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REVIEW: Lady Gaga's 'Joanne' is A Step in the Right Direction

Chris Lombardi

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Roger Ebert and Chelsea Handler made a queer baby. As your artist advisor, I'll help you navigate through all the entertainment options out there so you can save time and money making the best decisions when it comes to what to watch and listen to. We can agree to disagree, as long as you remember that I'm always right. #SORRYnotSORRY
posted by Chris Lombardi on Nov 8, 2016 10:30am | comments


I've said it before, but let me remind you - Gaga is the new Madonna in regard to pop superstardom and the magnitude in which fans idolize their icon. The little monsters will defend mother monster whether she hatches from an alien egg wearing a meat dress; or strips off all of her clothes, leaves the makeup at home and wears nothing but a pink cowboy hat to the studio when she starts to focus on getting her music career back on track.

The reason I say "back on track" in regard to Gaga's music is due to my (and almost everyone else's) unapologetic detest for the 2013 trainwreck of an album that was Artpop. But hey, we will let the past be the past and keep forgetting to remember this - or that atrocious Andy Cohen-Real Housewives of Reality Retardation music video - ever. ever. happened.

Even Gaga herself seemed unimpressed with her own album and swept the ashes of those cheesy bipolar tunes underneath the Emmy she won, as acting would become her new occupational saving grace.

After Artflop, a tour, an injury, a break-up and a season of American Horror Story (which, admittedly, I still have yet to even see beyond the first episode), Gaga was indeed successful in the mission to prove she had the chops. Many stars of her caliber have tried (and failed) to bridge the gap between the art worlds of music and acting - but Gaga was handed awards and re-hired for another season.

I still argue that she was playing herself on that show, but you go ahead and say po-tah-toe, while I go ahead and pronounce things the way Jesus of Nazareth and Merriam-Webster intended.

But what about the music? That's what we all thought when it was announced Gaga would return for another season of AHS.

Deep down, we all knew Gaga couldn't stay away from her one true love and she waited what I consider to be the perfect length of time before releasing new music: three years. Enter Joanne.

Three years later, and the eccentric artist who we all knew had raw vocal talent and stardom in her DNA has left the meat bikini behind and stripped off all the glitter and gauze for a more vulnerable, revealing version of herself.

We've watched her play characters since the start of her career; in fact, it seems for a good while there Gaga had no identity. She just kept shifting between all of this whacky performance artistry and wouldn't let us get too close to Stefani Germanotta.

With her latest LP, Joanne, the Lady does just that. You are immediately made aware of a cracked open heart that bleeds for her failed romance while honoring her Aunt Joanne, who passed away at the all too young age of 19.

Like anything with Lady Gaga's name attached to it, her fourth (or fifth if you count Fame Monster) studio album is stamped with post-modernism and often feels like Gaga is trying to be authentic and vulnerable by phasing out the bells and whistles that go beyond her sound.

Then, at times, she actually comes off genuine, without seeming like that's what she's "going for". In any event, this is a thrilling evolvement from the artist who has always implemented PR-stunts, outlandish costumes and an endless array of "is it art?" accents to her music that often times are more distracting of her talent than complimentary of it.

We've always known Gaga to have the most awesome of multiple personality disorders, and while this worked against her on Artpop, the one great thing I can say about Joanne is that it's cohesive.

I like the album opener, Diamond Heart after listening to it a couple of times. You get this vibe that the Joni Mitchell and Dolly Parton in Gaga is about to come out, and it does - repeatedly, as the strings and twang replace those previously mentioned bells and whistles throughout Joanne.

The second track is A-Yo, which I just. couldn't. stand. Then, I saw this:

Isn't it crazy how a live performance can change how you feel about a song?

That's one thing about Gaga that I've always really loved. Her live performances are incomparable and that's where she truly shines. This is something I feel is mandatory in any artist I love, even more so than their vocal abilities.

Speaking of vocals, the one thing I find a bit awkward about the new album is the way she makes her voice sound throughout some of it. There's an effervescence and freedom that's really special on some songs, then on others it's as though she can't carry a tune.

This is a biased criticism; as I don't like show tunes or theatrical sounding vocals, and much of Joanne sounds like it could be a musical theater production.

The first two singles to drop were Perfect Illusion and Million Reasons - both solid, just not necessarily epic. I think that's probably the biggest issue with Gaga for me lately - nothing is epic anymore. But even I have to admit that Joanne is growing on me.

At first listen, I thought the album was a step in the right direction, but still just not up to the quality standard that Gaga has displayed when she was first presenting herself as a pop act and starving for her passion to be realized.

Surprisingly, the album grew on me the second time around, kinda like how A-Yo eventually did. Suddenly I felt like I was the bipolar one, as Gaga's twang really started to make me smile.

The first half of the album is definitely stronger than the latter. Despite some questionable lyrics throughout, the first eight tracks are a strong assertion that Gaga has regained her musical confidence and is gonna kill it with the entire package this time around.

Sinner's Prayer is a good one and John Wayne is probably my favorite, but when Come to Mama comes around, I start to lose interest.

Then the great Florence Welch shows up for a song that really confuses me. Hey Girl sounds like a cheesy theme show song from the 70's and this was a missed opportunity for what could've been a powerful collaboration.

Angel Down is just ok, but Grigio Girls has a sweet, chill sound. When I first heard that one, I immediately pictured Theresa from Housewives and was like, oh no... I'm gonna throw up in my mouth a little. But when the line, "Spice Girls up in this bitch!" was shouted, I was left with the confidence that Venus Gaga is not coming back to haunt us.

I guess I am still harboring some deep resentment and post-trauma from Artpop. I have to let it go. I have to heal. That's a direct quote from me... not her, hah.

Closing out the bolder, braver new sound from miss Lady Gaga is the decent Just Another Day, and another version of Angel Down. "I'm a believer/it's chaos/where are our leaders?"

Joanne is without a doubt, a step toward Lady Gaga regaining her position as one of music's most confident, fearless leaders.


SOURCE: The Qulture Critic


NOTE: Opinions are those of the author, and not necessarily those of or of any organization or business that the author is assosciated with.

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