Rock ’n’ roll and its subgenres have always had an outcast component. Because many of the people making this type of music were misfits growing up, they have occasionally found inspiration in singing about their outsider status.
But where The Who sang, “hope I die before I get old,” in their 1965 song, “My Generation,” singers these days are using a more encouraging tone. Lady Gaga puts her personality on parade by saying that she was “Born This Way,” and Ke$ha lets her freak flag fly by singing “We R Who We R.” Pink is currently telling her listeners, “don’t you ever, ever feel like you're less than f—in’ perfect” while Katy Perry tells hers that they “don’t have to feel like a wasted space” in “Firework.”
But why are all these women singing so many anthems of individuality all of a sudden? Ke$ha says she thinks it’s about awareness.
“I wrote ‘We R Who We R’ because I read about a bunch of teenage boys who killed themselves because they were bullied at school for being ‘different,’” she says. “I also wasn’t like everyone else in school and was a bit misunderstood. As I’ve gotten older, I’m happy I wasn’t like everyone else. And I wanted these kids to have an anthem that expressed that.”
Gaga told Metro that she’s seen how the message of “Born This Way” has moved her younger fans, and when she’s talking about their generation it seems to resonate more.
“The new generation is very affected by the lack of equality,” she says. “I noticed I had 12- and 13-year-old kids at my shows saying, ‘I felt like I didn’t belong and couldn’t be myself with my family and now there’s “Born This Way” and I have a very easy answer to a very difficult question in my life.’”
Ke$ha is optimistic that since these messages have all made an impact on the pop charts they will also impact people’s thinking: “I hope the reason other singers are covering the same topic is a sign that we, as a culture, are evolving out of homogenization and are learning that we don’t have to be someone else’s definition of ‘perfect’ and should embrace our own — and each other’s — idiosyncrasies.”
Follow Pat Healy on Twitter @metrousmusic.