Lady Gaga and Madonna: are they trying to tell us something in their song lyrics?

Recently I’ve been keeping a close eye on the phenomenal progress of the lovely Lady Gaga through the music charts as well as pretty much every other commercial/entertainment avenue. I marvel at her ability to charm millions not only with her, er, shall we say extravagant taste in dress/undress, but also her musical compositions. However, what exactly do her lyrics contribute to our current culture? And what difference did (and still do) the song lyrics of her cultural predecessor, Madonna, make to us over the last three decades or so?

Madonna and Lady Gaga compared?

Whether their management companies, publicists and other hangers-on agree, to an analytical old goat like me these two performers have quite a lot in common. Both come from USA-based Italian origins. Both are very talented musicians and songwriters. Both are unbelievably good performers. Both are incredibly good publicists. Both are amazingly good at re-inventing themselves every 10 minutes. And all this, despite a nearly 30-year age gap.

But as for hoping that the lyrics written by Lady Gaga may show some cultural moves forward beyond those written/co-written by Madonna up to 30 years earlier, I have to say I’m disappointed. Much as these two women express their individuality in their costumes, set designs and performances, such expressions are visual only. When it comes to their music and lyrics, it’s pop pulp every time. Or is it? Could we be missing something here?

Is there a personality in there?

Let’s face it; lyrics such as the following (excerpts only) do not immediately bring to mind anything other than a few words that conveniently rhyme and give the performers mouths something to do while they’re making their noises:

When you walked out my door

I knew you’d be back for more

Let’s leave the past behind

True love is so hard to find

(from “Stay” by Madonna and Steve Bray)

You know that I want you

And you know that I need you

(‘Cause I’m a freak bitch, baby!)

I want it bad

Your bad romance

(from “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga)

Then, we get the phonetics which really stretch that credibility gap if you’re looking for meaning of any kind:

Shoo bee doo bee doo ooh la la, come to me baby

Shoo bee doo bee doo ooh la la, don’t say maybe

Shoo bee doo bee doo ooh la la, come to me baby

Shoo bee doo bee doo ooh la la

(from, surprisingly, “Shoo-bee-doo” by Madonna)



Caught in a bad romance



Caught in a bad romance

Rah rah ah-ah-ah!

Ro mah ro-mah-mah

Gaga Ooh-la-la!

Want your bad romance

(from “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga)

I don’t want to be patronizing and I realize I have been by pulling out the examples above, which are not just put across by Madonna and Lady Gaga but are representative of much popular music going right back to songs like the intriguingly named “Jada, jada, jing, jing, jing,” written by Bob Carleton back in 1918. And I’d probably find more going back further in history.

There’s nothing new about “shooby-dooby-doo.” (Funny, that sounds like a good title for a song…) Similarly nonsensical lyrics have been sung by various very distinguished and talented artistes including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Dame Cleo Laine and many more … written by some very famous composers, too. It could be argued that lyrics like these are not garbage, but phonetics that permit the human voice to be used as a musical instrument. Yeah, well, maybe.

So can we find a glimmer of the real Madonna and Lady Gaga – somewhere?

Yes, I believe we can. Let’s start with Madonna. In this excerpt from “Over And Over” written by her and Steve Bray, we begin to see signs of her driving energy and ambition … hints of hyperactivity, and the possible reactions to it from someone close to her:

Hurry up, I just can’t wait

I gotta do it now I can’t be late

I know I’m not afraid I gotta get out the door

If I don’t do it now I won’t get any more

You try to criticize my drive

If I lose I don’t feel paralyzed

It’s not the game it’s how you play

And if I fall I get up again now

Lady Gaga, too, shows something of her own character here in this caring and socially conscious excerpt from “Born This Way:”

Don’t be a drag, just be a queen

Whether you’re broke or evergreen

You’re black, white, beige, Chola descent

You’re Lebanese, you’re Orient

Whether life’s disabilities

Left you outcast, bullied or teased

Rejoice and love yourself today

‘Cause baby you were born this way.

Obviously I’m aware that the very nature of pop music – of which Madonna and Lady Gaga are Queen and Princess respectively in my view – means that lyrics must never get beyond the fringes of intellectualism or they’ll scare off the fans who don’t want to think; they just want to boogie.

However, perhaps we can look forward to the day when both Madonna and Lady Gaga are older and have moved on into more intimate musical genres, where both would be free to write lyrics that give us a good look at the fascinating personalities both of them are hiding behind the glitzy costumes and expensive stagecraft.

What do you think?

Now – tell people what you  mean:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

Photo of Madonna gratefully borrowed from EOnline

Photo of Lady Gaga gratefully borrowed from her own website