Lady Gaga’s “The Cure” is a big return to mainstream dance pop, and while the song may sound innocent enough, there might be more going on beneath the surface. Is Gaga making a clever commentary on the state of chart-topping pop music?
Lady Gaga debuted a new song called “The Cure” at Coachella this past weekend, an airy, synth-y, EDM-flavored dancehall track about love and devotion. Critics were quick to note that the song was very similar in style to many tracks heard on the radio today, including Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” Zedd and Alessia Cara’s “Stay,” and The Chainsmokers’ entire discography. While some may see “The Cure” as Gaga sincerely trying to get back to radio-friendly pop and blindly following trends, there may be more behind the song’s lyrics and production.
“The Cure” begins with familiar echo-y EDM production before Gaga starts singing in a breathy manner.
The pop star coos, “I’ll undress you, ’cause you’re tired / Cover you as you desire / When you fall asleep inside my arms / May not have the fancy things / But I’ll give you everything / You could ever want, it’s in my arms.”
The lyrics are universal, if nondescript, and not as specific as Gaga’s usual style. After all, this is the same artist who sang of “bluffin’ with my muffin” on “Poker Face,” referenced Alfred Hitchcock on “Bad Romance,” and talked about an “ear condom” on “Judas” — whatever that is. But when looking at the opening verse on “The Cure,” there’s hardly a trace of Gaga’s clever wordplay or unique references.
“The Cure” pre-chorus has Gaga repeating “Baby tell me yes” and urging to her partner that she will give them everything, leading into the catchy, hook-friendly chorus, where she explains how she will help heal her partner, even if they say they’re okay. The production then launches into the EDM breakdown featured in the intro. The bridge gives another familiar feeling for avid pop fans, with vocal distortion and building repetition. While Gaga has played with these dynamics before, the ingredients she combines here are arguably much more “radio” than “Gaga.”
Ultimately, “The Cure” is a pretty harmless song with soft yet dynamic vocals from Gaga. It’s not as in-your-face as “Perfect Illusion,” the leadoff single from her latest album, Joanne, nor is it an analog, folky ballad the public may not be used to hearing from Gaga like “Million Reasons.” The song falls squarely in the current trend of pop music, with tropical vibes, EDM breakdowns, and a clean hook. Yet, to release this song in the middle of her more grounded Joanne era has some reviewers wondering why she’s going in this direction.
For an artist as smart and attuned as Lady Gaga, it may seem strange for her to move towards radio-ready fare again. Is Gaga truly just releasing this song in a desperate attempt to follow trends? Or is she making a kind of commentary about the vague, similar-sounding tracks that populate the radio today?
“It’s not parody, it’s commentary,” Gaga told the Independent in 2009 about her initial performance art as a pop star. “To use the words ‘have your cake and eat it’ implies something devious. For me, I just think I’m very good at what I do.”
Gaga has molded herself into many different forms throughout her decade-long career, from worldwide pop star to jazz artist with Tony Bennett to actress on American Horror Story, and most recently, to humble country rocker on Joanne. Now, on “The Cure,” we see a new form of Gaga — the earnest young singer who just wants to have a good time and fall in love. The typical clever irony featured on other Gaga tracks like “Paparazzi” or “The Fame” may not be as clear on “The Cure,” but the song’s straightforward lyrics and familiar production seem to suggest that Lady Gaga in her infinite pop-culture wisdom knows exactly what she’s doing.
[Featured Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]