More Lady, Less Gaga
Lady Gaga has left behind her trademark ‘gaga’ both in her electronic pop sound and elaborate fashion and is back in the musical sphere with a reinvented self. There’s no more of strut-walking in front of the paparazzi in clunky heels, wacky steak costumes, loud rhinestone-studded props and ornate outfits. So what’s Lady Gaga without the gaga? As it turns out, much more of a ‘lady.’
Her fifth studio album release, Joanne is an album nothing like the ones of the past. Experimenting with a completely new sound, Lady Gaga has released a 14-track country rock album. While she still embraces her past vocal style, it’s nothing like her major electronic pop-synth hits like “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” “Bad Romance” and “Applause.” It isn’t the first time the singer has attempted to experiment with her sound—Lady Gaga released a jazz album titled Cheek to Cheek back in 2014. Lady Gaga has strayed away from her signature sound as it seems her mentality towards fame and music has shifted in the past few years.
From the start of the album it’s almost guaranteed to take many by surprise. The first track is “Diamond Heart,” which eases listeners into this brand new style of hers with a slightly up-tempo country-like tune. Beginning with guitar strumming and steady drum pounding, the song escalates into a light rock tune with Lady Gaga singing, “I’m not flawless but I have a diamond heart.” The lyrics have that similar rebellious girl character to that of Marina and the Diamonds. “A-YO” has a set of clapping beats that is bound to get everyone singing along with the chorus “A-Yo, A-Yo, we smoking ‘em all.”
The ultimate take-away from the album has to be “Joanne,” which Lady Gaga wrote for her late aunt who was an artist as well. This light folk number with just the right amount of slack key guitar strumming, and leaves behind a post-track melancholy feel afterword. If Lady Gaga was a member of the Beatles or was around in the ’60s and ’70s, “Joanne” would be a major hit single. It’s a great track showing her style change and to prove that she can really do it right.
Shifting the mood from the previous track, “John Wayne” is a bad girl punk rock number. The up-tempo chorus and steady drum beats make for a catchy track. A Latin styled number, “Dancin’ In Circles” has verses similar to that of her past hit “Alejandro” while “Perfect Illusion” has a dance number feel to it. It definitely hints back at her former trademark song structures and arrangements.
Released as a single in November, “Million Reasons” has been making its way to the charts. This slow pleading ballad is a religious conversation between Lady Gaga and her higher power asking for guidance because life is giving her “a million reasons to quit the show” while she only needs “one good one to stay.” Although the song isn’t a message to a higher being, it has some similar aspects to A Great Big World’s 2014 hit, “Say Something (I’m Giving Up On You).”
“Hey Girl” features Florence Welch in a jazzy duo, in which the vocals of the two go perfectly well together. Dedicated to Trayvon Martin, a 17 year-old victim of a 2012 shooting which is said to have sparked the Black Lives Matter movement is “Angel Down.” “I confess I am lost,” Lady Gaga sings as she opens up about all the confusion and sadness she has felt in the recent shootings creating social turmoil in the United States. “Grigio Girls” again has a country-vibe to the track, with a subtle empowering message for all girls of all ages.
Joanne is definitely new and different; it shows perhaps Lady Gaga’s true colors as a singer, without the fancy electronic arrangements or extravagant performance styles. It seems as if this album was in a way was a ‘self-discovery’ or ‘getting in touch with oneself type’ of experimental work. Although there are significantly less catchy songs like her billboard dance hits, Joanne has much more thought, substance and content in each song. However, it would have been nice have a more distinctive theme or consistency to the album to be able to see the direction Lady Gaga wanted to bring to this project. With this release, it will surely be exciting to see where the singer will take her music style to next. Will she still keep to her title as pop culture queen, or will she reinvent herself as lady with a much different ‘gaga’?