For The Record: The Liberating Joy Of Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way' At 10

Lady Gaga


For The Record: The Liberating Joy Of Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way' At 10

Released in May 2011, 'Born This Way' is remarkable for its unrelenting reinvention of the woman we know as Lady Gaga. Nominated for three GRAMMYs, Mother Monster's third album gave the world an eternal gay pride anthem in "Born This Way."

GRAMMYs/May 23, 2021 - 09:07 pm

It's hard to imagine a more theatrical arrival to any event than Lady Gaga at the 53rd GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 13, 2011. Encased in a translucent ellipsoid, carried like a palanquin down the red carpet by a quartet of latex-clad models, Gaga herself was barely visible, but her presence was undeniable. Later that night, when she emerged from the egg-like container onto the GRAMMY stage, she wasn't simply performing her new single-she was introducing the world to a new era of her artistry.

Released on May 23, 2011, Born This Way was one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year; upon release, it sold more than 1 million copies in its first week, making Lady Gaga only the fifth female artist to reach that milestone. While eye-catching couture was de rigueur on her pre-release tour between February and May, the topic of her red carpet "vessel," as she called it, was still hot when she appeared on the "Late Show with David Letterman" on release night.

It was a symbol of her rebirth, she explained, deliberately facing the studio audience. "I believe that you can be reborn over and over again until you find that part of you that is the best you that you can be. I encourage everyone to do that."

She then cheekily turned to Letterman. "I wonder what would happen if I put you in an egg."

In some ways, the ease with which Gaga can flow from sincere expressions of depth to ribald humor is the essence of the artist. At once, she is both serious and facetious. It's how she can simultaneously convey absurdity and ferocity on the cover of Born This Way, which pictures her as an anthropomorphized motorcycle, or how she can take liberties with the German language on the song "Scheiße" without undermining a pining love song like "You and I."

If the biker babe aesthetic of the cover wasn't enough of a clue that Born This Way was here to rock, the album opens with the full-throttled aggression of the guitar-heavy "Marry The Night." In what would become one of her signature songs, Gaga declares herself a free spirit while simultaneously committing to a figurative union with darkness, in a vocal produced with radiant clarity by Fernando Garibay.

The sonic motif continues on the penultimate track, "You And I," the most surprising collaboration on the album. Known for producing albums by AC/DC and Def Leppard as well as Shania Twain, co-producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange delivers his pop-by-way-of-metal pedigree, which is uniquely suited for the moment, if only to remind listeners that the guitars on Born This Way aren't a fluke and neither are the hooks.

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Even though Garibay, along with producer RedOne, had worked with Lady Gaga before, neither rehash their former glories here. Born This Way is remarkable for its unrelenting reinvention of the woman we know as Lady Gaga. A classic house and experimental techno enthusiast, Garibay is perhaps most audible in the album's decided turn away from Gaga's polished electro past toward a more raw, EDM-influenced future. Tracks like "Government Hooker" and "Heavy Metal Lover" play with Gaga's vocal as if she's inhabiting different skins, each reflecting various parts of herself and all creating soundtracks for stomping across strobe-lit dance floors.

On album closer "The Edge Of Glory," Garibay and Gaga deliver a benediction. "There ain't no reason you and me should be alone tonight," the song starts, implying the impending end of the LP isn't the end of our time with the singer. Before performing the song for Oprah in the final weeks of the host's daytime talk show, Gaga described how she wrote it at her piano as a tribute to her grandmother shortly before her passing. The rawness of her emotion is palpable as the song is both a celebration of life and a full-throated embrace of vulnerability. Even though E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons underscores Gaga's rock and roll daydreams with a record-defining run on the bridge, this ain't Gaga's "Thunder Road."

Instead, Born This Way is Lady Gaga's Ulysses. From her rebirth to her acceptance of mortality, the album is an epic journey of an artist as a young woman. At times, it comes across like a casual stream of consciousness by a pop star who knows how to conquer a dance floor and is laying claim to more. Elsewhere, she subtly reveals that she's actually always in total control. Just as James Joyce's novel once courted controversy, so, too, did Born This Way.

It's easy to forget how the overtly political title track was culturally polarizing only a decade ago. The song's message of self-empowerment through self-acceptance wasn't necessarily new on its own, not even when set to a high-energy dance beat. In fact, for decades, the combination of dance floor bangers with universally relatable lyrics had been embraced as unofficial gay anthems, signaling an unspoken but loudly sung message of validation and equality to LGBTQ+ audiences while carefully never disrupting the sensibilities of listeners intolerant of what was often described as a "lifestyle choice."

