If you need to give your country piano ballad a boost, then the Super Bowl Halftime Show is the place to play it. When you need a quick turnaround, debuting the follow-up single at a headlining Coachella set is also a fair bet for publicity.

Lady Gaga has played her cards well in 2017, boosting her slow-burn single “Million Reasons” to platinum after her Super Bowl appearance in February, and unexpectedly dropping a new, non-Joanne single called “The Cure” at Coachella over the weekend.

While fans at the fesival were eagerly awaiting to hear which song from Joanne would be the next single (bets were on “Dancin’ In Circles”), Gaga, filling in for a pregnant Beyoncé, flat out released a previously unheard single instead, perhaps prompting her next “era” of discography. Somehow, the new track came as even more of a surprise than Gaga’s Coachella interlude video of her deep-throating a writhing tentacle (which was very shocking, we assure you).

“I’ve been so excited for this next part of the show cuz I’m been trying to keep it a secret for so long,” Gaga said Saturday night before she played “The Cure” for the first time live. “I’ve been in the studio making music and tonight I’d like to debut a brand-new song. This is ‘The Cure.’”

Immediately after her set, the song was uploaded to iTunes in the wee hours of the morning, and rocketed to #1 by the time most people were waking up for Easter Sunday.

Gaga had alluded to recording new music on social media recently, but considering that she did the same thing more than a year prior to releasing Joanne, the posts didn’t cause much of a fuss. Gaga had posted a selfie to Instagram with the caption “Can’t wait for COACHELLA! Until then studio studio studio” only four weeks prior to her first Coachella set.

“The Cure” immediately presents itself as a polar opposite to most of Gaga’s singles; unlike most of her chart-topping songs, the airy — and daresay, modest — song flows without a bit of conflict. And of course, looking back at some of Gaga’s greatest work (“Bad Romance,” “Telephone,” “Just Dance”) conflict, whether dangerous or frivolous, is usually present. Listeners were quick to call the tune “Chainsmokers lite,” and they aren’t entirely wrong. Mainstream music has changed significantly since the days of “Just Dance,” but none of Gaga’s music thus far — especially her singles — has truly reflected that.

Most songs in constant rotation on FM airwaves mesh pop with electro/dance elements, as evidenced by the rise of artists like DJ Snake, The Chainsmokers, and Zedd (who, interestingly did significant work on Gaga’s Born This Way and ARTPOP). “The Cure” is Gaga’s first acknowledgement of this turn in pop music — or rather, how dance is slowing replacing it on the radio. Between the post-chorus sound effects and stripped down, simplistic songwriting format, “The Cure” is better reflection of the music industry in 2017 than any song on Joanne was, for better or for worse. In contrast, “Million Reasons” was quite the opposite, boasting an unhurried tempo and general TLC tear-jerker theme.

Looking beyond complete 180 between “Million Reasons” and “The Cure,” however, demonstrates that a new Gaga album might be coming sooner than initially expected.

Gaga’s typical time in between albums is about two years, so with Joanne being released in late 2016, the LG6 timeframe was assumed to be in 2018. But with the release of “The Cure,” an EP or new album could be coming sooner than 2018, if not later this year.

“The Cure,” while a bit of departure stylistically for Gaga, is realms closer to her usual pop repertoire than Joanne was, which has quickly raised some eyebrows amongst little monsters.

First of all, Gaga doesn’t have a history of debuting new songs so quickly after the release of a new album, let alone a song that’s a self-proclaimed single. The only track reminiscent to Gaga’s sudden release of “The Cure” is “Stuck On Fuckin’ You,” a bluesy B-side that she released for free as a Christmas gift for little monsters in 2011. Other surprise releases include “Stache” featuring Zedd, which Gaga released as a tease for ARTPOP (which never made the album) and “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” which was supposed to be a Kendrick Lamar collab but fell through. In all of these cases, the word “single” was never used, and none of the songs were ever uploaded for sale on iTunes, but rather made available for free online. In that sense, the sudden release of “The Cure” is an unprecedented move for Gaga, especially when fans expected a third single from Joanne to come before any talk of a new album.

What makes the release ever more surprising is that Gaga hasn’t even started her Joanne world tour yet. And as you know, that comes to Fenway Park in Boston this September.

Second of all, rumors had previously circulated that Gaga had scrapped the original “LG5” songs to pursue a new theme with Joanne. Initially, Gaga said that her role as The Countess in American Horror Story: Hotel had inspired her to write some darker pop music, a la The Fame Monster. Compare these descriptions with any song on Joanne and the contrast couldn’t be more stark. Some fans are wondering if “The Cure” could be a song that was meant for the original LG5, but went on the backburner when she decided that Joanne was the path she wanted to pursue for her next full-length album.

Looking back at Gaga’s patterns for releasing new music, a forthcoming EP is entirely plausible. Gaga’s only EP to date, The Fame Monster, was released a little over a year after The Fame was. On top of that, “Bad Romance” followed quickly after “Paparazzi,” with only roughly three months in between the two songs being released as singles.

If any of these patterns hold true in 2017, Lady Gaga is likely to drop a new album or EP in the near future. In the meantime, Gaga’s sure to practice her poker face about the possibility of LG6 coming in 2017 — or, she will at least until this weekend’s encore headlining set at Coachella.

 

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