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Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself’/’Born This Way’ Mash-Up Fuels Feud With Gaga

By Candice Leigh Helfand
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LAS VEGAS (CBS Las Vegas) – Madonna has seemingly taken aim at Lady Gaga by performing a mash-up of her 1989 hit “Express Yourself” and Gaga’s “Born This Way,” which came out in 2011.

The latter song has received a great deal of criticism since its release for its striking similarity to Madonna’s tune, though Gaga has insisted that she saw the decades old empowerment anthem solely as inspiration.

The move, included in the set of Madonna’s “MDNA” tour, has brought further attention to an ongoing feud between the singers.

During a concert of her own, Gaga appeared to address the matter as she spoke to her audience.

“It sometimes makes people feel better about themselves … to put other people down or make fun of them, or maybe make mockery of their work,” she said, offering raised eyebrows and a wry smile as she finished her sentence.

Brian Balthazar, editor of PopGoesTheWeek.com, told CBS Las Vegas that intimidation may play a role in how Madonna regards Lady Gaga.

“I think Madonna can’t help but be intimidated by Lady Gaga. But I also think there’s some jealousy there,” he said. “In a way, you can’t blame [Madonna]. Very few people are on top forever, and while Madonna is still enormously successful, you couldn’t blame her for being slightly intimidated by this young new artist taking inspiration from her and shooting to stardom.”

Elayne Rapping, a professor of American and Media Studies at SUNY Buffalo, also noted that Madonna’s continued relevance could be jeopardized by Lady Gaga’s international acclaim.

“Madonna once played the role Gaga is now playing as the transgressive young woman artist challenging societal norms and outspokenly championing progressive causes, especially in regard to sex, youth and gender norms,” she told CBS Las Vegas. “Unfortunately Madonna has not matured into the kind of artist still breaking new ground or even being socially relevant.”

Rapping added that Madonna may even be attempting to maintain her prevalence in pop culture by hitching her proverbial wagon to Gaga’s continually rising stardom.

But was mockery also a part of Madonna’s mash-up modus operandi? According to Balthazar, not necessarily.

“[I]f you watch the clip of Madonna performing the song on YouTube, it’s not inherently clear that this is a mockery,” he said. “I think it’s only because of her earlier comments that the song was ‘reductive’ that fuels this mash-up as a mockery.”

All the same, both he and Rapping feel that the dispute is unfortunate, with Balthazar noting the disconnect between who these women say they are, and how they are conducting themselves at present.

“What’s so ironic about these two feuding women is that they both have built their brand based on a theme of self acceptance and acceptance of others,” he added.

“It is most regrettable that two of the most socially progressive pop stars in music history can’t get along,” agreed Jeremy Wallach, Ph.D. to CBS Las Vegas. Wallach serves as an associate professor and publicity coordinator for the Department of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University.

The “MDNA” tour, which will make a two-day stop in Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena in mid-October, has already been the subject of controversy for its depiction of French right-wing politician Marine Le Pen as a Nazi during the tour’s opening concert in Israel.

She also exposed her right nipple while onstage in Istanbul and flashed her buttocks during a performance in Rome while on the tour that began on May 31 of this year.

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