2020 is looking to be the year of big collaborations between music’s leading women. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion team up on the “Savage” remix and Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj scored their first Billboard Hot 100 #1 single with the “Say So” remix. This week, we’ve been treated to “Rain On Me,” the second radio single and subtle relaunch of Lady Gaga‘s forthcoming Chromatica album. The album was introduced by “Stupid Love,” a solid piece of pop fare that effectively reintroduced Lady Gaga to the mainstream pop stage after her A Star Is Born era. While “Stupid Love” debuted at #5 on the Hot 100, the song struggled to gain a strong hold on the public consciousness and eventually fell off the chart in just nine weeks. Ariana, on the other hand, has a had a relatively quiet 2020 after dropping three musical projects (thank u, next; Charlie’s Angels OST; k bye for now (swt live)) last year. Just last week, she collaborated with Justin Bieber on “Stuck with U.” The charity single debuted at #1 over 6ix9ine’s “GOOBA” and helped Bieber and Grande join Drake and Mariah Carey as the only artists in history to score three #1 debuts on the Hot 100.
Now, the two Italian pop icons have united for “Rain On Me.” A dance floor-ready house-influenced banger, “Rain On Me” is an empowering anthem of resilience and strength that is equally carried by the strong production and Ariana and Gaga’s soaring voices. Produced by BloodPop and BURNS, “Rain on Me,” is a sprawling mixture of warbling synth, thumping bass, and twinkling piano that combine notes of electropop, synthpop, house, and even a bit of disco. The track is unabashed and straightforward in terms of how it wears its pure pop sheen on its sleeve. After hearing Ariana on R&B/pop midtempos and trap-influenced tracks for the past few years, it’s refreshing to hear her step into Gaga’s lane of dance-pop and still hold her own. Surprisingly, their voices mix well together with Ariana’s fluttery tone providing the perfect foil for Gaga’s darker tone. Both women deliver vocal performances that properly compliment the busy production without being overpowered by the instrumental or overcrowding the track. The only drawback is that “Rain on Me” could have benefitted from a more explosive final chorus. Gaga’s spoken word bridge and Ariana’s background vocals tease a much bigger climax than what was delivered, but this does leave room for experimentation in the song’s live arrangements.
Lyrically, “Rain On Me” uses rain as a metaphor for all the tears induced by the trauma the two women have experienced. These tears are “water like misery” and also double, as per Gaga herself, as a play on using alcohol to numb the pain. The subject matter initially seems heavy, but it’s that anthemic chorus (“I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive”) that elevates the song into a state of optimism. “Rain On Me” is about being content with the knowledge that after the storm, you’re going to come out stronger and more powerful than ever before. In this way, the song is a smart take on pop music’s evergreen “empowerment” trope. By explicitly acknowledging the pain and trauma, the inevitable euphoria of the chorus is infinitely more uplifting.
“Rain On Me” is a winner. Gaga and Ariana exceeded expectations and delivered a strong song and an even stronger visual. The track and video are great display of Ariana’s versatility and a smart way to renew interest in Chromatica which is out next Friday. Between “Stuck with U” and “Rain On Me” it looks like Ariana may be competing against herself at the Grammys in 2021.