On "Born This Way," Lady Gaga, who is bisexual, is unequivocal: Not only are all people worthwhile, "no matter gay, straight, or bi," she sings on the track, but their sexuality is a birthright to be proud of. It's a succinct statement of love and visibility that's hard to dispute. As Oprah put it, "you encourage people to be comfortable being born the way they are, being born that way."

Just as it's hard to imagine a time before Lady Gaga was a household name, it's hard to remember that before 2011, LGBTQ+ rights weren't widely accepted or even openly discussed. For decades, artists had been discouraged by their managers and labels from taking similar stances, either in their music or in the press. Paralyzed by fears of alienating parts of their audiences or becoming targets of morality campaigns, pop artists were quiet at best when it came to issues of LGBTQ+ equality. With the forces of change moving quickly toward progress, thanks to a string of legal and legislative victories, "Born This Way"—as a credo and the first bona fide gay anthem that explicitly advocates for gay rights—arrived at the exact moment when Americans needed it.

In the hands of an artist without Lady Gaga's credibility, a song like "Born This Way" could have been dismissed as pandering or propaganda. In the three years between releasing her 2008 debut album, The Fame, and Born This Way, Gaga had already established herself as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. For all her theatricality, as an artist who existed beyond the confines of concert stages, music videos and even music itself, Gaga routinely shattered the illusion of a fourth wall to connect with her audience. Her 24/7 commitment to being Lady Gaga created often-unfiltered content for emerging social media platforms, notably Twitter, where fans were eager to like, retweet and devour her every move. Whether she was walking the 10 feet from her hotel to a car or staying up all night with a bottle of wine to respond to tweets about her album on the eve of its release, Gaga made herself accessible, reachable and knowable. She also knew her fans.

As much as she expressed herself through her art, Lady Gaga was unapologetic about who that art was for. While the story of most fan bases speaks to the positioning of an artist in the market and the reception of their work by customers, the relationship between "Mother Monster" and her legion of "Little Monsters" became uniquely vital to her craft on Born This Way. Lady Gaga showed the world that her fans weren't simply there to respond to her work—they were actively inspiring it.

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GRAMMY Rewind: Lady Gaga Praises Whitney Houston's Influence After 'The Fame Monster' Wins In 2011
Lady Gaga at the 2011 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Michael Caulfield


GRAMMY Rewind: Lady Gaga Praises Whitney Houston's Influence After 'The Fame Monster' Wins In 2011

When Lady Gaga's 'The Fame Monster' won a GRAMMY for Pop Vocal Album, the singer hinted that her newly minted superstar status wouldn't have been possible without Whitney Houston's influence.

GRAMMYs/Apr 14, 2023 - 05:16 pm

From the very start of her career, Lady Gaga taught society that it's okay to be different. While that may be most encapsulated in her 2011 smash "Born This Way," Gaga's 2010 album The Fame Monster — a reissue of her blockbuster 2008 debut, The Fame — solidified Gaga's place as a confidence-boosting superstar.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, we turn back the clock to 2011, when Lady Gaga won Pop Vocal Album for The Fame Monster. Her third win of the night (hit single "Bad Romance" won Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Short Form Music Video), Gaga couldn't help but let out an "Oh sh—!" when she began her acceptance speech.

After thanking her Little Monsters, family, team, and label, Gaga hinted that the moment was a childhood dream come true. And before leaving the stage, Lady Gaga acknowledged that she was particularly inspired by Whitney Houston's impact.

"I wanted to thank Whitney because, when I wrote 'Born This Way,' I imagined she was singing it because I wasn't secure enough in myself to imagine I was a superstar."

Press play on the video above to watch Lady Gaga's candid acceptance speech for Pop Vocal Album at the 2011 GRAMMY Awards, and check back to for more episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

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Run The World: How Lady Gaga Changed The Music Industry With Dance-Pop & Unapologetic Feminism
Lady Gaga

Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images


Run The World: How Lady Gaga Changed The Music Industry With Dance-Pop & Unapologetic Feminism

In celebration of Women's History Month, get a glimpse of Lady Gaga's influential career as a luminary of dance-pop and her outspoken advocacy for women's rights.

GRAMMYs/Mar 29, 2023 - 02:21 pm

Born Stefani Germanotta, Lady Gaga is one of the best-selling female artists in history. Rightfully so, Gaga's years of training — from taking piano lessons at 4 years old to briefly studying at New York University's prestigious Collaborative Arts Project 21 musical theater program — prepared her to become one of the most technical pop singers of all time. With the addition of her innovative creativity to her musical skill set, Gaga forged the perfect formula to become one of the biggest stars of her generation.

