‘Stupid Love,’ Lady Gaga’s infectious return to dance-pop

The cover of "Stupid Love" (2020) by Lady Gaga is pictured. via Pitchfork

With her new single, “Stupid Love” (2020), Lady Gaga returns to the blood-pumping, hair-raising dance-pop of her early career. For many fans, Gaga’s new single is a welcomed comeback. It’s radio friendly — unlike much of her last essentially pop endeavor “ARTPOP” (2013) — and connects to the aesthetic of her Las Vegas residency show “Lady Gaga: Enigma” (2018–). The single is certainly ready for nightclubs and parties everywhere (although it’s probably been playing in them for weeks considering “Stupid Love” leaked back in January) and will usher in a new era for Gaga and her fans.

But how did we get here? And why are Gaga’s fans rejoicing at the return of Mother Monster? In reality, Gaga never really left the musicscape. After all, her soundtrack for the most recent film adaption of “A Star is Born” (2018) was incredibly popular, broke plenty of records and became an essential album for middle-aged mothers everywhere. And before that came “Joanne” (2016) and her Tony Bennett jazz duet release “Cheek to Cheek” (2014). So why the excitement? It’s not like there’s been a drought of new music. If anything, being a Gaga fan in the 2010s was incredibly fulfilling; she released a consistent stream of great music.

The idea of “Stupid Love” being a comeback relates to our understanding of how Gaga’s sound and music have changed over the years. It’s much more important and career-defining than we might initially realize. With “Stupid Love,” Gaga returns to the dance-pop that made her famous and set the tone for much of the pop of the early 2010s. It’s not easy to forget that Gaga’s hits like “Just Dance” (2008), “Paparazzi” (2008), “Bad Romance” (2009) and “Poker Face” (2008) were incredibly popular when released (it’s inarguable that they still are). With singles like those and albums like “The Fame” (2008) (and its 2009 reissue “The Fame Monster”), “Born This Way” (2011) and “ARTPOP”, Gaga carved out an impressive space for herself in pop music and radio.

But it was after the lukewarm — and undeservedly harsh, considering “ARTPOP” is an absolutely brilliant album — reaction to “ARTPOP” that Gaga remade herself and her sound. That’s where the aforementioned jazz, country and film soundtrack releases come into play. So “Stupid Love” really is a comeback — a return to a form and style that Gaga has been relatively avoiding, save some standalone singles like “The Cure” (2017),  tracks on “Joanne” and “A Star is Born.”

And we can expect “Stupid Love” to ride that fan excitement and dominate radios, something we don’t really think all that much about thanks to streaming, but it could really elongate this single’s lifespan. After all, songs like Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” (2017) still play on the radio even three years later. In this way, “Stupid Love” has got the legs to keep up the marathon; it’s a fun pop single with a catchy chorus and great vocals. There’s not much lyrical complexity — something to look forward to on Gaga’s upcoming album, possibly titled “Chromatica” — but the beat is so infectious that it doesn’t really matter.

“Stupid Love” has a bright, ’80s synth-pop sound that’s wonderfully infectious. It’s more of a reminder of “Born This Way” than “ARTPOP,” although “Stupid Love” might feel too colorful to fit in with “Born This Way.” It’s fun and flirty and checks all the boxes for a hit. It gives us a Gaga that sounds older and wiser — she’s made dance-pop and electropop tunes, she knows the formula and now she’s confidently having fun — and ready to make some good music.

And the music video showcases that fun. “Stupid Love” seems to follow a pink tribe — named the Kindness punks — as they fight for Chromatica (possibly the planet they’re on?) — as they settle a dispute between the other colorful tribes. It’s a hybrid of the Power Rangers, Gaga’s “Enigma” (2018–20) show, camp and great choreography. And hello, let’s celebrate that! It’s got great costumes — Gaga wears these futuristic shoulder pads with dangling pink metal ornaments and this plastic cover over her face that are just incredible — and it was shot on an iPhone 11 Pro!

It’s breathtakingly fun and doesn’t sound like anything out there right now. With “Stupid Love,” Gaga is back and better than ever. She’s spent the last few years adding some genres to her repertoire, but there’s something about Gaga returning to her roots that feels both ripe and reassuring. As “Stupid Love” begins its pop domination, we can celebrate Gaga’s new era by dancing and wearing absurdly amazing costumes. Let’s hope the rest of 2020 is full of Gaga’s dancefloor bops.

 


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