Fans of Glee know that their charming covers of popular songs are the secret to the show’s outrageous success. So you’d think that a partnership with a superstar like Lady Gaga would be a boon for both Glee and Lady Gaga’s fanbase? However, last week’s “Born This Way” Glee episode in tribute to Lady Gaga paints a subtle lesson about influence and popularity: the best partnerships for brands aren’t always with the most popular celebrities. Our social media tools tell the tale…
Last week, Fox television network aired a special 90-minute episode of Glee called “Born this Way”, a tribute to Lady Gaga. This is the second episode to honour Lady Gaga and there was major hype leading up to it, particularly in social media.
With Glee having over 13 million Facebook fans and Lady Gaga having over 33 million, there was huge potential for mutual gain with a cross-promotion like this. So what exactly did it do for Glee and Lady Gaga in the end?
We used Skyttle Friends Facebook Analytics and Skyttle Realtime Twitter Analytics to find out.
Although TV reviews were mixed on the episode, which centered on self-acceptance and the all-too-common Glee theme of “being different”, our social media tools revealed that reviews from viewers were positive.
On Glee’s Facebook Page, fans praised the episode. Top words included “love”, “amazing”, “awesome”…you get the gist.
On Twitter, sentiment was similar. Many people tweeted that this episode was a significant improvement over previous episodes and it succeeded in regaining their interest in the show.
But it’s looking at the “#bornthisway” hashtag that tells a more interesting story. You would think with all the promotion leading up to this episode, people would be hot in conversation about Lady Gaga. However, mentions under #bornthisway were merely mentions of the episode and not a reference to Lady Gaga specifically. Instead, Glee’s cover of TLC’s “Unpretty” drew incredible reviews from viewers and was more highly discussed than any other song in the episode.
If we take a look at Top Entities on Glee’s Facebook Page, we see a similar trend. “Unpretty” ranks high in conversation amongst others like “Quinn”, “Blaine”, and “Santana”.
So where is the discussion of Lady Gaga, the focus of the entire episode?
Well, it’s not really there. Our analysis of Lady Gaga’s Facebook Page and Twitter stream revealed nothing special about the Glee episode. There is plenty of conversation happening, just not around her tribute on Glee. Instead, people talk about what they’re listening to, how much they love her music, or their favourite songs.
What it all Means
Lady Gaga is an iconic figure who doesn’t need help gaining popularity: she already IS popular. And while Glee’s feature of her song “Born this Way” didn’t hurt Lady Gaga’s image, it didn’t really help either.
Similarly, Lady Gaga also didn’t prove a big boost for Glee. Sure, Glee is already hugely popular, but it’s losing viewers. The initial airing of “Born This Way” was viewed by 8.62 million Americans, their lowest viewership of the season. It’s clear Glee is attempting to use popular musicians like Lady Gaga to lure viewers in; however, at least in Lady Gaga’s case, it doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect.
The biggest lesson here is for Glee. Yes, Lady Gaga has a huge following of music lovers, but this doesn’t cross over equivalently to their show. Glee fans are looking for something different, those oldies-but-goodies like TLC’s “Unpretty”. And let’s not forget Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin” which enjoyed a massive resurgence in popularity largely due to Glee’s cover of it in their first season.
The influence of TLC and Journey over Lady Gaga suggests that Gleeks don’t want to hear covers of today’s hits; it’s those old songs that bring excitement into the show. For younger viewers, these covers are new music to them. For older viewers, they offer a sense of nostalgia about the top hits of their youth. If either of these markets want to listen to Lady Gaga, they’d rather listen to the original version than a cover.
If Glee wants a chance to bring back its viewership, it should pay attention to these signs of what really influences Glee fans: it’s not always the most popular superstar of today, but often it’s the classic hits of yesterday.
But who knows, maybe Lady Gaga was just the thing to re-spark interest. We’ll see what tonight’s episode is like…here’s hoping for some more classics!