Lady Gaga's 'Perfect Illusion' is latest pop single inspired by rock 'n' roll

While rock 'n' roll in its traditional format may be absent from many pop charts, critics say some of the highest-charting music acts are still influenced by the genre.

Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
Lady Gaga attends the Americans for the Arts 2015 National Arts Awards in New York.

Singer Lady Gaga has released a new song, “Perfect Illusion,” that is being noted for its rock influences, showing that the genre is still part of popular music despite other styles' apparent dominance on the charts. 

Ms. Gaga’s song was released on Sept. 8. The singer released hit songs such as “Bad Romance” and “Paparazzi” in the late 2000s, and her most recent solo album was 2013’s “Artpop.” The singer also released “Cheek to Cheek,” a collaboration with singer Tony Bennett, soon after. 

Since then, Gaga has also released the song “Til It Happens to You,” which accompanied the 2015 documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which discusses rape on college campuses. The track was nominated for best original song at the Oscars.

Some critics are noting the rock ‘n’ roll influence on “Illusion.” MTV writer Sasha Geffen, for example, writes that on the new song, “Lady Gaga flexes her rock and roll voice …. Unlike 2013’s ‘Artpop,’ Gaga’s latest incorporates elements of stadium rock into her pounding dance pop template.”

The old idea of a rock group may be rarer in popular music these days. Monitor staff writer Mark Guarino wrote in 2014 that rock and roll “appears to be in serious decline.” Earlier this year, Rolling Stone writer Christopher R. Weingarten called rock “a genre that, in its 65th year, is still beloved by millions but currently in the commercial doldrums.”

Yet the influence of rock ‘n’ roll is still being seen in pop music like Gaga’s newest track, with Ms. Geffen comparing the sound of “Illusion” to music by British rock band Queen.

Meanwhile, Twenty One Pilots, the duo who currently have two hit songs in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, mix "angsty lyrics, Macklemore-style rhymes, Ben Folds–like piano pop, 311-ish reggae beats, hard-rock energy and the occasional ukulele ballad," as Rolling Stone reporter Andy Greene described them. 

And NPR writer Ann Powers wrote of music by The Chainsmokers, a DJ duo who also have two hits in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 right now, “[The Chainsmokers’ songs are] inspired by the intimate strains of indie rock and bedroom electronica.”

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