Admittedly, I am more than a little late to this train. For me, Lady Gaga lost most of her lustre something like 5 years ago. At the beginning of her career, I worshiped her for the same reasons everyone else did. I adored her catchy dance tunes (so much so that I blame The Fame for at least one speeding ticket,) I found her avant-garde fashion sense to be entirely mesmerizing, I was both shocked and emboldened by her blatant sexuality, and like so many others I loved the way she was so willing to use her music and celebrity as a mechanism for speaking up about gay rights. As time went on, for me at least, her antics grew tired, drab and finally boring. Gaga ushered in an age of garish pop-stars and grew to have so many imitators that she herself seemed to lose some of her originality, and with the release of Artpop any interest I had in her music was gone.
However, I can thank my boyfriend for re-kindling my interest in Lady Gaga’s music. He never lost his faith in Lady Gaga. When her new album was released he dutifully purchased his copy. Some time later, he asked me if I would like to listen to it, and left a copy in my car for me. I, being the complete ingrate that I am, neglected it for several months. When I finally listened to it I was more than pleasantly surprised, and I would argue that the criticism it has received is largely unwarranted and more than a little unfair.
Joanne introduces a new sound for Gaga. It goes without saying that this album is such a departure from her earlier work. With folk and country influences present, this album is more soulful and conveys an honesty that just isn’t present in her pop albums. While some songs like “Diamond heart,” and “A-Yo,” are more reminiscent of her signature pop beat than others, the album as a whole explores sounds that her previous albums do not. The album also has a more mature sound, and focuses on Gaga’s musicality in a new way. It’s easy to forget that Gaga is Julliard trained, and this album serves as a reminder that she is a capable musician. It is always fascinating for me to see artists, in any field, grow and develop. Which is really what any good artist should be doing. Growing stale is never good, especially in an ever-changing world, and I laud Lady Gaga for exploring alternate sounds.
However, it isn’t only this new sound that I find intriguing. It is the welcoming and honest lyrics that truly tug at my heart strings. While she doesn’t entirely abandon some of her signature themes, in her newest album she sings of kindness, loss, humanity, grief, companionship, and confusion. It’s easy to see that this album was released during the colossal dumpster fire that was the 2016 election, as she endeavors to speak of acceptance in a non-partisan manner. I’m specifically referencing “Come to Mama,” and “Angel Down.” Speaking of “Angel Down,” I find the opening lyrics to be particularly resonant. “I confess, I am lost. In the age of the social,” as we all live in a day where one’s most meaningful interactions could feasibly come through social media. Although, if I’m being honest, the song that speaks to me the most is “Joanne.” It conveys heartache, longing, and a reluctance to let go. In a year where I have lost 3 family members, I find this song immensely comforting.
If I haven’t made it obvious by now, Joanne is, in my less than humble opinion, easily Gaga’s best album to date. It showcases a new, heretofore unknown side of Gaga. It is a presentation of an honest, mature collection of songs created by an artist who is able to admit that even though she has achieved a level of celebrity most of us cannot even dream of, it is important to continue to hone one’s art. And that is just what she has done.