Do you remember 2008? George W. Bush was leaving office, Bernie Madoff was leaving his house (and going to prison) and for a shining moment, Lady Gaga and Kings of Leon had some of the biggest songs in the world.
For the Kings, the success of “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody” were a pinnacle after releasing three proficient alternative rock albums. They’re now coming up on three albums removed from that pinnacle with only middling results to show for it. Now, much like the recently released tracks from Green Day and Metallica, the new single “Waste a Moment” finds them trying to reclaim what made them notable in the first place: loud rock and roll. Whether they were successful or not is up to you.
As for Gaga, 2008 was just the beginning…of something. When “The Fame” dropped, its singles buoyed it to a sort of instant pop success that hasn’t really happened since. She was truly on top of the world for roughly 18 months, and while there was no exact moment when her star fell, collaborations with Tony Bennett and whatever statement “Artpop” tried to make were surely red flags. A starring turn on the most recent season of “American Horror Story” was a bright spot that made people remember, hey, wait a minute, she still sings, right?
She does! Collaborating with tastemakers Mark Ronson and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, “Perfect Illusion” is something of a rock song, which is an interesting choice in the current musical climate. Gaga’s voice is on full display, and by the end, she is literally screaming “ILLUSION” at you. At the very least, it’s better than “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).”
Whether or not either of these singles will be successful is almost entirely based on what your definition of “success” is. Will they lead to albums and “edgy” music videos and big tours and interviews disavowing past albums and potent quotables in magazine articles? For sure! Both artists were smart enough to make fans right before online streaming changed the game on musicians. The real question, though, is will these songs take Gaga and KoL back to their 2008 heights? Why can’t we ALL go back to our 2008 heights, really? I’m sure Kid Cudi and Duffy are thinking the same thing, somewhere.