Lady Gaga returned to the world of pop music on Friday after a long, three-year break with “Perfect Illusion.” It’s her first single after the infamous “ARTPOP.” In the interim, she produced a jazz album with Tony Bennett that no one asked for and starred as Jessica Lange’s understudy in the fifth season of “American Horror Story.”
Since Lady Gaga’s last reign, pop music has changed a lot: Taylor Swift slithered over from country to pop. Beyoncé runs the world. Justin Bieber inexplicably became relevant. With her return on “Perfect Illusion,” Lady Gaga continues to forge her own path. Probably best described as a Bruce Springsteen song meets disco, “Perfect Illusion” sounds like nothing else in Gaga’s extensive discography. While certainly better than most pop songs released this year, the extra spark found in Lady Gaga’s truly great songs is missing from “Perfect Illusion.”
Speaking of great Lady Gaga songs, in honor of her return to pop music, I have ranked my 10 favorite songs from the Mother Monster herself.
1. “Bad Romance” is hands down one of the greatest pop songs ever. From the towering chorus to the Hitchcock references to the “Ga-ga-ooh-la-la’s,” this song still captivates me as much in 2016 as it did in October 2009. Songs like this do not come around very often. “Bad Romance” sent all the other pop girls scrambling to try to compete, and most failed in the process.
2. “Poker Face” is another iconic pop song. With its love-as-a-card-game lyrics, “Poker Face” has spawned endless debates since 2009 about its true meaning. Few artists can pull off lyrics like “bluffin’ with my muffin,” but Gaga makes it work. The unrelenting, robotic club beat ultimately set the stage for Gaga’s takeover of the dance floor.
3. “Dance In The Dark” is a towering camp song with a massive chorus. The stuttering, synth-heavy banger details Gaga’s body insecurities, hence why she dances in the dark. It’s even better live — seeing the 2011 Monster Ball Tour open with this massive song was incredible.
4. “The Edge Of Glory” showcases Gaga at her most “Bruce Springsteen.” This dance-rock anthem is the definite highlight of her 2011 album “Born This Way.” The first three minutes are already epic, then Clarence Clemons comes in on the sax and kicks it up to high gear. “Perfect Illusion” needed to go more in this direction.
5. “Alejandro” somehow manages to marry a dark, slick sound with an up-tempo Latin-flavored beat. Just how she manages to pull off this song is a mystery, but it’s one of my all-time favorites.
6. “Paparazzi” has Gaga’s characteristic upbeat club-ready sound, which manages to mask how creepy this song about obsessive love is. Of course, this song will forever be associated with her iconic 2009 MTV VMA’s performance that kicked up her career to another level.
7. “Speechless” is Lady Gaga at her most raw and vulnerable — it’s dedicated to her father. This Queen-inspired pop-rock ballad is not a side she shows very often, but it’s one that she conquers with gusto.
8. “Telephone” features the two greatest artists of the digital age (Lady Gaga and Beyoncé) and it was written for the ultimate teen queen (Britney Spears), so of course it’s a killer. The chorus is absolutely massive and tends to get stuck in people’s heads for days.
9. “Just Dance” is the song that started it all. Fun and simple, “Just Dance” has dominated party playlists since 2008 and will still bring everyone to the dance floor.
10. “Yoü And I” combines rock, pop and a little bit of country. Another glam rock song that channels Queen, “Yoü and I” showcases Gaga’s singing and songwriting skills. No other contemporary artist has a versatility that they can pull off half as well as Gaga.
While “Perfect Illusion” may not be the absolute showstopper I was hoping it would be, Lady Gaga still has one of the most extensive and impressive back catalogues of any pop artist. Proof: it was so hard to choose just 10 songs to put on this list.