we have a whole new Lady Gaga that is grounded in family, loss, and friendship delivering her most personal, deepest and most authentic album to date.
Lady Gaga is an artist who’s always brought us some uniqueness in her image. However on her fifth album, Joanne, her unique evolvement has been in coming down to earth in her truest authenticity. The album cover itself shows us a new and authentic grounded Gaga yet she still has style.
Having produced the album with Mark Ronson one might have expected a dance funk record instead we get more acoustic songs grounded in lyrics about family, broken love and loss. After the disappointing Artpop album which Gaga pushed uniqueness to levels that didn’t work she had to reinvent herself and by going more acoustic, it works. A major contributor to the album is Queens of the Stone Age guitarist, Josh Homme. She also has a Beck written song, slide guitar from Sean Lennon and a duet with Florence Welch.
The album opens with Diamond Heart an upbeat fun song with the lyric “young wild american lookin’ to be somethin’” which is a perfect since this is a whole new Gaga. The song A -YO has a double clap (almost country sounding) familiarity of T Swift’s Shake It Off.
The ballad and title track, Joanne, is a heartfelt acoustic guitar cry about the loss of her aunt. As Gaga stated in a recent interview “Returning to your family and where you came from, and your history… this is what makes you strong. It’s not looking out that’s going to do that—it’s looking in… Joanne is a progression for me. It was about going into the studio and forgetting that I was famous.”
This does not mean there aren’t any typical dancey Gaga songs to keep your feet and body moving. John Wayne will keep Telephone and LoveGame reminiscent fans happy. There’s the Beck composed pop “Dancin’ in Circles” with a dance beat, a spoken word middle 8 section and lyrically talks about having a good time by oneself. There’s the excellent rocking first single, Perfect Illusion that will fulfill typical Gaga expectations, even if she’s yes, rocking.
This album also displays Gaga’s best and most personal ballads ever. A song of getting out of a relationship, Million Reasons has the relatable lyric “I try to make the worse seem better / Lord show me the way / to cut through all this worn out leather / I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away / but baby I just need one good one to stay.”
Two songs have a distinctive 70’s nostalgia sound, the singalong Come To Mama “oh, come tomorrow / who are you gonna follow? / there’s gonna be no future / if we don’t figure this out!” The other is the closing track Just Another Day that sounds like something off Bowie’s Young Americans soul era with a guitar and piano solo from Mark Ronson and a trumpet solo from Mark Newman.
Speaking of soul there’s the soulful duet about female friendship with Florence Welch on Hey Girl “we can make it easy if we lift each other / hey girl hey girl / we don’t need to keep on one-in’ up another hey girl hey girl / hey girl hey girl / if you lose your way just know that I got you” The female friendship theme continues on Grigio Girls “so we’ll turn on a bachelorette / dye ashley’s hair red / and then we’ll have our sixth spice girl in this / all the pinot pinot grigio girls / pour your heart out / watch your blues turn to gold”
Another powerful ballad is is the social conciseness of Angels Down, a song inspired by the shooting of Trayvon Martin. In it Gaga sings “shots were fired on the street / by the church where we used to meet angel down / angel down but the people just stood around”
In the end we have a whole new Lady Gaga that is grounded in family, loss, and friendship delivering her most personal, deepest and most authentic album to date. I should add this album features some of her best vocal work. If she asks “Does it all sense?” as she does in Grigio Girls the answer from this reviewer is a resounding “Yes it does, Stephanie. It makes total sense.”