Lady Gaga's last album, Joanne, felt like a forgery—a misguided bid to be taken seriously. This was curious coming from an artist who once refreshingly insisted that pop need not make any apologies. Joanne wasn't the sound of a singer who'd lost herself, but of one who never knew who she was in the first place. Gaga's new surprise single, which she premiered during her performance at Coachella last night, only further calcifies that impression. With “The Cure,” she abandons the middling singer-songwriter pap of recent single “Million Reasons” and abruptly shifts gears for a tropical house rhythm complete with a sped-up vocal sample reminiscent of Justin Bieber's smash “Sorry.” The lyrics are composed of generic pop platitudes about unconditional devotion that aren't worth citing here, rendered even more forgettable by a generic hook and a lifeless vocal turn by Gaga herself. If her intention was to make us realize just how much personality she imbued Joanne with, “The Cure” is a resounding success.
Lady Gaga (#1–10 of 107)
Opulence! O-P-U-L-E-N-C-E! You'd think season nine of Rupaul's Drag Race would have it rough matching up to the show's still-ballooning legacy. Season eight maybe didn't mark itself as distinctive in many respects, but it at least afforded itself the chance to dance like Beyoncé in the end zone about reaching 100 episodes/100 queens. But the recent All Stars season truly elevated the entire Drag Race universe to new levels of sickening. Even fresh off the heels of Mama Ru's Emmy win, though, apparently World of Wonder still has something to prove on the runway. Why else would the franchise shantay its slot all the way from Mondays on Logo (the perfect time to commemorate the total evaporation of a weekend's worth of hangover) to Friday nights on VH1? (Cue the shade rattlesnake sound cue.)
Capitalizing on a wave of publicity in the aftermath of Sunday night's Super Bowl halftime performance, Lady Gaga has released the music video for “John Wayne,” a standout track from last year's largely forgettable Joanne. Gaga's short film-style clips for “Bad Romance,” “Alejandro,” and “Born This Way” helped reignite the music video medium, turning each new release into a bona fide event, but her recent output—especially the lackluster videos for “Perfect Illusion” and “Million Reasons,” the first two singles from Joanne—have failed to garner much buzz. “John Wayne,” however, sees Gaga once again plying a maximalist aesthetic, and returning to the outlandish costumes and, possibly, a storyline that began almost eight years ago.
Even before a release date was announced for Lady Gaga's new single, “Perfect Illusion,” Mother Monster's minions were plotting to assure the song's success, launching an ill-conceived GoFundMe campaign and creating fake Twitter accounts to construct the illusion that soccer moms are breathlessly awaiting Gaga's new music. “Radio hosts hate homosexuals and stan twitters, it's a fact,” one not-incorrect, if overzealous, fan posted on a message board (yes, those things still exist).
We're repeatedly reminded that the Academy's music branch is supposed to be paying attention to context when selecting their nominees for best song, so that they don't simply wave five closing-credit ballads through, but actually select songs that function as part of the fabric of the film that surrounds them. All five songs nominated this year represent the sole nods for their respective films, two of which are documentaries and theoretically had favorable odds of at least getting nominated in that category. So concerns for context probably stand for very little, given the Academy's clear indifference to this group of films. They may as well be voting on which song they most like listening to while frantically typing “g” and “h” playing Leo's Red Carpet Rampage for the 12th time.
1. “It's not about mental illness: The big lie that always follows mass shootings by white males.” Arthur Chu says that blaming “mental illness” is a cop-out—and one that lets us avoid talking about race, guns, hatred and terrorism
“I get really really tired of hearing the phrase 'mental illness' thrown around as a way to avoid saying other terms like 'toxic masculinity,' 'white supremacy,' 'misogyny' or 'racism.' We barely know anything about the suspect in the Charleston, South Carolina, atrocity. We certainly don't have testimony from a mental health professional responsible for his care that he suffered from any specific mental illness, or that he suffered from a mental illness at all. We do have statistics showing that the vast majority of people who commit acts of violence do not have a diagnosis of mental illness and, conversely, people who have mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. We know that the stigma of people who suffer from mental illness as scary, dangerous potential murderers hurts people every single day—it costs people relationships and jobs, it scares people away from seeking help who need it, it brings shame and fear down on the heads of people who already have it bad enough.”
1. “Grammy Awards 2015: The Full List.” The full rundown of who won what on music's biggest night.
“Sam Smith took home four Grammy awards at the 57th annual edition of music's biggest night, including Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best New Artist. It's quite a haul for someone unknown to mainstream audiences just a year ago. 'I'm having a really, really good night,' said the 22-year-old Smith upon receiving his Grammy for Song of the Year, which he won for 'Stay With Me.' Though Smith was clearly the night's big winner, his wins represent just a small fraction of the total number of golden gramophones handed out at the Staples Center in Los Angeles—there were 83 in all. Beyoncé and Pharrell pulled in three apiece, as did Rosanne Cash. Plenty of music's top earners grabbed a smaller share of Grammy glory, including Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett (Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album), Tiesto (Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical) and Rihanna (Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, with Eminem). And Beck shocked the world by nabbing the award for Album of the Year.”
Sometimes all you need is a little push. After weeks of leaked demos (including 11 new ones that started circulating earlier this week) and months of Instagram teases about her upcoming album, the Kingdom of Madonna has finally given official word on Rebel Heart, the singer's 13th studio album, due March 10th. The Queen of Pop has unexpectedly dropped six new songs, including the lead single, “Living for Love,” which she originally planned to release on Valentine's Day. The tracks are available when you pre-order the album on iTunes.
Two months ago, after it became clear that the music video for “Do What U Want,” the second single from Lady Gaga's latest album, Artpop, was unlikely to ever see the light of day, the singer took to her fan forum to explain:
“[The video] is late because, just like with the Applause video unfortunately, I was given a week to plan and execute it. It is very devastating for someone like me, I devote every moment of my life to creating fantasies for you. All my my [sic] most successful videos were planned over a period of time when I was rested and my creativity was honored. Those who have betrayed me gravely mismanaged my time and health and left me on my own to damage control any problems that ensued as a result.”
It was, to say the least, alarming when a series of frantic Tweets began to interrupt the steady flow of praise that had, for the last hour or so, greeted St. Vincent's midnight set at the NPR Music Showcase at Stubb's last night. The singer and guitar goddess, her shock of white-blond hair nearly set aflame by dramatic foot lighting to look like an electrocuted Helena Bonham Carter, held the packed crowd in a state of rapture while, just a block north of the venue, an allegedly drunk man in a stolen car careened down Red River Avenue, killing two and injuring 23 festivalgoers. The tragedy cast a discernable pall over the previously celebratory crowds flocking through the Red River district, home to a concentration of bars, clubs, and pop-up music venues that showcase hundreds of bands into the wee hours during SXSW.