Lady Gaga just dropped her first album in four years time! After the release of the country inspired pop record Joanne, her career reached another high when she took on the leading role in the movie A Star Is Born, of which the Oscar winning soundtrack ‘Shallow’ became her biggest hit in her years. She returned earlier this year with the upbeat single ‘Stupid Love’ and announced how her new record Chromatica is her return to the dance floor. Let me guide you through this nineties house and dance inspired record with a track by track review!
01. Chromatica I
The album begins with an intro titled ‘Chromatica I’, which is a string arrangement produced by Gaga and Morgan Kibby. In her interview with Zane Lowe she described it as ‘the beginning of her journey towards healing’ and explains how it also portrays the pending doom of facing the things that scare her. What a way to set the mood for this record!
The intro seamlessly merges into the unapologetic nineties house of ‘Alice’, the first full song on the album, produced by Bloodpop, Axwell and Klahr. The track immediately kicks off with an almost a capella chorus after which the beat drops in full force. The chorus is instantly memorable and quite the banger to be frank. The first verse opens with the heartbreaking lyric ‘Could you pull me out of this alive?’. Gaga explained this is the song with which the album really began, as it was her thinking to herself: ‘I’m not sure I’ll make it, but I’m gonna try’. She hasn’t found her ‘Wonderland’ yet, but she is not going to stop looking. ‘Alice’ is a powerful message based on a highly personal turning point in her life, dressed in a stunning nineties house production, which suits Gaga’s vocals so well! This deserves single treatment and dance floors full of sweaty people dancing their asses off. Absolutely one of the highlights of Chromatica.
03. Stupid Love
When ‘Stupid Love’ came out earlier this year, it didn’t scream lead single to me and it still doesn’t in the context of the album, but it is a fun pop anthem nonetheless. The Bloodpop, Tchami and Max Martin production leans more towards the electronic pop of the eighties and some hints of disco. The tune really goes off in the last chorus and the video is proof of how much fun Gaga seems to have with it, but it could have done with even stronger vocal melodies for the chorus. Having said that, it definitely earns its place within Gaga’s discography and this record in particular.
04. Rain On Me (with Ariana Grande)
Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande sent their fan bases in a frenzy last weekend when they dropped their collaboration ‘Rain On Me‘. The song produced by Bloodpop, Tchami and Burns takes on its nineties house references more subtly than ‘Alice’, but mixes it with a typical dance pop beat drop. The last chorus coincides with this beat drop and it is the euphoric moment a song about dancing through the rain (and pain) deserves. Gaga’s deep vocals contrast beautifully with Ariana’s high pitched ad libs, adding the magic that justifies ‘Rain On Me’ being a duet. The way Gaga repeats the words ‘RAIN. ON. ME.’ sounds iconic and it deserves to be a chart topping hit.
05. Free Woman
‘Free Woman’, produced by Bloodpop, Axwell and Klahr, tells the story of Gaga no longer defining herself as a victim or survivor of sexual assault. “I am a free person who went through some fucked up shit. All that stuff, I dont have to feel pain about it anymore. It can be a part of me and I can keep going”, she told Zane Lowe. In the lyrics, she reclaims the dance floor she fought for and declares that she doesn’t need a man to feel like something. In a similar structure to ‘Rain On Me’, the first chorus is followed by a beat drop, while the two come as a package the second time the chorus comes around. The production screams summer hit of 2014 at some point, but it does not make ‘Free Woman’ any less of a powerful bop.
06. Fun Tonight
‘Fun Tonight’ is one of the songs that stood out to me on first listen, first and foremost because that chorus is as massive as it is instant. Gaga explained how this song means a lot to her and that she still chokes up hearing it. She wrote it about a time where the people around her tried to cheer her up, but she had no ability to be happy at that moment. Although the lyrics are some of her saddest to date, she manages to turn the vibe into something hopeful in the chorus and the chanting of the post-chorus. “I’m feelin’ the way that I’m feelin’, I’m feelin’ with you, I’m not havin’ fun tonight”, she declares over the straightforward poppy production by Bloodpop and Burns. An impeccable pop song!
07. Chromatica II
‘Chromatica II’ kicks off the second ‘act’ of the album and the way this dramatic instrumental leads into ‘911’ is one of the best moments of Chromatica altogether.
