Lady Gaga reinvents herself on organic comeback Joanne
After a wait of three years, Lady Gaga is finally back with a brand new album. She is sure going to divide her fans with this one as she takes quite a different turn sonically. In comparison to everything she has done so far, Joanne follows a more organic sound, drawing influences from rock and country while almost completely dropping the electronic pop. This might be quite a lot to get used to for the fans of her dancefloor fillers, but fear not! Gaga might have switched up the instrumentaton, but the pop hooks are still there! Check out A Bit of Pop Music’s track by track review!
01. Diamond Heart
Lady Gaga opens full of power with ‘Diamond Heart’, a fast paced pop anthem with some strong rock influences that perfectly sets the mood for the rest of the record. The rhythm is dictated by prominent drums and Gaga’s vocals are raw. The chorus is big and the hook is one of the most memorable of the whole record. “I might not be flawless, but you know I got a diamond heart”, Gaga sings. She might not be flawless, but this opening track kind of is!
“Here we go!”, Gaga yells at the beginning of the track. ‘A-YO’ is supposed to be the next single and already became a fan favourite after her Dive Bar performances. The swinging tune has a loud chorus with hand claps and some guitar solos. The chorus has a country twang, but in the most poppy way possible. I am not entirely sure if this could do any better than ‘Perfect Illusion’ charts wise, but it is a logical choice that represents the album’s spirit well enough.
The title of this album is not just because of Lady Gaga’s second name, but more so because it was also the name of her late aunt, who died in 1974 from Lupus when she was just 19 years old. Although Gaga never got to meet her, she always felt a strong connection and the title track is the most beautiful testament for this, you could imagine. The guitar driven ballad has a stunning, soaring chorus. The ‘Girl, where do you think you’re going?’ lines are truly heartbreaking and this for sure is one the most personal, moving and gorgeous things she has ever put her name to. The way she seems to find peace with the passing away of Joanne in the middle eight is breathtaking. My absolute highlight of the new album!
04. John Wayne
Gaga declares her love for cowboys over a drum beat that builds up into a surprising chorus where her vocals are quite heavily modified. Some synths make their way towards the outro and she once again delivers an infectious hook. This will probably not grow into one of my personal favourites, but it deserves its place on Joanne.
05. Dancin’ In Circles
‘Dancin’ In Circles’ is definitely the most smooth and sexy track on the album. Her whispering tone in the intro, that also functions as a post-chorus, is so seductive. This must be one of the most infectious anthems about masturbation ever written. Gaga got help from Beck as a songwriter here and it makes for one of the best tracks on the album with some hit single potential as well. Her fans who prefer dance pop Gaga, might dig this track as well, as it is by far one the poppiest moments out there.
06. Perfect Illusion
When Lady Gaga dropped ‘Perfect Illusion’ as the first single in September, she divided her fan base. The loud and ballsy tune produced by Gaga herself, Mark Ronson (who produced and co-wrote almost the whole record), Kevin Parker and Bloodpop was loved by some and despised by others. It was not the chart success some might have hoped for, but the tune makes total sense in context of the album. As it is one of the most instant and catchy tracks on the record, it seemed like the right first single as well. It is short, punchy and has a major key change, what is not to love!?
07. Million Reasons
As a second pre-order single, Gaga dropped the proper country ballad ‘Million Reasons’. She totally nails the vocals on this, without oversinging (like she did on ARTPOP‘s ‘Dope’), which give the desparation in the lyrics about a dysfuntional relationship even more meaning. It is also the first time that a ballad like this doesn’t sound at least slightly out of place on a Gaga record. Vocally and lyrically one of the best moments on Joanne and I believe this could actually become a hit if American radio gets behind it. It is a song people definitely will relate to and the chorus is enough of a moment to pull it off. This could be the right way to introduce Gaga’s new sound to the general public.
08. Sinner’s Prayer
This track immediately grabs the attention with the perfect intro and Gaga’s deep vocals in the verses won’t let go. The chorus is quite understated, especially for a Gaga song, but that doesn’t make it any less catchy. The production on this track is sublime, even for Mark Ronson’s standards! Great to hear Gaga sounds convincing as well when she tones things down and goes for a more subtle approach. This is one of the tracks that creeps up on you and could easily become a fan favourite.
09. Come To Mama
This was about the only song that did not quite click with me on first listen, but I have to admit that the optimistic vibe the sax brings, is too contagious to not give in to. Gaga sings about the state the world is in at the moment and calls for more love and less hate: “Stop throwing stones at your brothers and sisters”, she tells the world. “There is gonna be no future if we don’t figure this out”, she warns, disguised in an uplifting melody. It sounds like a classic hit taken straight from the 70s.
10. Hey Girl (feat. Florence Welch)
My pop heart began to beat faster when I heard the news that Gaga would be duetting with the one and only Florence Welch (from Florence + the Machine) on her new record. It is not the vocal powerhouse banger we might have secretly wished for, but ‘Hey Girl’ gives us plenty to enjoy anyway. Their vocals blend together so well and the low key belting they do towards the end is life giving. It is quite a bit more understated then I imagined it to be, but as a genre blending midtempo that borrows from R&B and soul it works well. A live performance for this has to happen and will be such a moment!
11. Angel Down
Lady Gaga saves some serious thoughts on today’s society for last. ‘Angel Down’ is a dramatic album closer with lyrics that criticize the gun violence America (and the world for that matter) endured over the past few years. “Shots were fired on the street by the church where we used to meet. Angel down, angel down, but the people just stood around”, she sings, asking herself where the world’s leaders are to prevent events like this. Sonically it is an atmospheric ballad with a gorgeous outro that makes for a perfect climax of Joanne.
12. Grigio Girls
Lady Gaga dedicates this track to her friend and member of the Haus of Gaga, Sonja, who is battling cancer. ‘Grigio Girls’ is about Gaga coming together with her friends, crying about Sonja’s illness, which they did not want to do in front of her, because she was still so strong and full of life. This lively piece of pop started as a description of an evening drinking wine with the girls and turned into something bigger when it turned out a lot of women could relate to it. This bonus track is a more than worthy addition to the record.
13. Just Another Day
Things come full circle for Gaga on the last track ‘Just Another Day’, that reminds me of her early The Fame work. The influence of New York glam is back and needless to say it is catchy as hell. It does not necessarily fit very well in terms of the rest of the album, but as a bonus track she can get away with it!
It is hard to compare Joanne to any of Gaga’s earlier work as the sound and production is drastically different from anything she has done before, but the big pop choruses and irresistible hooks are still there. Gaga sounds more organic, personal and if you ask her, she would probably say she sounds more like herself. Joanne is an exciting reinvention from an artist who is not afraid to take risks and still has a lot to offer!