Artist: Lady Gaga
Label: Streamline / Interscope Records
New-age pop legend Lady Gaga is back at it, having released her sixth studio album entitled Chromatica on May 29th, 2020, via Streamline and Interscope Records. Like many others, the album was delayed from April 10th, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While many folk often mistake Musicalypse for a metal media, we are not married to the genre. I, for one, am a big fan of Lady Gaga and so upon hearing that she had a new album out, I was more than excited to check it out. Gaga‘s albums as a whole have always been very hit or miss for me in general, with her debut The Fame Monster (2008/2009) showing her lyrical cleverness right away, Born This Way (2011) was maybe 50/50, and Artpop (2013) had only two or three tracks that I enjoyed. However, she took a turn for the mature with the very personal release Joanne (2016) that made it to my favorite albums of the year. It was thus exciting to hear what this album had to offer.
Listen along on Spotify:
According to several interviews, Joanne had been somewhat of a reboot for Gaga after the lackluster Artpop, spending time in the studio putting some passion back into the music, trying to forget the fame monster, so to speak, and find the passion again. This created further intrigue into Chromatica, which promised to tackle subjects on personal struggles such as PTSD, depression, empowerment, and more.
“Chromatica” as a concept has been explained as a world within her own mind that Gaga made up, where colors blend and equality reigns supreme. In a similar sense, the electronic pop elements of the album blend far better than on Artpop, where the music seemed like an effort to cover up the lack of any real inspiration in the lyrics. While Joanne was more stripped down with less heavy EDM, Chromatica brings the bounce of electronic music back in a tasteful manner that doesn’t feel overdone or gimmicky.
Starting with the 1-minute “Chromatica I,” the album contains three of these interludes but, interestingly, “Chromatica III” does not conclude the album and there is no outro track. The singles are mostly grouped towards the beginning, such as “Stupid Love” and “Rain on Me,” which features Ariana Grande on guest vocals. Grande isn’t the only guest on the album, as “Sour Candy” features someone I’ve never heard of called BLACKPINK and towards the end, none other than legendary pianist/vocalist Elton John appears in “Sine from Above.”
First official track “Alice” references the classic story Alice in Wonderland and works as a strong opener to the album. Chromatica doesn’t have quite as many obvious so-catchy-I-love-them songs as I may have hoped; however, the overall feel is a good blend of the maturity and personal feelings of Joanne with more of the electro-pop fun of the past. The aforementioned concepts of empowerment are easily notable in the lyrics from “Free Woman,” while “911” has electronic lines that are strongly reminiscent of “Funkytown” though Gaga takes it in her own direction and it doesn’t feel like a rip-off. “Fun Tonight” is a really nice track with an upbeat melody yet the lyrics are a bit sad, creating an interesting contrast.
Elton John‘s vocals on “Sine from Above” are auto-tuned to the point that I frankly wouldn’t have known it was him if I hadn’t read about it first; he’s got a great and memorable voice on its own so the auto-tune didn’t really work for me; it’s a nice song otherwise. Grande and BLACKPINK have subtle contributions as other female pop vocalists, perhaps not notable if you’re not paying attention but their sounds are evident when you give the songs active attention, though frankly, I’d say that their voices (the latter particularly) are evident because Gaga has a deep, complex voice and theirs are more basic pop, though Grande‘s gentle touch is rather soothing.
The album as a whole piece to listen to straight through has no offensive moments. While I’m still seeking my personal favorites (“Alice” is definitely one of them and “Babylon” is catching on as well), the album overall creates a strong feeling and I look forward to listening to it more.
Overall, Chromatica is a nice continuation of Gaga‘s musical timeline. The lack of obvious mega-catchy songs may not be commonplace in pop music but to a metalhead, this translates into songs that need more than one listen to appreciate and that’s a sign of maturity in our world. Rumor has had it that Lady Gaga does enjoy heavy metal, which perhaps allows for a touch of influence that makes her music diverse and unique enough that it’s okay for metalheads to admit that they like her (unlike many other pop artists).
Rating: 8/10, 4 stars
1. Chromatica I
3. Stupid Love
4. Rain on Me ft. Ariana Grande
5. Free Woman
6. Fun Tonight
7. Chromatica II
9. Plastic Doll
10. Sour Candy ft. BLACKPINK
13. Chromatica III
14. Sine from Above ft. Elton John
15. 1000 Doves