‘911’ is probably one of the most contemporary sounding tunes to be found on this record, as it is drenched in a modern electro pop sound, produced by Bloodpop and Madeon. The tune is not as climax or beat drop driven as most other songs on the record ant thrives on a melodically outstanding almost hypnotic chorus. Gaga declares herself to be her biggest enemy and talks about her use of medication on the song. ‘911’ is a grower and possibly the most intriguing and refreshing track to be found on Chromatica.
09. Plastic Doll
‘Plastic Doll’, produced by Bloodpop and Skrillex, is one of the songs that fails to make much of an impression on first listen in context of the album, but it is by no means a bad tune. The chorus is an actual belter and features some of Gaga’s finest vocals, while the bouncy electro pop production swings subtly. The lyrics are a bit too on the nose here and there, but the line ‘I’m no toy for a real boy’ makes up for any weaker moments.
10. Sour Candy (with Blackpink)
For ‘Sour Candy’, Lady Gaga teams up with the K-pop band Blackpink, who also appeared on Dua Lipa’s ‘Kiss and Make Up’. The Korean ladies open the track in English and then switch back to their mother tongue, before Gaga appears and belts out the main hook. The track, produced by Bloodpop and Burns, honors nineties house in a similar manner to Katy Perry’s ‘Swish Swish’, but makes it sound more effortless. Gaga did not just feature Blackpink for the sake of it, but she actually gives them room to shine with their own hooks and sound which makes ‘Sour Candy’ offer the best of two worlds. If only it lasted a little longer than the 2 minutes and 38 seconds!
‘Enigma’, produced by Burns, immediately did strike me as a typical Gaga song somehow. It might be because of these instant and undeniable melodies or perhaps the larger than life vocal work or the fact that it seems a bit all over the place, but none of these are bad things of course! It doesn’t necessarily stick with me as a stand out, but it sure is the type of tune that could actually come to life and become a fan favorite in a live setting.
Just as we thought ‘Enigma’ was slightly over the top and all over the place, Gaga mocks us by unleashing the bonkers ‘Replay’, also produced by Burns. The song carries this disco on steriods vibe with a loud and unconventional beat drop over which Gaga declares that the scars on her mind are on replay. ‘Replay’ isn’t exactly a radio hit waiting to happen, but it certainly is one of the most creative and out of the box tunes to be found on Chromatica.
13. Chromatica III
With ‘Chromatica III’ we head into the third and final act. The strings form a beautiful intro to the soundscape that is ‘Sine From Above’.
14. Sine From Above (with Elton John)
‘Sine From Above’ marks the first time that Gaga collaborates with her long term friend Elton John on an original song. It is the only Chromatica track that lasts over four minutes and the production by Bloodpop, Axwell, Burns, Klahr, LIOHN and Rami Yacoub certainly takes us places. It is as if we are experiencing five songs in one! Gaga wrote the song about a soundwave she experienced, which healed her to dance her way out of this album. ‘Sine From Above’ is easily one of the most gripping and interesting songs as it serves a trance beat over the chorus and outstanding soaring melody lines. Having said that, the outro just kills the vibe within a second and does nothing to revive it. That was… a choice!? Still it is good to finally hear a proper Gaga and Elton duet. This one will certainly divide the fans, but I will have it on repeat (well the first 3 and a half minutes that is…).
15. 1000 Doves
‘1000 Doves’, produced by Bloodpop and Tchami, is a song that leaves me with mixed feelings. There is a strong pop song in there somewhere, but the way it is produced now, it just sounds so… basic. That instrumental drop has been done so many times before about five years ago and it just kills what the track was building up until that point. Having said that, it features some of Gaga’s most beautiful and expressive vocals to date.
Lady Gaga saves the most camp song for last. ‘Babylon’ serves another take on nineties house with piano over the beats and a vibe and melody that reminds of (dare I say it?) Madonna’s ‘Vogue’. It is insanely catchy and an absolutely euphoric finale to this album, complete with horns, hand claps and gospel like belting. She wrote the track about gossip, which she admits would run her life and make her feel small and chained. “I feel free now wearing those chains”, Gaga declared. A powerful and uplifting note to close the album on!
On Chromatica, Lady Gaga takes us through her journey of dancing through her pain. She does so to some fabulous nineties house with hints of contemporary electro pop and not a single ballad to be found. Out of all of her albums so far, this might actually be the most focused and cohesive effort so far. Lyrically, she seems to be more open than she has before and describes her journey in a more straightforward manner than we are used to from her. Some might think this is her best work to date while others might prefer early days Gaga, she definitely brought something that we haven’t heard from her yet. Lady Gaga still keeps me on my toes over ten years into her career!