Over the last few years, Lady Gaga has strayed further and further from pop’s light. Her last album, the baffling Joanne, was the latest in a long line of misfires hinting that Gaga had abandoned her pop roots for good in favour of country inspired dirges and self-indulgent ballads. The most irritating thing about Gaga’s multiple failed resurrections was that they were completely unnecessary. Gaga has always been capable of making exceptional pop songs – so why stop?
‘The Cure’ is the first sign that Gaga is getting back on track. A surprise release that debuted during her headline Coachella set, the track sees Gaga firmly back on the pop wagon, delivering a radio-friendly song that could feasibly hit the top five – something Gaga has been struggling to do since Artpop.
Does ‘The Cure’ stand alongside Gaga classics like ‘Bad Romance’, ‘Telephone’ or ‘Paparazzi’? No, of course it doesn’t, it doesn’t even equal the likes of ‘Alejandro’ or ‘Love Game’. But let’s not forget that Gaga has previously set the bar exceptionally high. What is interesting here though, is that whereas in the past Gaga has led the pop pack, bulldozing through uncharted territory and carving out new sounds and styles, on ‘The Cure’, there’s no doubting that Gaga is now following the crowd, no longer its undisputed leader.
From its tropical house vibes to its – let’s face it – fairly unimaginative chorus, there’s the unshakeable feeling that this has all been done before. ‘The Cure’ sounds more fitting of a lesser pop star, maybe a Lovato or a Larsson, for whom this would have been quite a moment, but for Gaga it feels derivative and, frankly, beneath her. While on ‘The Cure’ Gaga sounds current for the first time in several years, this is still somewhat disappointing given that, at her best, Gaga sounds not like the present, but the future.
But – and this is an important but – ‘The Cure’ is still a good song. Not great, not by any means, but good. The production is breezy and fresh, the hook is catchy and, vocally, Gaga is on typically good form. But most importantly, ‘The Cure’ heralds a return to proper, pure pop music, suggesting Gaga might finally be ready to leave the jazz numbers, cowboy boots and that fucking pink hat behind. And that alone is something worth celebrating.