Single Review

Lady Gaga’s “Cure” Does the Trick, Just Like the Generic Brand

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella

Lady Gaga, the Koons enthusiast formerly (?) known as Joanne, soon to be known as A Star Is Born actress Stefani Germanotta, has a new song out. It came as a surprise during her Coachella set over the weekend, and it’s called “The Cure.”

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Gaga ditched the Serious Artiste shtick (for now!) and dove headfirst into radio-friendly “trop pop” territory, made inescapable thanks to Major Lazer and Justin Bieber, The Chainsmokers and Kygo among others. It’s explicitly, unabashedly bandwagon-hopping, beat drop chorus-having, chipmunk noise-bearing, Top 40-sounding dance-pop.

“The Cure” is about a year and a half past innovative — no different than Demi Lovato‘s “No Promises” with Cheat Codes or Louisa Johnson‘s “Best Behaviour” or Britney‘s “Better” or, really, most anything else that shows up on Spotify’s #NewMusicFriday playlist every week — and the lyrics are some of her most inoffensive and non-specific…ever.

If songs like The Chainsmokers’ “Closer (feat. Halsey)” — the longest-running hit of 2016 — are considered the generic brand, a cheaper option for the masses, then “The Cure” is like paying for the same product with sexier packaging, better marketing and a more elite name attached: they’re still accomplishing the same damn thing.

What happened to Joanne, though? Six months in, and she’s already throwing in the pink hat? Look, “The Cure” is fine for what it is right now: a festival season-ready offering that appeals to those ‘gramming their ‘Chella selfies. Were it a lead single, there might have been Little Meltdowns.

But is that okay? Is Gaga averting the avant garde and going the basic route fine? Yes, it’s fine! It’s not amazing or terrible — it’s fine.

Lest we forget, there was a time when Gaga was first wielding her wonky homemade contraptions and penning easily digestible, ingenious ear candy like “Just Dance” and “Paparazzi” — and, most importantly, “Fashion” for Heidi Montag.

She’s largely responsible for helping to reinvigorate dance-pop from 2008 onward at American radio, which later gave way to all-out EDM assault. (David Guetta, Nicki Minaj‘s pop career — all o’ that.) If she’s decided to twirl back onto the dance floor with something that sounds “current” after the past five thousand years of “Million Reasons” performances, it’s forgivable, considering she was already doing that almost exactly a decade ago when The Fame Monster first came growling.

She also sounds great — she always does, duh — but for a different reason: the most hushed moments (“so baby, tell me yes…“) are probably the best parts of the whole thing. As with her “Do What U Want” duet partner Christina Aguilera, some restraint can do wonders.

It would be easy to hate on Gaga for going the uninspired and, dare I say it, reductive route, but there’s something almost refreshingly unpretentious (!) about Lady Gaga going “fuck it” and dropping an essentially anonymous, Chainsmokers/Kygo-biting bop that could have just as easily been recorded by Selena Gomez.

In a way, that actually makes this one of Gaga’s weirdest singles to date.

No, “The Cure” shouldn’t become the guiding template for a whole Lady Gaga album. And no, no one should be breathlessly claiming that this is a musical revelation by any means. But until her next persona or alter-ego sprouts (or Tony Bennett gives her a call), it’s nice to hear Gaga sidestep her natural instinct to do the absolute most for once and slip into something more tried-and-true to pass the time.

Besides, she’s never been one to settle for any one sound too long.

“The Cure” was released on April 15. (Apple Music / Spotify)