Critic's Choice: Lady Gaga's Lead Singles Ranked Worst to Best

 Lady Gaga performs in Las Vegas
Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Clear Channel

 Lady Gaga performs at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sept. 24, 2011 in Las Vegas.

How does "Perfect Illusion" stack up?

The new Lady Gaga single is here, and there’s a lot riding on it. “Perfect Illusion” marks Gaga’s return to the pop music game, leading the push for what’s expected to be her first solo album since 2013’s Artpop. Tony Bennett collaborations aside, this is Stefani Germanotta’s crucial play to re-enter the pop charts.

“Perfect Illusion” is Gaga’s fifth lead single to date, so we ranked it alongside all its predecessors. And we’re counting The Fame Monster as an album, since it was so very good. 

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5. “Applause” 

On paper it sounds great: club-ready beat, numerous hooks, middle finger to the haters… but this one comes in last for this opinionated list. Maybe it just felt a little stale since it’s so very Gaga and there’d been so much Gaga on the airwaves in the years leading up to its release. And if we’re talking chart success, it’s in Gaga’s top five Billboard hits, but it lags behind her other songs on this list (aside from the just-released “Perfect Illusion”). We like the “Applause,” but we’re not exactly living for it.

4. “Perfect Illusion”

We mentioned the stakes up above, but let’s repeat. Artpop sold well, but it missed the mark set by its predecessors, along with arguably more promotion and media saturation. Lady Gaga had to come back strong. 

“Perfect Illusion” has only been out for a day, but its initial impressions are good. With the help of a crack team of collaborators (Mark Ronson, Kevin Parker, BloodPop) Gaga is back in business. The dancefloor hooks are on point and Gaga’s unexpected, adopted accents (and the memes that will likely result) keep it from sounding too normal. She’s set herself up to pivot into edgier territory with single No. 2.

3. "Just Dance"

When The Fame arrived in 2008, Gaga was far from a household name. She was a major-label pop newcomer, brought along by the likes of Akon, his label KonLive Distribution and producer RedOne. In later years, pop music molded itself to sound like her; on The Fame, Gaga molded herself to sound like pop music. But that doesn’t mean “Just Dance” isn’t any good. On the contrary, there’s a powerful simplicity in its hook, its rhythm, its lyrics. Breaking pop superstars is monumentally difficult, and “Just Dance” did the job.

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2. “Born This Way”

Cons: It sounds an awful lot like Madonna’s “Express Yourself.”

Pros: …It sounds an awful lot like Madonna’s “Express Yourself.”

In all seriousness, “Born This Way” arrived when Gaga was riding high off The Fame Monster’s massive success, and it didn’t disappoint. Who’s to say an anthem can’t be updated for a new generation? 

1. “Bad Romance”

Amongst the Gaga lead singles, we don't wanna be friends... we wanna tie the knot with this one. Those mountains of synthesizer, the ridiculous chant jolting into the pounding chorus, all the quotables -- this song captured Gaga's dominance over the pop game.