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Gaga's Lead Singles: A Beaten Horse?

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JustJames

So, I know there are threads monthly asking people their opinion on Gaga's lead singles. I haven't seen, but openly admit that there likely exists, one that goes more into the strategy of the choice at the time and how it actually ended up impacting the era as the introduction for most, if not all, the GP. 

I have said in other threads that Lady Gaga redefined the concept of an 'album era' and I would argue she was defined what we fans now think of when we hear those words. To illustrate, I'll use my 'go-to' examples from 2 of the biggest popstars post-resurgence (late 90s): Britney and Christina. Britney released Baby One More Time, Oops I Did It Again, Britney, In the Zone, and Blackout all prior to Gaga's rise to fame. Her 2nd and 3rd albums both received Grammy nominations for Pop Vocal Album, meaning that at the time, they were top-of-the-line in terms of what represented a pop album/era in the industry. Her 1st and 2nd albums were named after the lead single from the album, and had no relationship to a theme that could be felt throughout the entire LP. Her 3rd album followed along the other trend of the time, which was to simply self-title an album, as Christina did with her debut that earned 3 number 1 hits and the BNA Grammy. 

I reiterate those points to refresh everyone on what the standards were for an album/era as I think the strategy and purpose of a lead single have evolved in lockstep with those standards. When I ask whether the right song was chosen, how we thought it performed, and what we might have done differently, I think that context is key. So, generally,

THE QUESTIONS

1. What is the purpose of a lead single?

2. Is the success of the 2nd single and the album linked to whether a lead was the right choice? Or, do they stand on their own?

3. Does the lead need to just catch attention, or does it need to preview the sound and themes of the album/era?

4. What are your rankings (and alternate choices where applicable) and why?

SUMMARY 

My answers, as explained below, would be:

1. Applause - The album was lyrically consistent about how broken Gaga was as a soul and how she was using adrenaline from various sources - fame, love, sex, drugs - to still transform and perform as the Lady Gaga persona; this wasn't conveyed well in the promo of either the song or album, but it doesn't mean that the song itself is to blame. It is, by far, the best choice to reintroduce her into the GP after a long break and its success/longevity proves that.

2. Just Dance - For the standards of that time, Just Dance was connected enough to the album and era. It doesn't live up to the standards Gaga would later set in terms of it being the best indication of both the sound and the message of the entire album, but it DID succeed at propelling a new artist into the mainstream. It served both longevity (let's be real, would a label allow a new artist's debut single more than a year to reach the top of the charts?) and acclaim, hitting #1 and receiving a Grammy nod (ironically preventing her from receiving BNA nom/win the next year).

3. Bad Romance - I am torn on whether this should have received the Pokerface treatment and been saved as a 2nd single; alternate choice would be either Monster, DITD, or Telephone

4. Born This Way - I think releasing this song was a poor choice given how hungry the GP was for Gaga at the time; everyone knew BTW's chorus at least and it would have hit #1 regardless of when it was released. BTW (album) had a rock-inspired ectronic sound with a message that was far more introspective of being born this way and handling the challenges associated with it, and I think the very personal Marry the Night would be a much better indication of both the sounds and themes to come on the album.

5. Perfect Illusion - PI seemed to have missed the mark from any perspective; it wasn't a GP-friendly earworm like Just Dance used to set up more iconic songs, its sound was not a proper introduction to the album, and its narrative didn't explain Joanne as an album or era. My choice would have easily been Diamond Heart, which was much easier on the ears, while introducing rock and country vibes, and conveying a really positive message lyrically about Gaga in a stripped-back way beyond the fame concept (much more relateable to what Joanne was supposedly about). The vulernability of the song could have fed into a narrative where she then dealt with being taken advantage of in MR, finding out the truth in PI, and letting it loose as a single gal in A-YO.

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Lionel Hutz
19 minutes ago, JustJames said:

4. Born This Way - I think releasing this song was a poor choice given how hungry the GP was for Gaga at the time; everyone knew BTW's chorus at least and it would have hit #1 regardless of when it was released. BTW (album) had a rock-inspired ectronic sound with a message that was far more introspective of being born this way and handling the challenges associated with it, and I think the very personal Marry the Night would be a much better indication of both the sounds and themes to come on the album.

I sense that Gaga knew that she was at her peak during this time, and chose to release Born This Way to put LGBT issues back on the mainstream. She knew she had the power to possibly  accomplish that, and she did accomplish it, although her career kind of slowed down during the next few years after TEOG, but I think more due to Judas and Easter and overexposure than to BTW itself as a single.

Edited by Lionel Hutz
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FfFfFfFF
18 minutes ago, JustJames said:

THE QUESTIONS

1. What is the purpose of a lead single?

2. Is the success of the 2nd single and the album linked to whether a lead was the right choice? Or, do they stand on their own?

