With 'Million Reasons,' Is Lady Gaga Bringing Back 'The Vocalist Era'?
The ballad, driven by Gaga's powerhouse vocal, continues to surge at radio.
Lady Gaga is giving radio new reasons to stay with her music.
On the latest Radio Songs chart (dated April 8), her ballad "Million Reasons" charges 24-20, up 1 percent to 47 million in all-format audience in the week ending March 26, according to Nielsen Music. The song marks her first foray into the chart's top 20 since "Do What U Want" (featuring R. Kelly) reached No. 12 in early 2014. ("Reasons" is the second single from Gaga's former Billboard 200 No. 1 album Joanne; "Perfect Illusion" spent a week on Radio Songs, at No. 49, in October.)
On the Adult Pop Songs airplay chart (which contributes to Radio Songs), "Reasons" bounds 11-8 as the chart's Greatest Gainer (up 13 percent in plays) for a third consecutive week. It's her first top 10 on the tally since "Applause" hit No. 8 in fall 2013.
"Reasons" received new life when Gaga performed it during her Super Bowl LI halftime show on Feb. 5, and adult pop programmers cite that spotlight as a turning point for the song, while also praising it on its own merits.
"I feel like her performance at the halftime show gave America a reason to believe in Gaga again," says Melony Torres, WPLJ New York music director. "A lot of our listeners watched the show just to see her and were reminded of how much of a truly talented artist she really is."
"The Super Bowl performance absolutely helped the song break through," agrees KLLC San Francisco assistant program director/MD Jayn. "We were at a critical juncture in the life of the song, wondering if it was going to stick or not. The pop culture exposure and immediate sales spike made a move up [in rotation] a no-brainer."
"Reasons" logged a record-tying No. 4 re-entry on the Billboard Hot 100 dated Feb. 25. The same week, it made a New England Patriots-like comeback on the Digital Song Sales chart, re-entering at No. 1 with a 1,334 percent blast to 149,000 downloads sold (marking Gaga's first No. 1 on the ranking since "Born This Way" in 2011). "Reasons" has sold 828,000 to date; of that total, 56 percent (461,000) have moved since the week ending Feb. 9 (the tracking period encompassing the Super Bowl).
Meanwhile, Rob Lucas, WTSS Buffalo, New York MD, sees "Reasons" as part of a bigger musical picture, given the song's booming vocal, punctuated by Gaga's "I bow down to pray" high notes out of the verses.
"I think we are entering a new era of traditional ballads and big vocals," he says. "See Adele, and a ton of guy and girl troubadours with guitars [like] Ed Sheeran. I'm reading a book on Frank Sinatra and how he, Dean Martin and others of the genre scoffed at bands that played guitars as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones ushered in a new era. I think we have come full-circle and we are going back to the vocalist era.
"As I look at our currents list," Lucas continues, "I see only six acts that use guitars as a firm part of their music. That's a small percentage."
Lucas also notes that "Reasons" has become such a fit at adult pop radio thanks in part to the format's female-leaning target audience: "Ballads are driven by women, not men, so that should be of no surprise."
Ultimately, "Reasons" is reminding radio, and fans, of Gaga's talents, beyond her trademark quirky costumes and persona. After all, her musical résumé includes not only pop and dance but jazz (her Tony Bennett duets album Cheek to Cheek) and rock (her recent Grammy Awards performance with Metallica).
"It's quite a statement," KLLC's Jayn says about "Reasons," "that this traditional ballad comes from arguably our least traditional artist."