Fans of Lady Gaga are under an illusion, but is it perfect? BreatheHeavy weighs in.
Fans of Lady Gaga are under an illusion, but is it perfect?
BreatheHeavy’s Jordan Miller and Aaron Butterfield weigh in.
“I had broken my hip. Nobody knew, and I haven’t even told the fans yet,” said Lady Gaga in 2013 of her unsustainable injuries. “But when we got all the MRIs finished before I went to surgery, there were giant craters, a hole in my hip the size of a quarter, and the cartilage was just hanging out the other side of my hip.” Pop music was quite literally destroying Lady Gaga.
Once an anonymous creature of the New York City nightlife, Gaga quickly became a polarizing fixture in popular culture, and the pressure to adhere to that nearly ruined her. After rehabilitating herself back to fighting form, Gaga was inspired again. She released ARTPOP later that year, which remains her most criticized record to date, but it marked the first major step towards artistic self-discovery.
“For Artpop, I, in the most metaphorical explanation, stood in front of a mirror and I took off the wig and I took off the makeup and I unzipped the outfit and I put a black cap on my head and I covered my body in a black catsuit and I looked in the mirror and I said: ‘OK, now you need to show them you can be brilliant without that.’ And that’s what Artpop is all about,” Gaga said that year. “Because I knew that if I wanted to grow, if I really wanted to innovate from the inside, I had to do something that was almost impossible for me.”
For the first time, her work didn’t resonate with music listeners the way it had in the past. That dissonance was the vital ingredient missing from the pop pie – it guided Gaga down an unexpected path. She reignited her love of jazz music by recording a No. 1 charting joint album with Tony Bennett, snagged a Golden Globe for her role as The Countess in season five of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story and received a nomination for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards for her Diane Warren-penned ballad “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground documentary. Lady Gaga took back the control, and it all lead up to this… the “Perfect Illusion.”
The song is a triumphant return for a woman who sacrificed everything for the sake of artistic expression. Co-produced by Mark Ronson, Bloodpop and Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker, “Perfect Illusion” isn’t pretending to be something it’s not. Gaga is recuperating from a breakup after splitting with ex-fiance Taylor Kinney, and she’s pouring her heart into the music.
“Now that I’m wakin’ up / I still feel the blow / But at least now I know,” Gaga sings on her lead LG5 single. “It wasn’t love. It was a perfect illusion.”
The track features a blaring horn paired with an electrifying guitar and utilizes minimal production gymnastics unlike some of her past lead singles. Internet commentators mused the song sounded unfinished, but perhaps we’re so used to the clever behind-the-scenes tinkering in pop music 2016 that we can’t remember what untouched vocals feels like. “Perfect Illusion” will sound as energizing during a live performance as it does in Spotify. Above all else, Lady Gaga is releasing the kind of music she wants to. In a day and age where pop stars are literally micromanaged or enslaved to a binding recording contract, having the freedom to record music how you want, when you want, about what you want is… you guessed it: the perfect illusion.
Lady Gaga returns with a whimper and not a bang on “Perfect Illusion”. After spending a year and a half rehabilitating her image and her career, Lady Gaga appears to have dropped the ball with the lead single from her as-of-yet untitled fifth studio project.
“Perfect Illusion” is fundamentally a substandard attempt to transition ‘80s power rock into a pop sensibility, lacking any real substance or lyrical impact. The track relies on a basic, uninspiring rhythmic sequence, and as is Gaga’s MO, repeats the same phrase ad nauseum throughout the song by way of elluding any creative attempt to come up with a catchy chorus.
On the plus side, the bridge is very listenable and the track features a good ol’ fashioned key change (there just aren’t enough key changes in pop music theses days) but it’s not enough to save what is at its core a wholly uninteresting song. It’s especially disappointing given the big names (like Mark Ronson) that went into creating the song. What’s more, with Gaga’s preference for electronic over live instrumentation, alongside the track’s brevity and lyrical failings, “Perfect Illusion” sounds more like a demo than the start to the triumphant comeback Gaga was undoubtedly hoping for.
With any luck, “Perfect Illusion” represents a simple misstep in first single choice, rather than the more ominous possibility that LG5 will be Gaga’s least enjoyable album yet. Did someone say something about a RedOne song that was considered for the lead single? Perhaps it’s time to dust that off and chalk “Perfect Illusion” up as a buzz track.