincidence).

However, Gaga’s song isn’t the first time we’ve been reminded of “Express Yourself” in a pop star’s new tunes from the past year – in fact, Christina Aguilera, who is often attacked for lifting Ms. Germanotta’s shtick, made a pretty heavy homage to the “Express Yourself” video in her own vid for “Not Myself Tonight”:

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And this:

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But wait a minute — even if all you know of Madonna is last April’s Glee episode covering her songs, the cast performed “Express Yourself”, too! They even had matching, color-coordinated suits like the one she wears in the video:

We bring these points up  not to chastise these ladies (and Ryan Murphy) for paying homage to Madonna, but just to highlight the curious rising popularity of a single and video that came out in 1989. And to applaud the Material Girl for creating melodies and images so iconic that they’re still being celebrated decades later.

So, did Lady Gaga mean to homage Madonna’s song, or do some tracks just sound like other tracks and we should leave well enough alone? Either way, it’s pretty interesting that she described writing “Born This Way” as “an immaculate conception.” Did she mean it was as though she was listening to The Immaculate Collection?