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

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”:


And this:


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?

  • Doug

    No man. Lady Gaga’s song isn’t a tribute. She stole it. It’s a rip of Express Yourself and nothing more. At least Aguilera just referenced the music video.

  • ernie

    best article about this song right now

  • Sid

    i get the debate, there is a definite similarity, but why is noone screaming about Britney’s “hold it against me” sounding EXACTLY like madonna’s “celebration”?

  • kizzy

    Brit’s song sounds nothing like madge’s celebration and if it is….it’s very subtle. ke$ha maybe, but madge…um no. but gaga’s song is a sped of replica of express yourself. i don’t care what anybody says. there’s a difference between ripping off someone and being influenced by someone. and this is a blatant rip off. people like to diss christina but at least her cd was original and didn’t sound anything like madonna or gaga. nmt payed homage to madonna but the song itself was NOTHING like it. and that is a BIG difference.

  • Wendell

    NO WAY!! While I find the themes to be similar, the music is NOT at all. I have been listening to Madonna’s song for 20 years and I know it backwards and forwards. This song is nothing like it. They are both great pop songs though full inspiration and groove.

  • Joe

    Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ is a shameless Madonna ripoff!

  • Glenn

    I guess because Britney Spears is a has-been?

    The vocal line is the same. If you can’t tell then you must have a problem with recognizing melodies.

  • bort

    she has been stealing madonna’s image for a long time but now she has actually stolen a song? what a joke. and to think that some people actually believed her when she said all that stuff about being an artist. yeah, maybe a con-artist.

  • MattyZ

    People are so silly. if you know anything about music history, you’d know that Madonna’s “Express Yourself “was a tribute to R&B and Gospel – as many pop anthems are… the chord progressions of many songs are similar – it’s almost what defines “pop”. I think both songs are terrific. I am child of the 80s and 90s and love Madonna and I think Gaga is actually a better songwriter. And this song has a terrific message for gay youth who weren’t even born when “Express Yourself” dropped in 1989. Time moves on people – and nothing is sacred…not even Madonna.

  • E.J.

    As if this is the first time Gaga has referenced Madonna… She’s basically the new millenium version of ol’ Madge. But Madonna is a legend – almost of Michael Jackson calibur, so it’s not surprising to see that so many popstars who were young when she was at the peak of her career have been influenced by her. Naturally.

  • bort

    get a clue, matty. nobody said anything about chord progressions being the root of the problem. it’s the SAME SONG. it has the SAME MELODY and the SAME CONTENT. you can’t do that and call yourself an artist. period.

  • TW

    Anyone with any shred of a knack for music can see that this is a rip off. When I first listened to it, two things popped into my head:
    1) I was expecting something more unique, more groundbreaking. Why something like this?
    2) This sounds reeeeally familiar… omg. It’s “Express Yourself”

    I mean, ok, Gaga speeds up the tempo a little, and obviously changes the words, but even the melodies of the songs are extremely similar. When Madonna goes higher in the prechorus, guess what? So does Gaga. To almost the exact same melody. The choruses are very close, too. She even uses the same kind of back up singing that Madonna used 20 years ago.

    If millions of people, after hearing this song for the FIRST TIME, all think the same thing: dear lord, it’s “Express Yourself”, something has to be a bit weird right?

  • Travis

    it definitely has a 90′s feel to it, but my friend pointed out that it sounds a lot like “When Love Takes Over” David Guetta/Kelly Rowland.

  • Connect

    @ Sid: What are you talking about? You know what, Celebration is a rip off of Britney’s Radar from Blackout, yeah, get it right.

    @ Glenn: Says who? Gaga’s fugly little monsters?

  • John

    It’s not a ripoff. You Madonna fans are pathetic. Gaga is far more talented than Madonna ever was.

  • Carta

    @ Connect – Actually, you’re wrong…the song that was said to be similar to “Radar” was “Revolver”….sorry!

    @ John – half the planet is talking about the similarities (it was on the national news in Australia this morning), so if it’s just Madonna fans claiming this, then half the planet is a Madonna fan. Gaga is talented, for sure, but whether she has enough of it to stay at the top of her game for the next 25 years remains to be seen.

  • JM

    Haha really? Common sense is anything but common, I suppose. That’s the only reason I can think of why so many people keep bringing this up. So what if it sound similar? That’s just an inevitable fact of the music industry. What’s hilarious is that Gaga and Madonna probably don’t even care.

    Didn’t anyone else watch the funny SNL skit that involved the two of them looking and acting alike, and then fighting? They’re friends, and if one of Gaga’s singles is similar to a hit produced almost 20 years ago, then it’s a compliment to the iconic sound of Madonna circa-1989.

    Also, didn’t anyone else consider the fact that Gaga paying homage might help to inspire interest in older music among today’s youth? Whatever. Both Born This Way and Express Yourself are excellent songs. End of discussion.

  • Filmetric

    gaga is just a copy!

  • Boring this way

    If this is a homage to Madonna then her peeps better get moving and say something fast. The backlash is all over the place, the internet, twitter, youtube etc.

  • Look For Yourself

    You got it all wrong folks. And, you are supposed to. Express yourself, Not Myself Tonight, Born This Way and Whitney Houston’s Queen Of The Night are all “tributes” to a 1927 Silent Film called Metropolis. It is a pre-nazi era German film depicting a robot sex slave emerging from an upside down pentagram and working the populace into a false revolution.

  • sara

    and Madonna’s Express Yourself video is a blatant rip off -ahem-homage of Guesch Patti’s European hit Etienne from 2 yrs. earlier in 1987:

  • mandy

    WTF? The Madonna’s video is in some parts an homage to and inspired by Metropolis… she even stated that herself when she released it back in the day But the actual song?? errrr… no a song is a song.. a video is a video.. do you know the difference between visual art and music??
    Why people cant give credit to Madonna when credit is due. i don’t get it.

  • gsmadonnafan

    actually exactly as MJ or maybe a little bit better!! Come on ppl!! MJ yes it IS the best male pop ICON, but Madonna proved herself over and over and over and over again! From the very first moment M started everyone were sure that she would be out of buisness in 2 months, but she is here for 30 decades!!! She used smthing far better than big “voice” talent! SHE USED, AND STILL USING, HER BRAINS!!!! She has a great sence to what will ppl want and she can adapt it wherever she needs it… just my thoughts though!!! And I don’t mean to say anything bad for the King, but I’m just sayin’ that he used his incredible music talent to achieve immortality, while Madonna dared to do things that noone ever did!!!

    • Mohamed

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  • kelebek

    If this is a homage to Madonna then her peeps better get moving and say something fast. The backlash is all over the place, the internet, twitter, youtube etc.

  • bisonlevy

    Speaking of Christmas, has anyone heard the Justin Bieber Christmas song?

    It’s actually not that bad….

  • video

    SHE USED, AND STILL USING, HER BRAINS!!!! She has a great sence to what will ppl want and she can adapt it wherever she needs it… just my thoughts though!!! And I don’t mean to say anything bad for the King, but I’m just sayin’ that he used his incredible music talent to achieve immortality, while Madonna dared to do things that noone ever did!!!

  • rosemary

    It’s just thieves stealing from other thieves.

    To date there have been many very credible copyright infringement and plagiarism claims against Madonna for stealing.

    The imagery from Express Yourself comes from 1927 movie Metropolis

    Also Justify My Love was straight out stolen from Ingred Chavez and even the beat was taken from Public Enemy. Only one line was changed and Madonna tried to only make her and Lenny Kravitz as those that wrote it.

    She is smart for stealing from unknowns usually though.