Lady Gaga created music under the pen name — a reference to Queen's hit "Radio Ga Ga" — years before she finally caught the eyes of Interscope executive Vincent Herbert, who she now credits for discovering her. Eventually, Lady Gaga was introduced to award-winning songwriter and producer RedOne to make her breakthrough album, 2008's The Fame, under Interscope imprint label Cherrytree Records.

Speaking to The Independent in 2009, she recalled her struggles to get radio airplay after releasing The Fame. "They would say, 'This is too racy, too dance-oriented, too underground. It's not marketable,'" she said. "And I would say, 'My name is Lady Gaga. I've been on the music scene for years, and I'm telling you, this is what's next.'" 

And right she was: the year following The Fame's premiere, Lady Gaga received her first GRAMMY nomination for "Just Dance" at the 2009 GRAMMY Awards. Over a decade later, she's won 13 GRAMMYs and counts 36 GRAMMY nominations in total.

By 2016, Lady Gaga had four No. 1 albums under her belt, from Born This Way to Joanne. In 2018, she signed on to be the lead actress in Bradley Cooper's remake of A Star Is Born, also doubling as the songwriter and producer for the soundtrack. The release was an immediate success, debuting at the top of the Billboard 200 Albums chart and making Lady Gaga the first woman with five No. 1 albums in the 2010s. In 2019, Lady Gaga became the first person in history to win a GRAMMY, Oscar, BAFTA, and Golden Globe in a single year.

As a part of's ongoing commemoration of Women's History Month, we're looking back at Lady Gaga's influential career as one of the music industry's pop legends in this episode of Run The World. Extending Lady Gaga's impressively successful career as an entertainer is her philanthropy and advocacy work as a proud, outspoken feminist.

During her 2018 ELLE Women in Hollywood event, Lady Gaga gave an inspiring speech to bring awareness to sexual assault. "For me, this is what it means to be a woman in Hollywood. It means I have a platform. I have a chance to make a change. I pray we listen, believe, and pay closer attention to those around us in need. Be a helping hand. Be a force for change," Lady Gaga concluded after courageously sharing her story as a survivor.

She has also used her platform on stage to advocate for women. During her Chromatica Ball tour in 2022, she dedicated "The Edge of Glory" to women after the government overturned Roe v. Wade two months prior: "To every woman who now has to worry about her body if she gets pregnant, I pray this country will speak up, and we will not stop until it's right!"

Lady Gaga isn't just a musician or actress. She is a pioneer in change, a spokesperson for those whose voices might not get heard. She wants to see women, especially in entertainment, win while being able to claim their authentic femininity, as she told Glamour in 2017. 

"I hope to see women thriving and happy, loving what they're doing, and being in control and powerful of what they create," she explained. "As much as we all love the fashion and the makeup and glamour, this isn't a beauty pageant. It's about the heart and the drive and the work."

Press play on the video above to revisit some of Lady Gaga's historic achievements throughout her groundbreaking career, and keep checking back to for more new episodes of Run The World.

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Lady Gaga Stuns 2023 Oscars Audience With Stark, Surprise Performance Of "Hold My Hand" From 'Top Gun: Maverick'
Lady Gaga performing at the 2023 Oscars

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images


Lady Gaga Stuns 2023 Oscars Audience With Stark, Surprise Performance Of "Hold My Hand" From 'Top Gun: Maverick'

Tom Cruise may have skipped the show due to filming constraints, but Lady Gaga appeared to perform an astonishing, unadorned "Hold My Hand" from 'Top Gun: Maverick' at the 2023 Oscars.

GRAMMYs/Mar 13, 2023 - 02:19 am

Tom Cruise is physically distant from the 2023 Oscars. In fact, he's in the United Kingdom filming Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part II. But Lady Gaga proved more than a worthy ambassador, performing "Hold My Hand" from the blockbuster action sequel.

The emotionally bare performance arrived in the wake of major speculation. Initially, it was just a rumor: she wasinitially reported to be skipping the awards show due to demands on filming "Joker: Folie à Deux." During a creative team press conference on March 8, Oscars executive producer and showrunner Glenn Weiss stated that Gaga would not be performing.

But the 13-time GRAMMY winner came through with an astonishing rendition of "Hold My Hand" — one of six nominations that Top Gun: Maverick received, including Best Picture.

Keep watching this space for more music-related wins at the 2023 Oscars!

For The Record: The Liberating Joy Of Lady Gaga's Born This Way At 10

A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 


A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea

James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.

Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.

Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.

In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.

Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.

There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.

Say She She

Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.

While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."


Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.

Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.

Shiro Schwarz

Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.

Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.


L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.

During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.

Franc Moody

Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.

Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.

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