Lady Gaga’s made waves on the pop scene lately with her new song “Perfect Illusion,” the single prefacing Joanne, which will be her first solo album release since ARTPOP dropped nearly three years ago. I can’t say I’ve been equally pleased with each of her releases, but since she hit the scene I’ve enjoyed her bold, electronic pop backed by powerful vocals that’s led to a number of hit singles.
Gaga has consistently proven over the years that she has the talent not just for catchy radio hits, but also for moving, stripped-down ballads. She tends to do so with one song per album (it’s debatable whether “Yoü And I” truly counts, as the closest song Born This Way had to this type of song) in addition to doing so through impressive acoustic performances.
Of course, I always feel the need to hit up songs like “Just Dance” and “Bad Romance” on a regular basis, but more than any of her other songs, I most frequently find myself coming back to possibly my favorite song by her, the bluesy, Queen-inspired piano ballad “Brown Eyes” from her 2009 debut, The Fame. The regretful song describes the narrator having reluctantly walked away from someone they were in a relationship with, wherein the other person was hung up on a prior relationship. One could even speculate that the narrator played some part in this prior relationship’s dissolution, given the sense of guilt with which the song is imbued. Backed by soft piano, exaggerated guitar, and a slow but prominent drumbeat, Gaga sings about this person whose brown eyes she got lost in, recognizing, “I knew that it was wrong,” and that she had to walk away as a result.
The guitar strums during verses plus longer guitar melodies after each chorus help further the bluesy sound of the song among the synths subtly popping up, and it really brings about the wallowing sadness that gives it emotional drive. The lyrics are simple enough, but they effectively describe a hopelessness and bitter inevitability in throwing affection at somebody while realizing that it’s never quite going to pull through. The first two choruses in particular do this effectively with lines like, “If everything was everything / But everything is over,” pulling out the “what ifs” while striking them down before even explaining what they are, illustrating the true inevitability of walking away.
The song’s story of being so attached to someone but not being able to make it work is powerful, made more so by the soft tone of the song that highlights this mourning. It’s not the type of song that earned Gaga her notoriety, but it shows a different side of her and her music that really appeals to me. If you’ve been turned off by her eccentric persona or some of her more electronic numbers and haven’t listened to her music beyond that, certainly give “Brown Eyes” a chance.