Lady Gaga Dallas Austin

In the words of a certain pop legend: It’s been a while.

After undergoing emergency hip surgery — forcing her to cancel the rest of the Born This Way Ball and landing herself in a gaudy golden wheelchair named Emma at the beginning of 2013 — Lady Gaga is now standing upright and stepping back in the studio once again, continuing work on her endlessly delayed Born This Way follow-up, ARTPOP.

Just this morning, Gags (who has since gone silent on all forms of social media, save a tweet or two) posted a photo inside a recording studio with none other than Dallas Austin, which is actually (tentatively) very exciting.

Dallas Austin is, of course, a pop production titan, responsible for cuts like TLC‘s “Creep,” P!nk‘s “Just Like A Pill,” Namie Amuro‘s incredible “Put ‘Em Up” and of course, Madonna‘s “Sanctuary” and “Survival” for Bedtime Stories. (Naturally.) He’d be a welcome switch-up in Gaga’s style that could, like Jessie Ware and Solange, see Gaga channelling a chill, early ’90’s R&B vibe. Plus, he’s not RedOne.

Then again, the pop climate’s changed since the last time Gaga released a record, and it’s much chillier now: In the past few months since Gaga’s not-so-voluntary hiatus, there’s been a noticeable uptick in Gaga-hate — a response to her promotional onslaught during the sloppy, heavy-handed Born This Way era, no doubt. And, well, her entire persona: Just this week, “RIP Lady Gaga” trended worldwide on Twitter for a while. “She’s over,” the Internet seems to agree.

However, the increasingly nasty backlash only seems to be setting the singer up for a bigger, better comeback.

Gaga may be an endlessly annoying try-hard, a hypocrite and a constant copy-cat (I’m far from a Little Monster myself — Lord knows, I’ve maintained a bad romance with her MadonnaBowieJones biting ass for years now), but the actual music has never really stopped being good. (Let’s give credit where it’s due: Songs like “Heavy Metal Lover” and “Bloody Mary” are gems, still.)

She even prophesied her own fate in the video for “Paparazzi,” at a time when she was still flourishing: The meteoric rise, the fall, the public lambasting and then…the grand return.

Here’s hoping she keeps up with the silent shtick and focuses less on becoming the outspoken, meat dress-wearing Mother Martyr for the Monsters (who, ironically, are often the most vile bunch of bullies in cyberspace), and more on crafting something as killer, exciting and fresh as The Fame and The Fame Monster felt. We need it.