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Gaga releases first taste of upcoming electro-pop-rock fusion album

Known worldwide for her “glamorously gaudy” stage persona, singer-turned-actress Lady Gaga has under her belt an extensive repertoire of groundbreaking feats in the world of performance, from electropop to jazz to acting and just about everything in between. Following her gradual stylistic change that began with her 2014 jazz collaboration, “Cheek to Cheek,” with Tony Bennett, Gaga has only expanded on her publically perceived talent and her own personal, artistic horizons, earning herself an Oscar nomination, her sixth Grammy, a Golden Globe and ultimately the title of “Woman of the Year 2015.” No stranger to the music scene, Gaga sets foot in the spotlight once again, this time ditching her foot-high heels for white-laced combat boots and cutoff shorts in her latest single “Perfect Illusion,” released this past Friday.

A harbinger of her feature-length album to be released this coming fall, “Perfect Illusion” gives listeners a taste of what is to come in Gaga’s next production, a hearty spoonful of pop-rock and electroclash. Having many songs prior to this that featured rock influences (even starting her career as rocker girl, Stefani Germanotta), and performing alongside numerous classic rock artists like The Rolling Stones, Sting and even U2, it comes as no surprise that Gaga would want to return to her roots. Co-produced by Mark Ronson (of Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” Adele’s “19” and Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black”), it can be expected that the album may feature a few soul influences, though invariably among Gaga’s signature electro-rock sound.

The most striking aspect of this song is how stripped down it sounds in comparison to her previous productions, Gaga herself even calling it “raw” and “unfiltered.” Almost void of autotune in the main melodies of the chorus and verses, “Perfect Illusion” provides a sharp contrast to the heavily altered vocals of her early career.

Along with its unprocessed quality comes a strong, emotional valence supported by her gutteral tones and belting notes, which supports the disdain and contempt within the song. Likely a reference to her recent relationship, fame, social media, drugs or all of the above, “Perfect Illusion’s” lyrics represent the disillusionment of an idea or concept that one felt so passionately about that it was impossible to see it as anything but perfect.

In an interview with Andy Cohen, Gaga said, “The record is about being so intoxicated with love, so high [and] dilated, falling free in a modern ecstasy that you wake up one day and you can’t believe that it was not real. How did that happen? How did I do that? The song is sort of raging against that experience. I think also it’s really hard for people to date today, you know, online and with the way that the world is, you just never really know who you’re meeting, and everybody’s got this perfect illusion of themselves that they’re trying to live up to.”

As with any artist, deviation from typical stylings is almost always accompanied by criticisms from the fan-base, many describing the song as repetitive and accusing its chorus of sounding a little too similar to Madonna’s 1986 song, “Papa Don’t Preach.” Seemingly always compared to the ’80s and ’90s megastar (for obvious reasons), as well as the large majority of contemporary pop singers, it’s no mystery as to the reasoning behind Gaga’s upcoming collaboration on the upcoming album (still to be named) with Florence Welch of Florence + The Machines. It features the lyrics, “Hey girl don’t you leave me,/ Hey girl we can make it easy if we lift each other,/ We don’t need to on oneing-up another,” likely referring to the way in which performers (especially women) are pressured to produce content that tops charts, rather than reflects upon the inner thoughts and emotion of the singer themself.

In today’s world of pop, it is refreshingly rare to find such a performer that not only spans such a range of genres, but also openly expresses artistic freedom and encourages others to find their freedom in the music. Despite its awkward key change in the last third of the song, “Perfect Illusion” is the perfect fusion of ’80s style synths, driving rock riffs and raw, unaltered, powerful vocals that show Gaga’s latest album will undoubtedly have the same indelible amount of artistry if not chart success as her previous ones.

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