The queen of haute-couture rebellion, Lady Gaga, has reentered the pop music scene with possibly her most personal album yet: Joanne. The Lady Gaga we are used to seeing in the public eye is larger-than-life, over-the-top, and supremely focused on spectacle. We see a departure from this classic strategy with Joanne, instead replaced with intimate songs about family, religion, and relationships.
The first single released, “Perfect Illusion”, is a rock-inspired, synth-pop mix that explores the perceived “illusions” one can conceive in a so-called perfect relationship. The choice of this single came as a surprise to me; whilst the lyrics of this song are relatable and rather enjoyable, I felt that the melody and beat seemed off and a little bit strange. As I would usually classify myself as a big Lady Gaga fan, this reaction was not what I was expecting to feel.
This confusion continued throughout further listening to the whole album. Joanne may have some of the rawest and more vulnerable Gaga songs we have heard thus far, but the music accompanying the lyrics really made them all blend in with one another. I tried listening to the songs individually, as to not let the whole album overshadow any particular song itself, and that made them standout only a little bit more.
For someone like Lady Gaga, who prides herself on creating whole works of art that tell a story from beginning to end, Joanne is lacking in accomplishing this goal. In her past albums, she has had numerous types of songs that are all sonically cohesive but musically varied. Many of the songs in Joanne seem almost like the exact same song, one right after the other.
One track that really does stand apart from the pack is “A-YO”. This song combines pop and country melodies to create a new kind of dance rhythm that is incredibly enjoyable to listen to. It is fun, fresh and could easily become a new classic.
I have to say that I expected much more out of this album. Lady Gaga is a person who has tremendous pressure put on her shoulders to succeed, and usually, she fully delivers. Her old hits were catchy, but thought provoking. The visual production was almost always controversial, yet deliberately executed. Joanne is very tame and subdued compared to these past albums. Overall, this album left me wanting and needing more, which, I believe, for an artist so exposed and open as Lady Gaga, is something I never thought I would take away from listening to this album.
Listen to Joanne by Lady Gaga now on Spotify: