There are very few artists that are at the level in their careers where the simple announcement of a new single can cause an incredible stir in the world. Lady Gaga is definitely one of those artists, and in an industry where talent isn’t the only thing that can earn you any popularity, notoriety and fame, it’s a relief that the world can all genuinely agree that she is one of the most talented artists in the industry currently making music. As we all know, it’s been a while since we’ve heard new pop music from her, but since then, she’s shown us her vocal ability in jazz with Tony Bennet and the lovely Cheek to Cheek and showed us her acting chops in American Horror Story. But, she has returned to the music industry, and specifically the pop genre, and brought out new single “Perfect Illusion”.
Now, I have to look at this from an unbiased stand point. I’ve been a fan of hers since she first broke out with The Fame, and then followed that up with the even better The Fame Monster. I will be as impartial as possible because that is the way it goes.
The song, from the first listen, is very loud and a banger. Like it or hate it, there is one thing that stick out, however, and that’s the power of her vocals. They are very under produced in this track, which I have seen some people complaining about, but is one of the most rock and roll decisions that has been seen in pop music recently. With autotune and the multitude of pitch correcting software used today, it’s refreshing to hear how under-produced her voice is, but still how impressive the delivery is.
You also will notice that it’s a genre breaker. It’s pop, mixed with rock influences (reminiscent of Born This Way) most likely thanks to Kevin Parker from Tame Impala and Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, and during the end of the song, a disco-like breakdown, courtesy of Mark Ronson. This is again a very polarizing point. For those that were expecting a straight-up dance track, catchy melody with some synths, brainless lyrics that you can scream out while clubbing, this wasn’t it. For those that are a little more open to Gaga doing her own thing, this is once again nothing but refreshing in a very EDM driven chart year. Now, going back to the lyrics, they are a little more in-depth then that of a lot of pop music’s more prominent faces nowadays, but there is a lot of repetition, though not to the level of “Work” by Rihanna if you’re looking for a comparison.
Now, unfortunately, this song is not what I think was the best representation of what Gaga could have delivered after taking so much time away from her pop career. It’s loud and in your face, a real rocking song, but at times, it’s a little too in your face. After the first listen, and even the second listen, you’re feeling kind of tired, like you just ran a marathon. However, it should be noted that not many people could handle a song like this. Gaga tames what could have been a song given to someone else that ran away without them.
The song does things well, and at times, not so well. It’s easy to say it’s lazy to make a key change at the end of the song the big climax instead of writing another verse, but the thing that you need to remember is that, especially with this song or Ariana Grande’s “Greedy”, what it does is show off the singer’s power. Not many artists could handle that key change like Gaga does and no matter how high it gets, she’s not backing down. One major thing that I was missing from this song though was some emotion though. The vocals are impressive, but if there’s one thing Gaga is good at, it’s theatricality and subtle injections of emotion that she can put in her songs that make it feel authentic and real. She sounds mad and frustrated, which fits the lyrical content, but it’s as authentic to me as say Pink with some her angry repertoire.
Overall, the song isn’t an earth-shattering comeback, maybe not what you would say is worthy for an artist of Gaga’s talent level or level of fame. But it’s no commercial flop either. Whereas other vocal standouts like Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey have had issues finding a song that clicks at all for a couple of years now, Gaga is likable and intriguing enough to keep coming back to her no matter what. And if nothing else, this song is just a nice reminder that she’s back with music she wrote and believes in and with an incredible list of collaborators and the knowledge that she’s got her pipes ready to blow us away, her upcoming album is right to be one of the most anticipated of 2016.