When announcing her second album, Born This Way, Lady Gaga promised that the aim and scope would be different this time around. “It will be the anthem for our generation” she said in one instance and “[It] is my chance to create what in 20 years will be seen as my iconic moment” in another. Upon release, Billboard explained better the position that Gaga adopts with the album: “Lady Gaga’s Born This Way album is her first as an international superstar — and in her mind, as queen leader to a needy coven of “little monsters,” outsiders who for one reason or another don’t fit into the mainstream.”
Its title track and lead single is perhaps the best example of that, with empowerment-themed lyrics addressed towards minorities such as the LGBT community. Gaga further emphasized the resonant character of the lyrics in an interview with Billboard: “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.” She also stated that the intention was to make the message as clear and as direct as possible: “I want to write my this-is-who-the-fuck-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.”
Message-wise, Gaga’s biggest influences were 80s artists such Madonna, En Vogue, Whitney Houston and TLC who, according to her, “were making very empowering music for women and the gay community and all kind of disenfranchised communities”. Born this Way drew comparisons to Madonna’s 1989 single Express Yourself. Magazines such as The Telegraph felt it was nothing but a “reworking” of that, while Rolling Stone viewed the influence as something natural: “In the 1980s, radio was full of tormented Catholic kids, from Madonna to Springsteen. Gaga clearly grew up on that stuff.”
Born This Way spent 6 consecutive weeks at number one in Billboard Top 100 before being dethroned by Katy Perry’s E.T. (featuring Kanye West).