With Gaga, you came for the circus (in her case, dying on stage at the VMAs or arriving at the Grammys in an egg), and stayed for the performance. But after a string of successes in “The Fame,” “The Fame Monster” and “Born This Way,” style had overwhelmed substance. Gaga was at a career crossroads: Where does a pop star go when people have grown tired of the very thing they’re known for?
Some performers might have reacted to this by playing the next chapter safe. Not Gaga. She made a series of bold decisions that only she could get away with. She dug herself out of a hole in the most unorthodox way possible, which is actually exactly what makes Gaga, well, Gaga. Meanwhile, the myth of Gaga only grew stronger.
“Cheek to Cheek,” a record of jazz standard collaborations with Tony Bennett, was just Gaga’s first step in redefining herself as a performer. She went on to perform an acclaimed “Sound of Music” tribute at the Academy Awards, an electric Super Bowl halftime show performance, and then landed two Oscar nominations — best actress and best original song — for “A Star is Born,” winning the latter. That’s like a greatest hits list of entertainment industry achievements, except she accomplished it in roughly half a decade.
By adding those accomplishments to her already sterling resume, she rewrote the rules of what it means to be a 21st century pop star (namely, rules aren’t meant to be broken — they’re there to be destroyed). Chasing No. 1 singles? That’s for run-of-the-mill pop artists.
Which brings us back to “Stupid Love.” After a several-year hiatus from typical pop stardom — she’s become an actress, a jazz artist, an activist and a makeup guru in the meantime — she’s back with a disco banger that will be played at pride festivals, middle school dances, and everywhere in between. It’s the type of song that you won’t be able to escape, but it makes you feel so giddy, why would you want to?
Only Gaga could do the least surprising thing a pop star could do — release a four-on-the-floor earworm — and catch us all off guard. Just when you thought she’d moved on from her hit-making days, she’s back with an increasingly rare phenomenon in the streaming era: a true pop music event. And you know what the best part is? Whatever comes next will be just as amazing.