The hashtag #PERFECTILLUSION has adorned Lady Gaga’s Twitter feed since late August, so it would be a stretch to call the overnight debut of the pop star’s new single a “surprise.” But “Perfect Illusion” is Gaga’s first new single in over a year (the last being the Oscar-nominated “Til It Happens to You,” from the campus-rape documentary The Hunting Ground), and it presages a new album, her first solo outing since 2013’s relatively disappointing Artpop.
For the past couple years, Gaga has been donning the guise of old-school jazz chanteuse, promoting and touring behind her 2014 jazz-standards collaboration with Tony Bennett, Cheek To Cheek. But “Perfect Illusion” is her first real attempt since Artpop to move back toward the pop-diva role with which she made her name.
It’s a solid move, too. “Perfect Illusion” is a three-minute chip off the ol’ dance-pop block, bridging the space between driving disco and Springsteen-esque anthem (the latter of which greatly informed the best singles off Gag’s 2011 hit album, Born This Way). It’s an encouraging return to form for Gaga, who was clearly gunning for a hit when she tapped super-producers Mark Ronson (late of “Uptown Funk” fame) and BloodPop, as well as Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker.
The addition of Parker, who’s known more for a psych-rock approach, to Gaga’s producing stable suggests the direction the singer may be headed in for her upcoming album (which is still unannounced, but slated for later this year), but “Perfect Illusion” feels very much in Gaga’s established wheelhouse, allowing her to show off her impressive belting skills over a driving, catchy hook.
From its slim three-minute running time on down, “Perfect Illusion” is clearly calculated for radio play, something Gaga hasn’t had much of lately, and the singer’s army of “Little Monsters” have heeded the call, devising a hilariously ingenious scheme to con radio programmers into playing the single.
Gaga’s been out of the spotlight (well, by her standards, anyway) for a while, so it’s understandable that her most loyal fans would want to give her a boost, but “Perfect Illusion” is such a perfectly crafted radio single, it would likely have gotten there on its own.
Listen to audio of the full track below or on Spotify, and await the self-consciously weird music video Gaga will no doubt release in the weeks to come.