Nothing has quite hung so deep in the narcissus pool of social media like Gaga's "Born this Way" -- it's a song built within the kingdom walls of Twitter and blogs, endlessly teased by the queen herself (along with her prime jester, Perez Hilton). First the words leaked, line by line. Then the full lyrics. The promise that this song will be the greatest of her career; the album, the greatest of the decade. That Born this Way will move 30 million units.
The problem? "Born this Way" was born before it even arrived. Music is its best when the songs can speak for themselves -- until Gaga, that was kind of the point of it. Lyrics are words for a reason, they tell a story, the beats and instrumentals setting the stage for their own rhythmic tale. "Born this Way" was entered into our lives by the Twitter mistress herself, Lady Gaga, before we'd even had a chance to hear it. We'd read its story, either poked fun at the lyrics or lauded them, imagined what it would sound like, hummed it to our own tune. And then, we waited.
Aside from whatever you think of the song - more on that in a moment - "Born this Way" was instantly less than a song the moment it hit. It was a reveal, an M. Night movie spin, or the end of LOST. Granted, boasting about singles is nothing new. But (willingly) letting Twitter and the Internet vortex shape your song into a machine is not "giving" to your fans -- it's ruining the mystique. No matter what it sounded like, for everyone but diehard "little monsters," it wasn't going to be enough.
But more importantly, when the song doesn't work (it doesn't, in my opinion), there's nothing you can do to stop the chatter. This morning, #Express Yourself is trending almost as high on Twitter as "BornThisWay or any of its hashtaggy permutations. The Web world has taken the reins on a song they already felt they owned, and for Gaga, there's nothing to be done. She gave the song over to the world, and the world will respond back. From one trending topic to another, the song -- while sure to be a success anyway -- is just a product, a thing to be attacked, commented on and talked about. But what about listened to? Well, that's just lower down on the list. Whether or not you think it sounds like Madonna, or TLC, or you actually love it, if your comment about it has a high retweet value on Twitter -- well, that's the stuff of gods right now.. .
Is it Gaga's fault, or just the natural course for music in a world with instant feedback? In a way, it was an experiment. Testing how deep into the waters of social media a singer can go without destroying their own creation before it even hits the radio. Gaga looked into the reflecting pool and saw nothing but herself -- but unlike Narcissus, maybe what she didn't realize is that the pool was full of sharks.