3. Does the lead need to just catch attention, or does it need to preview the sound and themes of the album/era?

4. What are your rankings (and alternate choices where applicable) and why?

1. To catch attention from the public and fans, to give an accurate preview to the sound of the upcoming music, to promote the artist and the album and ultimately to become a hit.

2. Sometimes. A bad lead (an uncommercial or niche sound like Perfect Illusion, a straight up bad song or a song that doesn't fit that certain artist and feels inauthentic can kill the hype. Not necessarily completely or without the possibility for the following singles to become hits as well but over the short term a bad or badly chosen lead can certainly can affected the performance of the second single. If the lead does good, it's obvious it's follow up will have an advantage.

3. Both, ideally. I think it also needs to be a mix of that artist's usual style (enough to feel like like it's familiar and authentic to them) but also change (to show some evolution).

4. I think all Gaga's singles were good (and well-chosen) except Perfect Illusion which is unsurprisingly her worst performing one. Instead of it Diamond Heart could have been a better choice: it has elements of Gaga's usual style, it's catchy and has electronic touches, it summarizes the sound of the album way better because of the glam rock influences and is overall a more tolerable and easy on the ears song than PI.

I also think Marry The Night could have worked just as well. Plus, Applause was a better choice than Aura in my opinion. Aura was just too wild and experimental to do well on the radio and with the public at that time in Gaga's career.

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Killa

Hm i dont get evrrything u say or agree. Tho i was thinking other day about some artists i actually kinda enjoy but i got too lost in theyre releases to the point of losing interest to listen new material. 

Till now gaga has had very defined, in which you as part of gp know what is going on.  And people are ready to invest more in her. 

The low point is it may require too much from the consumer. 

That said the first single, to my view, should explain how lowbrow or high concept the era will be. 

Her releases are too old school. Tge schedule and promotion are "stiff".  We need a proper era with bit firmer decisions but more playful to the public. Those are my 2 cents in a state of very short attention spam. You really need a strategy to prolong the era. Get together with video games seemed cool tbh

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Killa
13 minutes ago, FfFfFfFF said:

1. To catch attention from the public and fans, to give an accurate preview to the sound of the upcoming music, to promote the artist and the album and ultimately to become a hit.

2. Sometimes. A bad lead (an uncommercial or niche sound like Perfect Illusion, a straight up bad song or a song that doesn't fit that certain artist and feels inauthentic can kill the hype. Not necessarily completely or without the possibility for the following singles to become hits as well but over the short term a bad or badly chosen lead can certainly can affected the performance of the second single. If the lead does good, it's obvious it's follow up will have an advantage.

3. Both, ideally. I think it also needs to be a mix of that artist's usual style (enough to feel like like it's familiar and authentic to them) but also change (to show some evolution).

4. I think all Gaga's singles were good (and well-chosen) except Perfect Illusion which is unsurprisingly her worst performing one. Instead of it Diamond Heart could have been a better choice: it has elements of Gaga's usual style, it's catchy and has electronic touches, it summarizes the sound of the album way better because of the glam rock influences and is overall a more tolerable and easy on the ears song than PI.

I also think Marry The Night could have worked just as well. Plus, Applause was a better choice than Aura in my opinion. Aura was just too wild and experimental to do well on the radio and with the public at that time in Gaga's career.

Diamond heart had also a clear narrative. Since there were no clear hits in joane... That could do and had an easy video. Ive got very lackluster reactions from diamnd h. From many listeners i asked opinion, mostly complained its bit noisy. I think. With cool video with some gaga and joanne immagery could be so much easier to direct. 

On other hand the after perf illusion came out i had rehearsal and everyone was like... Hmm whats this. This is boring, i mean the people i know were following her got completely uninterested immediately. Just empirical self experience

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Didymus

Gaga did not (re)invent album eras, first of all :rip: Madonna's the one who established that phenomenon in public consciousness.

Second of all, PI was the perfect choice for a lead. It not only was a public acknowledgment of what went wrong with Taylor (the subject of wide speculation in the media), it was also part of a planned storyline that went hand in hand with MR, the second single. This is obvious not only since they're paired in the album's tracklist but also because their music video's are entangled.

Of course that doesn't mean it was the best choice sonically or commercially but "era-wise" it made perfect sense and it made a lot more sense than DH would have...

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VOLANTIS

You think MTN should have been lead because it “best represents the sound and theme of the album” while you praise Applause as her best lead while the song is far from the album’s collective EDM sound. 

 

So what’s the truth? 

I'll lift you 3 inches off the ground and drag you to a meter and a half

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