Song: ‘Stupid Love’
Artist: Lady Gaga
US chart peak: 5* (*so far)
Release date: February 28, 2020
Writers: Stefani Germanotta, Max Martin, Ely “Rise” Weisfeld, Michael Tucker, Martin Bresso
Producers: BloodPop, Tchami, Max Martin
Quintessential Max moment: The economy of the melodies and hooks (“freak out freak out” etc).
Video synopsis: Power Rangers: Y2K go to the park for a dance off.
The (pop) world rots in conflict. Many
tribes streaming platforms battle for dominance. While the Spiritual ones bland men with guitars pray and sleep for peace, the Kindness punks proper balls out popstars fight for Chromatica pop’s future.
Let’s be honest it would have been easy for Lady Gaga to continue down the middle of the road, wouldn’t it. That pink stetson was looking pretty comfortable towards the end of the ‘Joanne’ campaign, and after she won an Oscar for ‘Shallow’, a song taken from a film in which she’s essentially punished for being a popstar and not something more ‘authentic’, you sort of assumed Mark Ronson was always going to be hovering around like the smell of burnished leather. Perhaps the first real clue Gaga was keen to fully channel her inner Ally again was when she launched a Las Vegas residency complete with terrible wigs, giant spider-like robot and bubbly metallic suits. Or when there were strong rumours pots and pans enthusiast SOPHIE was involved in new music.
Given she’s spent most of her life battling expectations, perhaps she just wanted more of a challenge. It’s not exactly news that pop has been languishing in a playlist-heavy, low BPM, attention-deficit prison for years now, with short, frustratingly same-y songs that are often too scared to upset the apple cart completely dominant. Well, it’s either that or social media curator Lewis Capaldi singing ballads about his nan. But the tide seems to be turning, with proper bangers like The Weeknd’s 80s-synth confection ‘Blinding Lights’ and Dua’s disco-tickler ‘Don’t Start Now’ currently battling it out in the US top 10. Last week they were joined by ‘Stupid Love’, the first single from Gaga’s ‘Chromatica’ album. Yes yes, it leaked in January, but perhaps that was all part of a plan to gradually re-introduce that fearless, laser-focused Gaga of old – the one that wanted to make you dance and sweat and bluff with a muffin. If that meant you reached some sort of higher plane then great, but at the core was a desire to make you lose yourself.
“We are definitely dancing,” Gaga recently confirmed to Zane Lowe on Beats 1. She also chatted about working with Max, a collaboration that previously seemed unlikely given she gave a slightly terse interview with Billboard in 2011 in which, while naming no names, she said pop super producers were “the most dangerous thing that has happened to this business”. There was more: “Because it takes the credibility away from the singer and from the artist…that’s the key to the success of the music industry – allowing the artist to creatively run the ship.” In a way she’s right, and that imbalance certainly seemed more prevalent ten or so years ago. Obviously here I am writing an entry on a website dedicated not to a popstar but to a producer, but the relationship, I hope, is seen as symbiotic. The chemistry that comes when a good producer enhances a great popstar is magic and always has been.
With Gaga, she has clearly proven herself time and time again to be more than capable of writing her own gold-plated pop classics without the need of a big name producer, and as Max has said before in his brief forays into interviews, his role has become more about seeing if he can add anything to what an artist is doing and then taking it from there. Also, one would imagine, if you want to be seen as one of the all-time great popstars then why not see what you can do with one of the all-time great pop producers? You’d give it a go wouldn’t you.
“He’s an amazing producer,” Gaga continued to Lowe. “I’ve never worked with him, I’ve always sort of gone, ‘I write my own music, I produce myself, I don’t need to work with Max, right?'” Wrong, obviously, but a justified thought process given the way female popstars in particular are judged. “I decided to stop being an asshole, meet him at least, you know?” Phew. She then said the following words about how it all happened: “Basically, I sang over a track that BloodPop made. We sent over what I sang to Max, Max picked some parts out, sent it back to me, and then I wrote lyrics.” She also went on to say that the songs on the album have been passed around a lot of different songwriters and producers, which might explains this. (Ryan Tedder also confirmed he’s involved).
And what they made with ‘Stupid Love’ is essentially a gloriously dumb, thankfully concept-free, neon pink dancefloor behemoth that would sound as amazing in a regional nightclub as it did when the leaked version soundtracked a New York fashion show. It sounds like 90s Europop; it sounds like ‘Born This Way’-era Gaga (specifically ‘Fashion of his Love’); and, more importantly, it sounds like Gaga having a shit tonne of fun, especially on the “freak out freak out” bridge bit. Also, we know that Max is meticulous about vocal production and Gaga sounds properly incredible here, just singing about wanting to be looked at and loved. Like the old days.