Lady Gaga had a rough go at it with ARTPOP. Suffering from management issues, constant single changes and music videos never materialising, she left many fans jaded and unsure of what to expect and how to feel about her career. Cheek to Cheek was a sure sign of an upswing, however, and now Gaga seems to have found the freedom and confidence she may have lacked before. Perfect Illusion isn’t quite the Gaga you remember, but a musical evolution is nothing new for her.
Perfect Illusion draws most of its influence from 80s pop rock in the vein of Pat Benatar and Cher. It opens with the screech of guitars and keeps the rock vibe throughout, but its beats and melodies are more akin to dance music than anything else. Admittedly, it’s not a song that grabs you straight away. Its chorus is almost non-existent, existing more as a fleeting hook between verses, which leaves little to grab onto. Its second half fills this void, using a key change and a transition to twinkling synths and strings to create a much grander, more commanding atmosphere. It’s a very different style for Gaga, but one that works well with her belting vocals, that are out in full force for the majority of the song.
Even with a gripping second half, you won’t want to rely on your first impression of Perfect Illusion. It’s very much a grower, and even if it doesn’t quite sell you at first, it slowly worms its way into your head. Even if it doesn’t quite reach that point, it works well as a transitional single as Gaga enters new territory and prepares her listeners for what she’s offering this time around. Give Perfect Illusion a chance, because it’ll surely lodge itself into your head eventually.