The rebel inside music fixture Lady Gaga was on full display in her latest installment. Gaga’s Joanne pushed a blend of sounds and influences that left fans divided.
Immediately looking at the album artwork, Gaga makes it clear this album would not sound like anything she has previously released, much to the dismay of some fans still dressed in caution tape bikinis and spiked leather bras from the Born This Way era. Gaga has spent the last few years of her career forcibly clawing out of the pigeonhole pop-music fanatics around the globe put her in.
It is a suffocating expectation that has plagued every release from Gaga since we were first introduced to the shoulder-padded singer, clad in a David Bowie eye patch and platinum bangs in the smash “Just Dance.” Joanne is the release of a stifled artist desperate to distance herself from her own creation-the sterile, unattainable pop persona Gaga.
Just the idea of the signer exploring a southern sound sent social media into a frenzy:
A wave of support followed pursuit with a multitude of messages with varying forms of “YAS queen of country music.”
The album is at times startlingly autobiographical, opening with the track “Diamond Heart” describing the singer’s past of go-go dancing around New York for cash and the abuse she suffered as a young woman saying, “Some asshole broke me in/ Wrecked all my innocence.”
“Ayo” immediately picks up speed in a fun outburst of guitars and claps with Gaga’s raspy vocal delivery erupting throughout the brash track. The twang in her pronunciation and uninhibited howling present in the song solidify the overall southern influence for the album.
As large of a departure Gaga made for Joanne, a taste of some her previous work is subtly woven into the overall picture. “John Wayne” continues a running theme of Gaga fixating on a particular male figure and highlighting the pitfalls of their relationship. (Remember her previous lovers Alejandro or Judas?) The near-speaking dialogue in “Dancin’ in Circles” bares a close resemblance to previous records released by the singer. It is a fun, unapologetic track about self-pleasure playfully expressing, “Up all night trying to rub the pain out.”
“Hey Girl” featuring Florence Welch is arguably the most distinctive song on the record due to a multitude of influences combined to create this dreamy track. Prince-esque synthesizers create a spacy ambiance in which a simple, 1960s drumbeat plays over. It is call to action to end the grating trope of women being pitted against each other saying, “We can make it easy if we lift each other.” The bridge blends accents of harps and echoed harmonies into a stunning musical moment, giving the track the most replay value on Joanne.
One of the stranger notes on the album came from “Come to Mama,” which had a cabaret, borderline cheesy feel that lacked the rock edge of most of Joanne. “Grigio Girls” offers witty lyrical moments like, “Spice Girl in this bitch,” but the cliché vibe bogs down the flow of the track list a bit, ending with a lackluster crowd chant that sounded incomplete.
The last full track on the album was “Just Another Day,” which sounded like direct take from Gaga’s studio debut The Fame. It’s a jazz pop tune with simple lyrics and a charming delivery from Gaga as she gives shoutouts to band mates over a blowing kazoo. Listening to the track brought an air of nostalgia to the familiar sound the singer conveyed eight years ago.
An alternate version of "Angel Down" wrapped up an album that offered Gaga’s greatest vocal delivery to date. Joanne is an overall enjoyable listening experience, despite a few forgettable tracks that lost the spark we expect from one of the most notable artist of our generation.