Lady Gaga has never exactly been relatable.
Since her career took off in 2008, Gaga has been nothing short of a spectacle. With a penchant for all things peculiar, she has been known to push the limit on more than one occasion. OK, maybe every occasion.
Now, with the release of her new album Joanne, the artist strips off the meat dress and slips into something a little more real.
Joanne is a riddle in itself. The album is definitely not country, and it’s definitely not pop. So what is it? In true Gaga fashion, she fuses the two into a sound that’s utterly her own.
The album’s opener “Diamond Heart” is rowdy and reminiscent of the Gaga we know from 2011’s Born This Way. However, the song acts as a sort of introduction to ease us into the drastically different set of songs that follow. The album’s second song “A-YO,” with its Motown handclaps and upbeat tempo, show us that this album is going to be Gaga like we’ve never heard before. The album’s namesake “Joanne” is a wistful ballad that mourns Gaga’s deceased aunt whom she never got to meet. With its twangy guitar, this song gives us the album’s first hint of country.
“John Wayne” is Gaga’s powerful and screamy ode to the long gone age of rugged cowboys, and the lyrics definitely deserve a few listens.“Perfect Illusion,” with its layered and repetitive vocals, demonstrates Gaga’s strong ties to her artistic roots. Songs like “Million Reasons” and “Angel Down” are where Gaga is most vocally stripped down and raw. Here, the simplicity of her voice takes the front seat, and lends itself to create Joanne’s two most emotional songs.
“Sinner’s Prayer” and “Grigio Girls” are as country as it gets for Joanne. The two songs feature Gaga’s unexpected Southern drawl that would fit right in at an off- the -highway biker bar. Especially in “Sinner’s Prayer,” in typical Gaga fashion, she is utterly unapologetic for the person that she is.
If a Lady Gaga and Florence Welch collaboration has crossed your mind before, then you will be pleasantly surprised. The Florence + the Machine lead singer lends her vocals to Gaga’s “Hey Girl,” and what results is a flawless partnership of complimentary, yet distinct voices. Welch isn’t the album’s only guest appearance. Joanne features an extensive list of collaborators including Mark Ronson, Beck, Josh Homme and Josh Tillman.
Joanne’s final song, “Just Another Day” is an optimistic reminder that this is just the start of something great for Gaga. This is the type of song that will start you off in a good mood in the morning, or that you’d hear in a happy-go-lucky movie montage. No complaints here.
Gaga’s new album reminds us exactly why the music industry needs her around. With Joanne, Gaga shows us who she really is, and sometimes that is the craziest thing you can do.