Hearing “Sine From Above,” Lady Gaga’s new collaboration with Elton John, is like being struck by the lightning invoked by the lyrics.
The track by the two longtime friends, a soaring testament to the power of music to uplift the outsiders among us, is on Gaga’s sixth album, Chromatica, out today. The album’s title refers to a world Gaga created, where diversity and acceptance are the norm. And it’s music that helps make it such a utopia.
Gaga and John have performed together onstage and recorded “Hello Hello” for the film Gnomeo & Juliet, but the song didn’t appear on the movie’s soundtrack album, so “Sine From Above” marks their first on-album duet. It represents a surprise because some observers expected a ballad from the two, but instead, “Sine From Above” is a pounding dance anthem, building to a heady drum-and-bass climax.
Yet it starts out with a plaintive vocal from Gaga, singing, “When I was young, I prayed for lightning / My mother said it would come and find me / I found myself without a prayer / I lost my love and no one cared / When I was young, I prayed for lightning.”
When John comes in with a verse beginning “When I was young, I felt immortal / And not a day went by without a struggle,” it’s clear that both are singing about a sense of otherness, at least in part due to their sexuality.
Then music helps them find their place in the world. “I heard one sine from above,” the chorus notes, and “the sound created stars like me and you” and “healed my heart.”
The title is a play on words, evoking “sign from above” as in a sign from heaven. “S-I-N-E, because it’s a sound wave,” Gaga said in her album notes on Apple Music, adding, “That sound, sine, from above is what healed me to be able to dance my way out of this album. That was later in the recording process that I actually was like, ‘And now let me pay tribute to the very thing that has revived me, and that is music.’”
The track represents another milestone in Gaga and John’s relationship. They sang together in Gaga’s first Grammy appearance, in 2010, performing her glam-rock tune “Speechless” and then segueing into John’s iconic “Your Song.” “Hello Hello” came the following year, and then Gaga became godmother to Zachary and Elijah, the sons of John and David Furnish. The two stars have continued to appear together on TV and in concert, and Gaga has described John as a mentor.
“‘Sine From Above’ is the result of a decade of mutual admiration,” Rolling Stone notes. “It’s delightful to hear the result of that decade turn into a celebratory slice of electro-pop heaven.”
The album as a whole reflects Gaga’s effort to deal with her mental health struggles, addiction and recovery, and being a survivor of sexual assault. “All that stuff I went through, I don’t have to feel pain about it anymore,” she said on Apple Music. “It can just be a part of me, and I can keep going.” It was music, she said, that healed her. She can hardly wait, she added, for people to dance to the album’s tracks once lockdown orders are lifted and clubs can open again.