Are country music fans ready to put their paws up and chant “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen?” Don’t count on it.
We’d come to expect the unexpected from her, but Lady Gaga surprised the hell out of us when she released “The Country Road Version” of “Born This Way” late last night.
The country version, co-produced by Mama Monster herself, opens with the same spoken part about “H-I-M,” but then the synthesizers and thumping beat are replaced with a guitar, some wailing harmonica, a slowed-down tempo and a revised bridge. We like it. Just as “Poker Face” worked brilliantly when Lady Gaga transformed it into a piano ballad, “Born This Way” makes a snappy little country tune.
Out is “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen/Whether you’re broke or evergreen/You’re black, white, beige, chola descent/You’re lebanese, you’re orient/Whether life’s disabilities/Left you outcast, bullied, or teased/Rejoice and love yourself today/’Cause baby you were born this way.” In is “If I want to make it country, baby, it’s okay/cause I was born, born, born, this way. From London, Paris, Japan back to U.S.A. I was born on the road, I was born to be brave.”
The song then goes picks up with the line about “no matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian, trangendered…”
[More after the jump…]
Via Twitter, Lady Gaga told her followers the Country Road version was a “surprise” to thank them for making “Born This Way” No. 1 for six weeks in a row on the Billboard Hot 100.
So will she get country airplay? Only as a novelty and as a morning show discussion point, according to Phyllis Stark, executive editor of country music for industry tip sheet Radio-Info.com. “The song’s got a lot of things working against it in that arena, most notably, Lady Gaga is so firmly imaged as a pop artist that there’s no reason for country radio to go looking for songs of hers they can play.”
Stark also adds that the format may have issues with the lyrics. “Despite the positive message of “Born This Way,” it’s extremely likely that lyrical references to ‘trans-gender’ and ‘bi,’ as well as the line ‘Don’t be a drag, just be a queen,’ won’t get past the gatekeepers at country radio, who pride themselves on keeping the format ‘family friendly,’ whatever that means.”
The “family friendly” tag has come up before: Nineteen (!!) years ago, Garth Brooks’ anthemic “We Shall Be Free,” included the verse “When we’re free to love anyone we choose/When the world’s big enough for all different views/When we’re all free to worship from our own kind of pew/Then We shall be free,” was his lowest charting single despite the fact that he was the biggest superstar the country world had ever seen at that point. Country artist Chely Wright came out last year, more than a decade after her last big hit, and said she got death threats and letters telling her “you’re going to hell.”
There are also other more practical issues, such as unless Lady Gaga’s label, Interscope, which has no country presence whatsoever, makes a concentrated push through its sister label Mercury Nashville, country radio can ignore this. The format had no trouble ignoring a country mix of Train’s smash, “Hey Soul Sister.”
We checked in with Tony Thomas, music director for Seattle country station KMPS, who told us his station ran a feature on the song during morning drive, but that was all they planned to do. The station played around 40 seconds of “Born This Way” and its listeners had some immediate thoughts via Twitter.
*”Ewwwww!!!! That lady Gaga song made my ears bleed. Please don’t ever play it again.”
*If KMPS plays Lady Gaga’s “country song,” I will pop in a CD or change the station during the song!
*Not sure if that was trying too hard, or not really trying. Either way, hell no.”
*That is NOT country! Saying “momma” doesn’t make it country. Please tell Ms. Gaga to leave country alone.
*Just because you add a harmonica it doesn’t make it sound country or even good for that matter.
*Horrible…worst thing since william hung
And our favorite: “Reba should do a cover :)”
(For those who don’t pay attention to country music, Reba has a current hit with a remake of Beyonce’s “If I Were A Boy).
What do you think? Do you like it? Should country radio play it?
By Melinda Newman – We ask the country experts what they think and give a little history