This song about love and equality is the lead single and title track from Lady Gaga's second album. It was written and co-produced by Gaga with the help of Interscope producer/songwriter Fernando Garibay and Chicago producer and mixtape specialist DJ White Shadow.
DJ White Shadow (real name is Paul Blair) told Billboard magazine how he came to work with the New York superstar: "Gaga was listening to my mixtapes after someone she knew heard me DJ in a club in L.A. One day Gaga e-mailed me and asked me if I made my own beats. I said yes, sent her some, and she hit me back, this time on the phone, asking if I wanted to work with her on some stuff. I said okay."
Blair told Billboard magazine about recording this underdog anthem with Gaga: "She made it. She came up with the idea, she wrote it. She is a genius. We recorded it around the world, on the road, in whatever was available."
Gaga performed this song at the Grammy Awards in 2011. The Grammys don't let performers do new songs very often at the ceremonies, but Gaga was the hottest thing going at the time.
Her album The Fame Monster took home the Best Pop Vocal Album award later in the show, and when she accepted the award, she thanked Whitney Houston, stating the when she wrote "Born This Way," she imagined Whitney singing it, "because I wasn't secure enough in myself to imagine I was a superstar."
Gaga shared her process for writing this equality anthem in an interview with Vogue. "I wrote ['Born This Way'] in 10 f---ing minutes," she explained. "And it is a completely magical message song. And after I wrote it, the gates just opened, and the songs kept coming. It was like an immaculate conception."
"Born This Way" specifically references race and sexuality. The song has garnered criticism from some Asian and Hispanic communities, claiming that the lyrics' use of the terms "chola," "Lebanese" and "orient" to describe Latino and Asian communities is offensive and derogatory.
The song title was inspired by Carl Bean's 1977 gay disco anthem, "I Was Born This Way."
Similarities have been noted between this song and Madonna's 1989 hit single, "Express Yourself
," both in subject matter and composition. However, during an interview with US chat show host Jay Leno, Gaga insisted the Queen of Pop has no issue with her song. She said, "There is really no one that is a more adoring and loving Madonna fan than me. I am the hugest fan personally and professionally. Well, the good news is that I got an email from her people and her, sending me their love and complete support on behalf of the single and if the queen says it shall be, then it shall be."
Gaga became visibly upset when the British magazine NME
suggested this song was a Madonna rip-off. "I am not stupid enough to put out a record and be that moronic," she insisted to the interviewer. "I'm a songwriter. I've written loads of music. Why would I try to put out a [copied] song and think I'm getting one over on everybody? That's retarded. What a completely ridiculous thing to even question me about."
A defensive Gaga went on to compare the two hits herself stating, "If you put the songs next to each other, side by side, the only similarities are the chord progression. It's the same one that's been in disco music for the last 50 years. Just because I'm the first f---ing artist in 25 years to think of putting it on Top 40 radio, it doesn't mean I'm a plagiarist, it means that I'm f---ing smart." Gaga later apologized for her use of the word "retarded."
So what does Madonna think about the similarities between the two songs? The Material Girl told Newsweek
: "I thought, 'What a wonderful way to redo my song.' I mean, I recognized the chord changes. I thought it was… interesting."
The song debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 dated February 26, 2011. In doing so, it became the 1000th number-one single in the chart's history, and its opening-week digital sales of 448,00 were the biggest first weekly digital sales figure by a female artist beating the previous record held by Britney Spears' "Hold It Against Me
The single broke the overall airplay debut record with a first week audience of 78.5 million, besting the previous debut, set when Janet Jackson's "All For You
" achieved 70 million in 2001.
Gaga debuted the song live at the Grammy Awards on February 13, 2011 in a rendition influenced by her background in performance art. The singer arrived at the ceremony in a giant egg that was carried by fashion models, then three hours later she was 'hatched' on stage, symbolizing her 'rebirth,' before she proceeded to perform the tune. Gaga explained to Billboard magazine: "The Grammy performance was about many things, but ultimately the song 'Born This Way' is visually and thematically and lyrically about birthing a new race, birthing a race within the race of already existing cultures of humanity - that bears no prejudice and no judgment."
Apple announced that this sold more than one million tracks in its first five days. This meant the song became the fastest-selling single in the history of the iTunes store, reaching #1 in 23 countries.
Gaga discussed the track in an interview with Billboard magazine. "It's very literal. I said, 'I want to write my freedom record. I want to write my this-is-who-the-f--k-I-am anthem,' but I don't want it to be hidden in poetic wizardry and metaphors. I want it to be an attack, an assault on the issue because I think, especially in today's music, everything gets kind of washy sometimes and the message gets hidden in the lyrical play.
