Opening with shrill beeps, guitars, and Gaga warbling, ‘Perfect Illusion’ sounds like your trademark Lady Gaga song. But from the moment she begins to sing, it becomes very apparent that this is a substantial tonal shift.
‘Perfect Illusion’, the opening single off Lady Gaga’s currently untitled fifth album (#LG5), is rock in nature, with guitars, drums and synthesisers layered over one another to produce three minutes of the least Gaga-esque sound ever. So does it hold up as a first single?
That’s where we hit a wall. ‘Perfect Illusion’ is a strong song that is both powerful and emotive, but let’s be honest: if this was a song by any other artist, would we have had it on repeat since Friday? Probably not.
There’s nothing wrong with it – sonically it’s gorgeous – but it isn’t what we’ve come to expect from Mother Monster. LG5 is described as Gaga going back to her roots and stripping back the theatrics. Most were thinking (and hoping) this hearkened back to The Fame and The Fame Monster era, but if ‘Perfect Illusion’ is anything to go by, she’s literally stripped EVERYTHING back.
And there’s nothing wrong with trying something new, either. ARTPOP was very different; no two songs sounded alike. But ARTPOP is unanimously cited as Gaga’s weakest record to date. It’s a haphazard collection of EDM beats and nonsensical lyrics that is the epitome of a sublime eight-track EP wrapped up in a messy 15-track album, and I have a feeling LG5 may follow suit. It’ll definitely be better (one needs only to look at the list of collaborators), but rock has had its heyday, and Gaga is more suited to synths than drums. Hopefully ‘Perfect Illusion’ is the ‘Yoü and I’ of Born This Way; the token rock song.
But back to ‘Perfect Illusion’. With lyrics seemingly (but apparently not) describing Gaga’s recent romance with Taylor Kinney, ‘Perfect Illusion’ is emotional. ‘Maybe you’re just a dream / That’s what it means to crush / Now that I’m wakin’ up / I still feel the blow,’ Gaga warbles, before belting out the chorus. The way she elongates the word ‘love’ over and over is spine-tingling, as is the bridge midway.
What’s striking is the fact that Gaga’s voice appears not to have been auto-tuned. It’s harsh and explosive and, in places, quite guttural. But ‘Perfect Illusion’ is a huge middle-finger to those that claimed Gaga was done. ‘Perfect Illusion’ perfectly sheds the illusion that Gaga can’t sing, because boy can she.
Her recent live performances of ‘’Til It Happens To You’ at the 88th Academy Awards, the US National Anthem at Super Bowl 50, and her medley of David Bowie hits at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards have all drawn critical praise, and it seems as though she’s taken this style and crafted a studio version that sounds likewise.
Seriously, Gaga has NEVER sounded stronger. Her voice is just addictive. It’s raw, and I hope it persuades other singers to mimic her and drop the auto-tune. Gaga doesn’t need it.
There are elements of disco in ‘Perfect Illusion’, too, with Mark Ronson helping to craft the sound. With Nile Rogers and Giorgio Moroder also working on LG5, it appears as though Gaga is trying her hand at something new. Her remake of Chic’s ‘I Want Your Love’ last year was stunning, so I have high hopes for these tracks.
Also partnering with RedOne, DJ White Shadow and Elton John, LG5 has some huge talent behind it. Hopefully she’ll have retained her dance elements, too, because when Gaga goes dance, it’s usually brilliant.
‘Perfect Illusion’ is out now. Expect a host of official remixes, and for it to dominate your Saturday nights for the foreseeable future.