Lady Gaga Aims For Authenticity With ‘Joanne’
Her ArtPop can mean anything – this time, it’s sans wigs, lightning bolts, disco sticks, religious references, vomit-inducing performances, and any shred of electronic dance influences. Forget about “Lady Gaga” and get ready to meet an all-American girl by the name of “Joanne” on Lady Gaga’s fifth studio album, ‘Joanne’.
Let’s call ‘Joanne’ what it is – an attempt to take one of the 21st century’s most beloved, polarizing pop stars and re-introduce them after a long two years of image rehab. What kind of attempt? A desperate, contrived, inauthentic attempt that shreds any notion of the brilliant, forward thinking pop star that Lady Gaga once was.
Coming from the woman who studied fame, pop culture, and all of its excellence, ‘Joanne’ honestly feels like a betrayal. Gone are the intelligent, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, playful tones, and the most innovative sound pop music ever experience since the bubblegum pop explosion at the turn of the millennium.
Instead – Americana references, throaty theatrical vocals that overpower the lo-fi production, awkward accents, and a serious case of country twang fill the void.
Simply put, no song off ‘Joanne’ is memorable. Album opener, ‘Diamond Heart’ packs a defiant and interest concept, but falls flat due to its lack of hook and punch. The country driven ‘John Wayne’ is as forgettable as it gets. ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ is a monotone mess of whatever. Florence Welch outshines Gaga on ‘Hey Girl’ and desperately makes you wish a) Gaga did, in fact, decide to go disco this time around and b) that Florence was meant to be the only artist on the track. ‘Come To Mama’ could have very well been on ‘Born This Way’ with its message of self-love and acceptance – you know, if it wasn’t moonlighting as a 50’s Christmas song.
And ‘Perfect Illusion’…straight up garbage. What a total misleading misrepresentation of ‘Joanne’. (However, if Gaga chose to do a rock album vs. a country album, we – and many others – may have been able to buy into it a little more).
What could only be marginally better is a collection of “just fine” songs that have little to no replay factor. The title track shows Gaga at her most emotional and restrained (a breath of fresh air on a headache inducing album where she strains to hit notes), but there’s a slight glimmer of “take me seriously” that overpowers the song’s message. ‘Angel Down’ has some nice sentiment to it, but after all the times Lady Gaga seemingly pulled a meaning of her song out of her ass can we really believe she penned it in mind for the Black Lives Matter movement?
Essentially, the album has three saving graces that show a hint of “Lady Gaga, the pop star”. Despite the overwhelming vocals, ‘Million Reasons’ is Gaga’s best ballad since ‘Speechless’. ‘A-YO’ contains the album’s best hook and melody with its honky-tonk, pink hat in the sky, middle fingers in the air vibe. And ‘Dancin’ In Circles’? Thank god, you exist on this album.
Truth be told, there’s taking a step back to assess what’s wrong and just doing things in an inane manner. ‘Joanne’ seems to fall into the later. This is the wrong way to strip away a persona and be taken seriously as an “artist”. What is possibly wrong with embracing the pop star you are and finding a way to make it work? Don’t escape what works and try on several different hats for the sake of it.
‘Joanne’ is not an evolution for Lady Gaga. It’s a waste of time for her fans who were expecting her to come back and reclaim her crown as the most exciting pop star the world has ever seen. It’s a waste of time for casual pop fans who were banking on an A-list star to shake up a rather flat 2016. It’s not only a plain waste of time, but a total abandonment by an artist who at one time was the biggest pop star in the world.
Perhaps that’s it. Maybe Lady Gaga has now become a product of her environment. Taylor Swift & co. skate on by doing basic and innovative “art”. Maybe this is time for Gaga to ironically play into their lane to prove a point. We’re at a loss for this direction.
Whatever the case may be, we’re ready for LG6. Bring us the disco queen we know she can be.