August 12, 2013: A day that will live in pop music infamy.
First, at the stroke of midnight, Katy Perry premiered “Roar.” And now, exactly 13 hours later, Lady Gaga has rush-released her comeback single “Applause.” It may not be the a-POP-calypse , but it certainly makes for a very busy Monday.
Gaga announced she was putting out the track in a series of ALL CAPS announcements (“DUE TO HACKERS AN ABUNDANCE OF LOW/HIGH QUALITY LEAKS…WE ISSUE THIS POP MUSIC EMERGENCY…MONSTERS SPREAD THE WORD”) and that urgency is readily apparent in her new song, too.
With its staccato’ed synth stabs, starry electronic bursts and thumping low end, “Applause” most certainly isn’t subtle; instead, it represents a return to Gaga’s club-friendly Fame era. Simply put, this one sounds massive, the kind of banger custom-made for massive soundsystems and dance-floor excesses.
And, with lyrics like “Pop culture was in art/Now art’s in Pop culture/in me,” the song definitely seems like the opening lines of her ARTPOP manifesto; and given the shots she takes at those who attempt to analyze her work (“I stand here waiting for you to bang the gong/ To crash the critic saying ’Is it right or is it wrong?”) well, it seems like she’s not about to apologize for whatever comes next.
And there’s that chorus: “I live for the applause,” which seems to suggest that whatever noise you’re making about her, she’ll not only take it … but use it to make her stronger.
Of course, even though both Perry and Gaga spent the weekend downplaying rumors of a feud — and calling for peace between their warring fanbases — it seems that comparisons between their two tracks are inevitable. They were both released on the same day and both serve as lead singles off hotly anticipated albums.
And though Gaga said her hand was forced by pesky hackers, well, it’s difficult to see this as anything but a subtle jab at Perry. But there’s where the similarities seem to end. While “Roar” goes for lyrical uplift, “Applause” goes for sonic heft. One’s an anthem of self-empowerment, the other’s a kiss-off to critics. One is clear and crisp, the other dark, heavy, aggressive.
But both are here, now, and after months of speculation, it’s time for the public to decide which track resonates with them. Pop music fans rejoice … this is a day you’ll remember for a long time to come.