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Lady Gaga: Born This Way the Tenth Anniversary

It’s hard to deny the immense impact Lady Gaga’s Born This Way had even upon its release 10 years ago. It shattered records when both the album and titular lead single sold over a million copies in their first week of release. Lady Gaga secured four other multi-platinum singles from the project, embarked on a worldwide tour and was the subject of countless headlines when she appeared at award shows donning various, showstopping outfits including a dress made of raw meat to the VMAs or arriving to the Grammys red carpet in a human-sized egg.

Perhaps most socially significant is the album’s impact on the queer community. This hasn’t gone unacknowledged, in fact “Born This Way” is literally constructed as an anthem for her queer following, cementing her support for the community that found solace and joy in her music since her debut a few years earlier. “No matter gay straight or bi, lesbian, transgender life,” she sings in the bridge, “baby you were born this way.” The sheer intensity of the entire record, it’s genre-bending guitar riffs, the influence of Christianity as well as electronic and metal music created spaces for escape and authenticity that many queer people had not been provided from mainstream musicians in a while.

Now, 10 years later, the album’s impact is undeniable and far from forgotten. But still, in commemoration for the decade since its release and for Pride month, Lady Gaga has released Born This Way the Tenth Anniversary version of the album with six songs covered by queer artists. The album’s five singles are redone along with the track “Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)” with artists from Broadway star Ben Platt taking on “Yoü and I,” to gay cowboy Orville Peck’s “Born This Way (The Country Road Version)” and icon Kylie Minogue taking her turn with “Marry the Night.”

Despite a somewhat lackluster and fleeting campaign to release the new versions, it’s still important to realize how much these artists themselves were likely influenced by Lady Gaga’s work on the album. ”Born This Way” has and forever will be an anthem in which queer and other systemically disenfranchised groups can find a supportive voice. But in keeping with respectability and social sensitivity, Peck’s country version changes some of the original lyrics ever so slightly like, “Chola or orient made,” to “Asian or Latinx made.” It’s fair to say this is a necessary change, though most queer people would likely find far less offense in Lady Gaga’s lyrics compared to many other pop stars.

Minogue’s rendition of “Marry the Night” is essentially the same as the original, with her vocals standing out as the biggest difference from Lady Gaga’s. Big Freedia takes her turn on the album’s second “Judas,” making the song a little more club-oriented, trappy and anthemic. Big Freedia raps the lyrics that detail literally sleeping with the devil. “I’ll wash his feet with my hair if he needs/ Forgive him when his tongue lies through his brain.” The bridge’s lyrics are also altered here, stripping the song of where Lady Gaga sings of being a hooker, prostitute and wench, opting for the crowd-rousing line, “It’s Gaga and Freedia coming for your speaker.” It’s not quite as shocking as the original, but it works fine.

Platt takes on “Yoü and I,” giving the song a less intense feel, featuring piano played a few octaves higher and singing with much lighter, more delicate vocals. Years & Years’ version of “The Edge of Glory ” features a slightly shallower beat, redone to sound more disco-inspired and twinkling. The Highwomen with Brittney Spencer and Madeline Edwards do “Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)” giving it a country-acoustic sound with much more intelligible lyrics, though this is the one that really can’t compare to Lady Gaga’s original.

Despite the new versions, it’s just as worthwhile to revisit the album’s other tracks. With “Americano” and “Scheiße” Lady Gaga shows her ability to perform in various languages ― Spanish and German ― on these tracks, while songs like “Bloody Mary” and “Electric Chapel” emphasize the albums religious themes so meticulously sewed throughout the project. The entire Born This Way project is a force to be reckoned with and the newest versions remind us just how impactful and utterly talented Lady Gaga is.

Summary
Lady Gaga’s Born This Way the Tenth Anniversary revisits the album's impact on music and the queer community with covers of several of the albums tracks by queer artists, giving them diverse and sonically expansive styles.
93 %
Empowering and Nostalgic

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