By Nick Catucci
Updated August 30, 2013 at 06:03 PM EDT
Credit: YouTube

Nearly a week ago, I wrote that it wasn’t too late for Lady Gaga, who was threatening to go over the handlebars of her promotional cycle—pressuring fans to buy multiple copies of “Applause” and artificially inflate the video views, unleashing followers on Perez Hilton, making whatever the heck that video was with Marina Abramovic.

Well, six days can seem like one meeeellion years in pop, at least when they include an especially spicy Video Music Awards. So how’s Gaga got her nuttiness working for her right now? She managed not to do anything ill-advisedly wackadoo during her opening slot at the VMAs—unless you count the pre-recorded boos she had cued up for when she revealed her soon-to-be-stripped-off nun’s get-up, which presumably symbolifies (to coin an appropriately ridumbulous term) the controversy she thinks defines her.

The performance didn’t damage her, but it didn’t seem to renew any good-faith connections with her fans, either. Of course, it was also reduced to a vanishingly small blip of cultural insignificance by Miley Cyrus’s festival of raging signifiers.

Gaga has since plowed ahead, teasing her next big thing: a performance Sunday (Sept. 1) at the iTune Music Festival. In two raw rehearsal clips, she presented a more human-seeming weirdo –and revealed some potentially very kick-ass new music.

First, “Swine,” a real shocker with Nine Inch Nails lyrics and bull-in-a-bong-shop Deep Purple groove:

This bit of music would be incredibly exciting even if it didn’t show Gaga headbanging, synth-noodling and pounding some random drums absolutely silly.

And then earlier today we got “Manicure,” a song with a name that is—impossibly!—as cool as “Swine”:

This one sounds pretty damn R-O-C-K, too. It’s possible, in fact, that Lady Gaga will make the skull-cracking rock-and-roll album that’s nowhere on the horizon this fall. (That Kings of Leon album may be great, but will it make you think of “Smoke on the Water”? Highly unlikely.)

So Gaga zoinked us with some scratchy, teeny-weeny bits of new-song goodness. We’ll have to hear them in full, of course, before we can know whether she’s fighting Katy Perry fire with Gary Glitter … glitter. (The iTunes fest will be streaming live, so you might want to cue that up.)

And the big question remains: Is she really ready to let some of the old Gaga art-goo burn off as she reenters the atmosphere? The evidence this week is encouraging. And meanwhile, “Applause”—which is sitting semi-pretty in the top 10—feels more and more like a sensible opening salvo, with its ridumbulous lyrics hardly holding its supermarket-friendly club-bumping back.

Gaga’s noise-to-music ratio is now at a very healthy level. I’m excited for whatever’s next. How about you?