Pop Stars and Flop Stars: Lady Gaga’s New Single Isn’t Making Waves (But She Still Is), The Chainsmokers Begin to Self-Destruct

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2016 MTV Video Music Awards - Show & Audience
Last Week on PS & FS
Lady Gaga thunders in, Britney Spears' "Glory" blows out.

Climb to the top of the pops and dive deep down into the depths with the flops in our new, improved edition of Pop Power Ranking (now called Pop Stars and Flop Stars).

Welcome back to Pop Stars and Flop Stars, which, as I explained earlier, is a revitalized (and shortened) restructuring of the feature formerly called Pop Power Ranking. Here’s the drill: each week, I’ll name a Pop Star — someone who secured the lion’s share of No. 1s, trophies, and/or other cultural gold stars (both tangible and intangible) — and one Flop Star who… well, you get the idea. And that’s about all there is to say. Let’s get into it.

This Week’s Pop Star: Lady Gaga

Look, this one’s tricky. Lady Gaga’s “Perfect Illusion,” her first pop single in three years, debuts this week at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. That is, objectively, not great. Not for Gaga, anyway. (Her last lead single, “Applause,” debuted at No. 6 and peaked at No. 4; the one before that, “Born This Way,” debuted at No.1.) Of course, the song could move up the chart in the weeks to come — and I hope it does, because I really like it — but the harsh truth is that, after a potential bump following the video release tonight, “Perfect Illusion” will likely slide down the chart. At most — and this is being generous — “Perfect Illusion” has the potential be a moderate hit, certainly nothing on par with “Poker Face” or “Bad Romance” or even, honestly, “Applause.” That said, after watching “Perfect Illusion” free-fall out of the U.S. iTunes Top 50 starting the day after its release, a Top 20 debut is better than fans could have hoped for. It’s not even that bad relative to other pop stars’ recent performance on the same chart. (It’s already out-peaked Britney Spears‘ “Make Me…,” and it debuted much higher than Sia‘s new single, “The Greatest,” which features Kendrick Lamar.)

I’m not going to argue that the small “victories” — that the song debuted at No. 2 on the Digital Songs chart on sales of 100,000 downloads, that her streaming numbers, which for an artist of her stature have always been relatively weak, have have experienced a decent uptick since the song dropped — make up for the song’s meh debut. The bottom line, simply, is that nothing happened this week, and so by default, Gaga keeps her Pop Star mantle. Because she, at least, made moves. For one thing, Gaga detailed the release of her forthcoming fifth album— including the title, release date, and cover art — and, on paper, the album sounds like it could be amazing. It is also heavily rumored — actually confirmed at one point — that Gaga will headline the 2017 Super Bowl halftime show, which would certainly be a feat for someone so many people like to say is “over.” In short, though Gaga’s single isn’t exactly making waves, she still is.

Runners Up

This Week’s Flop Stars: The Chainsmokers

Despite having the No. 1 song in the country, The Chainsmokers, still not even a household name, have already begun sowing the seeds of their own destruction. Let’s say it all started back at the VMAs, when the DJ duo took the stage to perform “Closer” with Halsey. The performance was not well-received, to put it politely. Cut to last week, when The Chainsmokers appeared as Billboard Magazine cover stars with a dumpster fire of an accompanying interview. In it, the pair — Drew Taggart and Alex Pall — paint themselves as cocky, chauvinistic frat boys who have clearly let a few big singles go to their head. At one point, Taggart shifts the blame for their terrible VMAs performance onto unnamed saboteurs — “I was set up to fail.” — making himself a martyr in the process. (But a martyr for what? Mediocre EDM music that relies on guest vocalists to succeed?) They discuss their penises, the “thirsty” artists who now want to collaborate with them, their womanizing, and their partying. The internet, never an entity to let unearned ego go unchecked, has already begun turning against them, and I’d be willing to bet money that in two years’ time, we’ll look back on The Chainsmokers the way we currently look back at LMFAO: with humorous derision, mostly for them but also for ourselves, for we’re the ones who allowed all of this to happen in the first place.

Runners Down