“Perfect Illusion”


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Adam R. Holz

Album Review

For all the myriad artists who’ve crooned about love over the decades, you’d think we’d have a better handle on what this experience actually consists of. Still, sometimes confusion reigns regarding this slippery emotional reality.

After all, Bob Marley, Whitesnake, Corinne Bailey Rae, Survivor, Alison Moyet and Aiden Grimshaw have all had songs titled “Is This Love” (some with a question mark in the title). Van Halen wondered, “Why Can’t This Be Love.” Meanwhile, Diana Ross asked, “Where Did Our Love Go?”

Lady Gaga is no stranger to this subject matter. Her 2009 hit “Bad Romance” confessed her addiction to a toxic—yet apparently still satisfying—relationship. Now she’s back with a new hit, “Perfect Illusion,” a disco-ish dance-rock effort that more earnestly seeks to suss out why a connection she briefly believed might be love actually wasn’t.

From Ecstasy to Agony

The bad romance Lady Gaga chronicles here started with a sensual, heart-palpitating rush.

“I felt you touching me,” she sings early on (a line that’s as suggestive as things ever get here). “High like amphetamine,” she adds in the next line. Later, she labels the nascent romance “a modern ecstasy”

Given the song’s foreshadowing title, however, it’s pretty obvious Lady Gaga’s drug-like connection with this person wasn’t ever going to go the distance. Gaga says she was “caught up in your show,” then suggests that for all the pain she’s endured, at least now she realizes the truth: “It wasn’t love, it wasn’t love/It was a perfect illusion.”

Gaga admits that the aftermath of this failed flamed-out fling hasn’t been pretty: “Tryin’ to get control/Pressure’s takin’ its toll.” There’s lingering pain (“I still feel the blow”) but also a resigned resolution informed by reality (“But at least now I know”).

In that last line (which is repeated several times), there’s a hint of empowerment. Though she was deceived by this person’s ultimately empty affections, hopefully it’s an experience that will prompt her to exercise a bit more restraint the next time she’s tempted to go all-in too quickly.

Guarding Our Hearts

Our culture often confuses lasting love with the almost volcanic feelings that can erupt at the beginning of a promising relationship. Gaga herself almost admits as much when she sings, “Maybe you were just a dream/That’s what it means to crush.”

Sometimes infatuation’s first blush evolves into the real thing, settling into faithful love that has what it takes to stand the test of time. Other times, what seemed so real is revealed to be a counterfeit, an emotional doppelgänger that looked authentic but ultimately is shown to have been an illusory mirage.

Though Lady Gaga perhaps penned this song to unpack her jagged emotions after feeling deceived, her narrative here nonetheless illustrates the biblical injunctive to be wise with our innermost hopes and dreams. In Proverbs 4:23, Solomon instructs, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (New Living Translation).

The story Lady Gaga tells in “Perfect Illusion” powerfully illustrates this verse, reminding us of the disorientation and heartbreak that come when we rush recklessly headlong (often physically, as well as emotionally) into risky romantic relationships.

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Adam R. Holz

After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.

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