Is Lady Gaga's New Ballad About Taylor Kinney?

by Courtney Lindley

After Lady Gaga's first stop on her dive bar tour wrapped Wednesday night, the singer gifted all Little Monsters with the best early Christmas present ever: The surprise release of her new song "Million Reasons" from her upcoming album Joanne. It's the second song we've heard from Joanne , following the upbeat rock-pop-mash-up that was "Perfect Illusion." Though the two songs differ in almost every way musically, they converge thematically — and, with lyrics like "I've got a hundred million reasons to walk away/ But baby, I just need one good one to stay," it's easy to question whether Gaga's "Million Reasons" is about Taylor Kinney.

Unlike the previous Joanne track "Perfect Illusion," "Million Reasons" starts with a control that slowly builds to an all out ballad. If "Perfect Illusion" was an odd collaboration of sounds that knew no bounds, "Million Reasons" is carefully bounded. But, there's an overarching theme of sadness bursting through the cracks on both. The chorus to "Perfect Illusion" claims "It wasn't love, it wasn't love," but "Million Reasons" on the other hand rings "I've got a hundred million reasons to walk away/ But baby, I just need one good one to stay." The songs seem to describe opposing stages of grief — denial and bargaining.

News that Gaga and fiancé Kinney ended things broke back in July. Gaga initially clarified the break up on Instagram, asking fans to "root" them on, insinuating that it could be temporary. Two months later, she released "Perfect Illusion," but was quick to assure fans that "Perfect Illusion" didn't have anything to do with Kinney. Since then, she's changed her tune slightly: The singer recently told E! News, "I would just say that my music on my album as well as all my albums is inspired by my personal life and this one more than others." She added, "I have said it before — I love Taylor so much and he's my best friend."

Maybe it's the melody and the pacing, or the intonations in Gaga's voice on "Million Reasons" that read so authentic, but when she cracks "Hey, ehh, ehh, eyy/ Baby I'm bleedin', bleedin'/ Stay, ehh, ehhy" it feels real in the way "Perfect Illusion" does not. The final plea "Lord, show me the way/ To cut through all his worn out leather" echoes the sentiment Gaga shared on Instagram about her breakup. But, maybe she didn't need someone or something to "root" her and Kinney on, she just needed something. Maybe one reason wasn't enough.

Gaga said she would never "use a song or want to use the public to hurt anyone" that she loves so much. "Million Reasons" doesn't bite back like "Perfect Illusion." It doesn't claim that love's not real or that anyone's a perfect illusion and there are no undercurrents of being wronged — instead, it's filled to the brim with longing. "Perfect Illusion" reminded us that it "wasn't love," but "Million Reasons" backpedals on that premise entirely. Whether it's about Kinney or not, in "Million Reasons" love is the only reason that matters.

Of course, there's the possibility that the premise on "Million Reasons" is just an illusion too. Gaga has said, Joanne "is about being so intoxicated with love, so high [and] dilated, falling free in a modern ecstasy that you wake up one day and you can’t believe that it was not real. How did that happen? How did I do that?" If nothing else, Joanne will explore these ideas when it's released on Oct. 21.