Review: Lady Gaga's Album, "Joanne"
The Consistent, Less Erratic Electricity of "Joanne"
Lady Gaga’s fifth studio album ‘Joanne’ is not as attention-grabbing, demanding or arguably exhausting as her last couple of pop LPs. 'Joanne’ isn’t boring, Gaga is still the superstar fans know and love. However, instead of constant sparks, the New York-native’s electricity is consistent and less erratic.
’Joanne’ showcases an evolution in the 30-year-old’s sound - she’s never released material quite like this. The songs are blessed with varying temperaments, motifs and auras. Because of Gaga’s inherent theatrics, they feel like set pieces - and it’s easy to take for granted how easily Gaga can swiftly float from one to the other.
Vocally, Gaga impresses again and again throughout the album’s playtime. The LP contains many moments of vigorous, expressive and downright ballsy singing. Gaga allows her artistic talent to take center stage in a way it couldn’t when it was competing with ruthless europop beats, and vivid synths back in 2009. In that sense, ‘Joanne’ feels braver, and more upfront than anything she’s previously released.
Yet despite what collaborator Mark Ronson recently said to the contrary, ‘Joanne’ is not one of the best albums that he’s ever been a part of. It’s unlikely the album will immediately return Gaga to her turn-of-the-decade pop dominance. Still, followers should find that ‘Joanne’ successfully rounds the singer out. While her early work seemed to want to portray Gaga as alien, 'Joanne' is comfortable being human.
Potently Paying Tribute
'Joanne' is named after Gaga’s beloved late aunt, who passed in 1974 at the age of 19of lupus disease. Over a folksy, pretty guitar instrumental, the record’s title track sees Gaga pleading with the woman to stay with her a little while longer before heading off into the afterlife.
The fact Gaga never actually met Joanne makes the standout song’s bittersweet lyrics feel unreachable and even more poignant. The singer’s vocal posturing can’t taint the power of the tune’s emotional pull. The song will likely hit a nerve in anyone similarly separated from someone they love - in life or by death. ‘Joanne’ is easily the most emo thing she’s ever put out there. It’s very special.
On a completely different tip, Gaga craves a real man, a real outlaw on ‘John Wayne’. In tribute to the song’s namesake, it naturally exploits a Western cowboy theme. After a couple listens, the pop tune’s fun, grinding, bouncing hook hits a stride and becomes addictive.
There’s a real thrust to the peppy call-and-shout of ’A-Yo’, a song that also glitters with a Western, country music motif. Packed with energy, it’s commendable how the singer goes all out towards the end of it. However, apart from a kooky guitar solo, ’A-Yo’ isn’t unmissable. The same could be said for ‘Dancin’ In Circles’, which makes use of a playful dancehall motif. Gaga’s overtly sexual admissions are the only thing about ‘Dancin’ In Circles’ that make any sort of lasting impact.
Impacting Like A Sledgehammer
Lead single ‘Perfect Illusion’ remains one of the album’s highlights. ‘Joanne’ doesn’t feature anything more immediate or anthemic than this Eighties rock-tinged number. Impacting like a sledgehammer, the track works as a bridge between the charge of Gaga’s biggest hits and what ‘Joanne’ has to offer. Gaga’s fiery vocal is entertaining and endearingly affected. On a side note, apparently the mathematical placement of this tune’s surprise key change is particularly daring for a pop song.
Another track that improves with three plays or so, Gaga plays the bad girl with gusto on country music-singed number ’Sinner’s Prayer’. 'Sinner’s Prayer’ is propelled by a paced, toe-tapping momentum that climaxes as the singer goes up an octave to belt the tune’s final hook. Presented as a classic heavy rock song, without the heavy rock, ballad ‘Million Reasons’ wholeheartedly documents the turmoil of a unsatisfactory relationship. The song’s confessional lyrics feature Gaga desperately trying to convince herself to stay in a bad romance.
Looking For Leadership on "Angel Down"
Making an appearance on ‘Hey Girl’, Florence Welsh is the album’s sole guest artist. Over an lively, elaborate, retro pop/soul instrumental, the track’s lyrics are supportive, and promote female camaraderie. The ladies’ vocals blend nicely and sound unified. The tune could be tagged as cheesy, but ‘Hey Girl’ is designed to take a stand against a media trend that tends to promote - and in some cases create - competition between high-flying female celebrities.
The socially-conscious, dramatic pop ballad ’Angel Down’ is centred around a show-stopping, grand-scale vocal from Gaga. Questioning the lack of leadership in the world around her, the lyrics of ’Angel Down’ feel like a prolonged, dumbfounded reaction to the year’s long list of troubling news stories and international events.
Gaga looks outward towards society again and calls for world peace on ‘Come To Mama’, which works a Sixties pop feel before ending in Motown vibes. “There’s gonna be no future if we don’t figure this out”, she proclaims over the tune’s tempting soul backing vocals and impressive instrumental touches. Again, ‘Come To Mama’ takes some time to get going, but by the end it, fans should be swaying side-to-side in a mindless singalong.