Remember Lady Gag? She’s back! In pop form..
Thomas Inskeep: The edge of boring.
Crystal Leww: The other day, a friend pointed out that Lady Gaga went from “Bad Romance” to a duets album with Tony Bennett in five years. So I guess it feels apt that in 2017, Lady Gaga has abandoned her latest album after two singles and is changing direction once again, this time to something even blander than faux-country authenticity. “The Cure” is so insultingly anonymous — it could be sung by any wannabe pop star looking at the EDM vocalist route — for someone who was so dominant in pop music less than a decade ago. And yet, this is better than anything off Joanne or Cheek to Cheek and better than everything except “Do What U Want” off ARTPOP (which was only good because of R. Kelly, yikes). There’s no reason why this fall had to be so swift. Everyone deserves to be fired.
David Sheffieck: I’m old enough to remember when Lady Gaga started trends I didn’t like, rather than jumping on ones I’d long come to ignore. That said, she sings more convincingly than anyone else in this space right now. That said, the lyric is vaguely cliched in a way that The Chainsmokers would never allow.
Alfred Soto: She may be in a commercial tailspin, but this concerns me less than the anxiety it inspires. From the received angst of Gaga’s high vocal to the sampled trill, “The Cure” could’ve been written by The Chainsmokers and featuring one of their guests, which means it could’ve been written by no one.
Cassy Gress: This is possibly the least Gaga-y Gaga song that I’ve ever heard, aside from her usual awkward scansion (too much emphasis falling on the “with” in “fix you with my love”). A line like “and if you say you’re okay, I’m gonna heal you anyway,” which would fit right into some of the dark, aggressive pop from The Fame Monster and Born This Way, just comes off as flaccidly obsessive here. If she looked at the reception for Artpop and Joanne and Cheek to Cheek and thought that this must be what people wanted from her, it makes me sad. It’s not just that it sounds like a million other anonymous trop-house songs; it’s that she sounds so half-hearted about it.
Scott Mildenhall: As much as The Fame‘s singles spawned imitations, RedOne’s production itself was never entirely original, and so Lady Gaga suddenly trying to blend into 2017 radio isn’t that extraordinary. Eschewing maximalism on a brand new release is more uncharacteristic, but the cap fits. The restorative power of love and connection is ground she knows, and she sells a belief in it here with delicacy almost as well as when it was bursting out of her on “The Edge of Glory.” It’s not earth-shattering, but pleasantly functional — a litmus test for her ability to chart well, quite possibly.
Joshua Copperman: I don’t get why everyone says it sounds like tropical house, or like the Chainsmokers. In fact, this sounds like “The Fame”-era Gaga to me. The same person who wrote “Million Reasons” is the same person that wrote “You and I” is the same person that wrote “Paparazzi” (which actually shares a similar obsession theme with “The Cure”), and so on and so forth. It’s easy to think of this as a regression or one last attempt at relevancy before signing off to do albums with Tony Bennett forever, but this song is a cool way of bringing all the Gagas together, and I hope that it brings her all the success she’s clearly going for here.
Katherine St Asaph: And to think that circa Born This Way she actually was veering toward The Cure. The personnel make me think this has gotta be old material, as does how it kinda sounds like it began life as a rnbass take on Britney’s “Sometimes.” The lyrics, free of any complications, make me think she can’t have written it for herself. It’s not the first time Gaga’s been smothered by commercial necessities — Artpop had Zedd, “Just Dance” had Colby O’Donis and RedOne when he rated — but it certainly continues a regression. Stefani’s a theater kid — when did she forget it’s better to be big and wrong?
Leonel Manzanares: It’s kind of painful to hear such an iconic, unique performer follow a trend instead of leading it, and that fact alone is exactly what kills this otherwise solid tropi-pop song. Miss Germanotta is a gifted topline maker, and the way she frames the melody in the pre-chorus, jumping on that D# chord, is masterful, but considering the surroundings — vocal-synth hooks, Kygo by-the-numbers atmospherics and the most generic-ass beat you can find on Soundcloud — it all just feels like a missed opportunity. Most shockingly, it all sounds so NORMAL. AND IT’S A GAGA SONG. COME ON.
Will Adams: Gaga’s had to deal with an implacable audience ever since Artpop failed to recoup its $25 million budget. Make a conceptual electropop record, she’s overthinking things. Make a country-pop album, she’s stuffy. Record some jazz duets, what the hell is she doing? Join the 2017 current, she’s desperate. By some definition, “The Cure” is very of the moment, but apart from the vocal-as-violin thread, I can’t find that much of a departure from her early work. It’s a bit like “Do What U Want” without the paparazzi context (and more “Cater 2 U” by way of Munchausen), and her powerful voice is front and center as always. If she’s not going to reinvent the wheel anymore, at least she can spin it in her own unique way.
William John: Though it may not have succeeded in every respect, I admired the resolute contrariness of Joanne and its campaign. For an artist whose rise to the top of the charts was meteoric, Lady Gaga’s recent projects – the kaleidoscopic Artpop, the Tony Bennett collaboration, serious Dianne Warren balladry, the veering into country – have felt very out of step with pop trends. Some might see this as deliberate obtuseness, but my impression of Joanne was one of sincerity; this was an earnest genuflection to a genre she’d only dipped her toe into previously. Lady Gaga has bills to pay too, I presume, but it’s a shame that she’s resorted to something so stale to do so. The classic Gaga singles from the latter part of the last decade constitute the apotheosis of mainstream electropop at that time; “The Cure,” meanwhile, has the air of something drawn from one of the Chainsmokers’ backup hard drives, all chirruping and jerky, expunged of any uniqueness or specificity. As a Chainsmokers single this would be fine — that’s their modus operandi, after all. As a Lady Gaga single, it’s dismayingly paltry.