Harkening back to the early '90s, when Madonna, En Vogue, Whitney Houston and TLC were making very empowering music for women and the gay community and all kind of disenfranchised communities, the lyrics and the melodies were very poignant and very gospel and very spiritual and I said, 'That's the kind of record I need to make.' That's the record that's going to shake up the industry. It's not about the track. It's not about the production. It's about the song . Anyone could sing 'Born This Way.' It could've been anyone."
This was the first song with the word "born" in its title to top the Billboard Hot 100. The previously best 'born' song chart position-wise was Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild
," which peaked at #2 in 1968.
The sci-fi inspired video was directed by fashion photographer Nick Knight in collaboration with the Haus of Gaga creative team and choreographer Laurieann Gibson. It reiterates the rebirth theme the singer has used in performances of the song. "It's the story about the birth of a new race," Gaga told BBC Radio 1 DJ Greg James. "A race that bears no prejudice and a race that's primary sort of ambition in life is to inspire unity and togetherness."
She added that the clip was inspired by some artistic greats. "It's very inspired by, especially in the beginning, Salvador Dalí and Francis Bacon, the surrealist painters," the pop star said.
Gaga is seen dancing and flirting throughout the video with Canadian model Rick Genest, also known as Zombie Boy, who works for French fashion house Thierry Mugler. His body and face are tattooed to look like a skeleton.
Broadcasters in Malaysia play edited versions of this song that uses indecipherable garble to replace the lyrics, "No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian, transgendered life, I'm on the right track, baby." This is because the government forbids offensive content and the issue of being gay is still considered as a taboo by the Muslim-majority nation.
Lady Gaga recorded a country version while on tour with new vocals and added guitar and harmonica. After she released "Born This Way – Country Road Version" through her Twitter page, it became such a viral hit that Gaga decided to officially issue the track for sale with a portion of the proceeds to benefit the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network charity.
Gaga was close friends with the late British fashion designer Alexander McQueen, who committed suicide by hanging. Gaga told Harper's Bazaar
magazine that she believes rather than writing this song herself, McQueen helped her to craft the tune from beyond the grave. The New York hitmaker said he, "planned the whole thing: Right after he died, I wrote 'Born This Way.' I think he's up in heaven with fashion strings in his hands, marionetting away, planning this whole thing.'"
Gaga previously paid tribute to her late friend by setting the date on the prison security cameras (February 11, 2010) in her Telephone
video as the same day that McQueen's body was discovered in his London home.
After going through some drama to get Lady Gaga's approval, the satirist "Weird Al" Yankovic released a comedic version of this song titled "Perform This Way
The song became the fastest single in history to reach sales of 1,000,000 copies worldwide by breaking that mark in only five days.
This was first song to debut at #1 on the Hot 100 and remain at the top for more than a month since Elton John's 1997 version of "Candle in the Wind
With 1,108,000 copies sold its first week in the U.S., Born This Way achieved the best selling debut since 50 Cent's The Massacre did 1,141,000 in its first seven days in 2005.
Born This Way debuted at #1 in both the US and the UK, where first-week sales were greater than the rest of the Top 10 combined. It also landed at the top spot of the album chart in its first week in Australia, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and Taiwan.
Shortly after the album was released, Gaga posted on her Facebook page: "I started writing Born This Way in Manchester + Liverpool. I knew it had to be the first single. It still gets me every time."
The album cover features Gaga fused into a motorcycle. She explained why in an interview with London's Metro newspaper: "On the album cover I'm half motorcycle as I now feel that I'm in a space where I can explain artistically that I am endlessly transformative and I'm now the vehicle, not just for my voice, but the voice of my generation and what we have to say about the world."
This won best video and best song at the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards. Gaga also won best female and biggest fans, at the same ceremony. "I knew that this song was very special when I first wrote it," she said upon receiving the best song prize. "This is the single most important song that I've ever written, the single most important album, and until now the single most important moment."
When Lady Gaga hosted Saturday Night Live
on November 16, 2013, she did a send-up of this song's resemblance to "Express Yourself" in a fake commercial for a "worst cover songs of all-time" CD. We've got some real star power on this thing, like Lady Gaga covering the work of Madonna," fake Adam Duritz
announced before cutting to Gaga singing "Born This Way" but doing Madonna's dance moves.
Gaga included this this song in her halftime performance at the 2017 Super Bowl. This was the first Super Bowl since the election of President Trump, who had alienated many minority groups. Gaga made no political statements in her performance, but this song provided a message of support for those who were feeling disenfranchised.