Last night online I tried to think of a bad song about rain, and I couldn’t come up with one, and no one else who tried to come up with one in the Twitter thread could do it either. That’s because rain is a rich topic for songwriters. You can roll it out as melodramatic mise-en-scène during a dark story song (Garth Brooks’s “The Thunder Rolls,” Brooke Benton’s “Rainy Night in Georgia”) or you can employ it as a heavy-handed metaphor for depression (The Temptations’ “I Wish It Would Rain,” the Carpenters’ “Rainy Days and Mondays”), or you can use it to sing about sex (SWV’s “Rain,” Madonna’s “Rain,” I think), or you can pretend that the weather is quietly acknowledging your need for spiritual reckoning or outward change or whatever (Bruce Hornsby’s “Mandolin Rain,” Led Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” and “Fool in the Rain”).
I think the new Chromatica single “Rain on Me,” the first-ever team-up between Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, is trying to cover all these points at the same time, and miraculously, it works. When I spoke to Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker this month, he said he likes to write songs that evoke a “crying on the dance floor” feel. This is that, literally and figuratively. “Rain on Me” is a song you can receive on whatever level suits you. If you’re going through something right now — and aren’t we all? — you might bust a tear duct at Gaga singing “I didn’t ask for the rainfall” in the first verse or at the chorus’ euphoric “ … at least I’m alive.” If you’ve had a quiet spring, you might just chuckle at “It’s coming down on me / I’m ready, rain on me.” Maybe you latch onto Ari’s verse about trying to be honest and true to yourself no matter the cost. “Rain on Me” is versatile. It occupies whatever role the situation requires.
This song will be huge not just because it’s Gaga in peak dance-pop form with chart assassin Ariana Grande in tow, the two of them singing it down, and because the beat by BloodPop and BURNS bangs like the bathroom at a circuit party in the freewheeling aughts, but because it has that nebulous quality memorable pop hits have where the lyric seems distinctly about one thing but also not about anything in particular. (A while back, I tried to figure out why Hilary Duff called upon a heavy rain to wash her sanity away in “Come Clean,” but all I got was the song stuck in my head for two months.) It’s a little vague but also kinda universal. And there’s major Tifa and Aerith saving Midgar in Final Fantasy VII Remake energy in all the industrial backdrops and cyberpunk outfits in the official video. Honestly, it’s a win for those alone. Chromatica arrives in seven days, kids. Set your house in order.