Hot 100 Review: Rain on Me by Lady Gaga (Feat. Ariana Grande)

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I had a sinking feeling this was going to be one of my next reviews for a couple reasons. One, it’s by two big artists that everyone love. That alone would make it shoot to the top of the chart, but, on top of that, it’s also a song I have very little to say. So, of course, that means I need to tackle it. I need to find interesting things to say about it even if it kills me.

It is very interesting to see Lady Gaga have this resurgence the past couple of months. It is mostly interesting because many of her late 2000s/early 2010s contemporaries have not lasted the test of time. Ariana Grande is kind of on that list because she did have a big song in that era, but her true take off was in the past year or so. That combination alone makes a lot of sense, and the song uses that effectively.

In other words, one compliment I can give this song over that duet Ariana did with Justin Bieber is that Ariana and Lady Gaga have complimentary voices. Ariana’s airiness helps lift and Lady Gaga’s stronger, more fluctuate voice. In addition, that is one of the few compliments I can really give about the song.

Look, the song itself is fine (I’ve been calling too many songs “fine”). When I say fine I mean they are the audio equivalent of an oyster cracker. They are tasty and good enough for what they are, but you only want a little bit, not a whole song. Another way to say it is that the song is tasteless. It feels like it was produced to blend into the background of any dance club and be enjoyed, but not loved.

The source of the blandness comes from the background beats. They sound stale, and like they were stolen from one of Lady Gaga’s older songs. They’re not bad, just not good. They sound like her last song, and would fit into her older songs like Born this Way or Bad Romance. On top of that they drown out the decent vocals making them almost unimportant. The thing that bugs me about them most of all is how there is a good hook in them. In the first couple of beats there is a subtle horn (trumpet I would guess but can’t tell) that gives it a jazzy feel. If that had stayed and seeped into the rest of the song it would sound more original. Well the production would. The lyrics would not.

The lyrics feel very of this moment. They do not expressly call out the COVID-19 pandemic, but the point of the song is to accept that you are okay even if the world is not, so let it just rain. It can’t get any worse (it always can… but I digress). To reinforce that idea the duo have some choice lines like: “I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive…,” “At least I showed up, you showed me nothing at all…,” and “Gotta live my truth, not keep it bottled in/So I don’t lose my mind…” These lines are not terrible by themselves. The issue is that they are the only lyrics that build what the theme of the song. The rest is a combination of “rain on me” and similar sentiments. This all ends up with a song that is 3 minutes, but feels too long because it lacks additional ideas. It just repeats the one or two ideas it has with no change.

The video is an odd choice. It is set in a cyberpunk future where Lady Gaga and Ariana have a dance off with their own cliques while it cuts in Lady Gaga alone getting weapons rained on her, and her in a porthole shower, and pull back to see it as a scientist watching the dancers. It is weird… the most I can take away is the central Ariana and Lady Gaga dance sequences. They best show the theme of the song. It has them dancing and having a good time while they are rained on. It is on point. The rest of the imagery is not focused on enough to have a reading other than continually reinforcing the theme of having a good time even as bad stuff happens around you. It is visually interesting, and it seems like Lady Gaga has a thing for rival dance troupes, but does not really elevate the song (at least Ariana actually showed up unlike the duet with Bieber where he is with his wife the whole time even though the story of the duet is between him and Ariana, and she wasn’t just lazing around shooting Instagram photos).

The song feels like walking in the rain because it’s a slog to get through. It has an ear worm quality to it for sure, but is so vapid, repetitive, and the least competent version of these artists best work.

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