LADY GAGA – CHROMATICA REVIEW

If you are a big fan of Pop music, this has been a hell of a year for you so far. There have been so many great Pop records released already this year. Pop music seems to be in as great a place as it has been in a long time right now. From Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia to Charli XCX’s how i’m feeling now to Hayley William’s Petals For Armor, the music in this genre has been as experimental, unique, and inventive as ever throughout the course of 2020. A lot of people would argue that Lady Gaga “saved” Pop music in a way back when she first started to blow up and get huge. At that time, the music in the genre had gotten very bland and stale and boring; I honestly think one of the reasons Hip Hop had such a meteoric rise in the late 2000s and early 2010s is because the quality of Pop music had declined so much that people just gravitated towards different kinds of music. It is very obvious that she is a direct major influence on all of the major Popstars of today. After departing from her signature high energy Electro-Pop for the last few years, it seems like the Queen is ready to come take her throne back. The singles from this record have sounded a lot like the music that she made earlier in her career, and the album’s promotional rollout has been very reminiscent of what she did early in her career as well. Okay, that is enough background, let’s just get into it; I am super ready to talk about Lady Gaga’s new album Chromatica, and I am sure you just want to read about it. Please leave a comment down below of how you feel about this album, and let me know in the comments what your favorite songs are from this record as well!

We are introduced to the world of Chromatica with the grand intro piece that is ‘Chromatica I.’ This one minute “song” basically sounds like the music that plays whenever Harry Potter arrives at Hogwarts for the first time of the year in the movies. It is a brief symphony piece that is very bright and uplifting that happy-sounding, and it definitely builds up a ton of anticipation for the listener and gets them even more excited to hear the rest of the record. The dance party that Lady Gaga promised this record would be immediately starts when the next track comes on. This song has a Europop feeling to it that makes it sound like it would be the perfect song to play in one of those crazy exclusive night clubs in New York during the 1990s. I love how bright and vibrant the melody for this song is. It is tough not to smile and start dancing when it comes on because the melody is just so fun. ‘Alice’ is an ode to one of Lady Gaga’s favorite books: Alice in Wonderland. On this song, Lady Gaga is comparing herself to Alice. In the book, Alice goes to Wonderland because she is just looking for something different and not boring in the world. She was sick of the way her life was going, and just wanted to find that magical and beautiful place to live in so she can be happy. Lady Gaga is expressing this kind of feeling on this song for herself. She is sick of trying so many new things and still not being able to find happiness, and she is just searching for her version of Wonderland so she can find happiness. Following this, we get the lead single from this record which got us all very pumped for the Chromatica era, ‘Stupid Love.’ This song is kind of marriage the EuroPop sound that is prevalent in the first track and the Electro-Pop sound that her first few songs had when she originally got famous. I really like the fact that this song kind of mixes her old sound with her new sound, because it sort of eases us into the sound. Some people don’t like it when their favorite artist comes out with a sound that is completely different from what we are used to from them, so its cool that Lady Gaga is making sure that she didn’t completely throw us into the world of Chromatica without warning. ‘Stupid Love’ that is pretty much exactly about what the song title says it is about. In this song, Lady Gaga knows that the person she is singing about is not right for her, but she is so attracted to them that she just does not care. ‘Rain On Me,’ which features Ariana Grande, is the next single which came off of this record. Unsurprisingly, this song took the Pop world by storm with its release. A lot of people sort of see Ariana Grande as the heiress to Lady Gaga’s throne in a way, and Ariana has always stated that Gaga is one of her biggest inspirations, so this song is pretty much a match made in Heaven(or a match made in Chromatica, rather). One thing I really love about this song is the fact that neither Lady Gaga nor Ariana really tries to step on each other or out-sing each other on this song. Too often when two powerhouse vocalists are featured on the same track, it seems like they try to see who is the better singer and the focus on the music gets lost; this track is not this way in the slightest, as Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande actually complement each others’ voices super well. ‘Rain On Me’ has a similar EuroPop dance music vibe to the first three songs. This is another song that sounds like it belongs in a crazy 90s New York nightclub. I am all for these uplifting Pop tracks that just make you want to dance the night away. The first four songs of Chromatica create such a fun and cool feeling.

I’m not nothing without a steady hand. I’m not nothing unless I know I can. I’m still something if I don’t got a man. I’m a free woman

The fun late 90s Club music feeling continues in full force ‘Free Woman,’ which is quickly becoming a favorite of mine from this record. I can just imagine how crazy the dance floor is going to be when this song comes on whenever clubs and bars open back up. The lyrics, melody, tempo, and overall sound of the song are so fun and uplifting, and I imagine it would actually be kind of tough to not sing and dance along if you heard this song out at a bar or club. On ‘Free Woman,’ Lady Gaga is singing about how all of the hardships she has gone through in her career have made her stronger. She could have succumbed to the pressure and wilted away, but instead, she charged through the fire and made it out stronger than ever. ‘Fun Tonight’ is the first song from this record that does not make me want to dance the night away. It does have a sweet melody and it is pretty upbeat, but for some reason even though it has a high tempo it still feels more chill to me. Maybe this is because the meaning of the song makes me subconsciously realize this is not a song to be dancing to. ‘Fun Tonight’ does not have a positive and exciting tone to the lyrics, which is what most people would expect from a song with this title. This song is actually about battling through anxiety and depression and trying to find the reason to get up and keep going every day. On ‘Fun Tonight,’ Lady Gaga is singing about not having fun and not being happy even though she is doing everything she can to be so. ‘Fun Tonight’ is a very necessary and relatable song, and it does a good job of breaking up the sonic pattern and making sure the album has some diversity in its sound. Following this is ‘Chromatica II,’ which another grand symphonic piece that sounds like it came from Harry Potter. I believe that these “Chromatica” pieces are meant to go along with some videos that are supposed to be viewed prior to listening to the record where Lady Gaga describes how she came up with the theme for this album and how it was made. I do not really know why they were put into the actual tracklist, but they do provide a bit of value because they kind of break up the energy and high-paced nature of the album and bring us back down to earth for a second. That energy comes right back with ‘911,’ which is a Dance-Pop track that sounds like it came right out of 1982. This song reminds me so much of artists like Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul; it such a soulful and funky riff that is impossible to not bop your head to, and the tempo provided by the drums are super tough to not start dancing to as well. Another cool thing about this song is the vocal effects used in it; I specifically love the robotic sounding voice effects used throughout the song. ‘911’ is another fun sounding song with a deep and sort of unhappy meaning to it. On this track, Lady Gaga sings about going through mental health problems like anxiety and depression and how she needs to take meds to balance herself out. The term “911” is a metaphor for the pill she has to take; whenever she has an “emergency” because of one of her episodes, she can pop a pill and let it ease her mind, just at calling 911 eases people’s minds because they know help is on the way.

Tell me, who dressed you? Where’d you get that hat? Why is she crying, what’s the price tag? Who’s that girl, Malibu Gaga? Looks so sad, what is this saga

‘Plastic Doll’ is another upbeat Dance Pop track with a bright and fun sound that sort of contrasts the actual lyrical content of the song. I really like that Lady Gaga made so many songs on this album that have a sad lyrical undertone and a happy sound because it is like she is trying to use the sounds of the songs to mask the fact that she is not as happy as she seems. This track has a neo-futuristic Y2K Pop feeling to it that reminds me a lot of Kylie Minogue, Jewel, and Madonna; ‘Plastic Doll’ definitely would have fit in if it would have come out in 2002. On ‘Plastic Doll,’ Lady Gaga is singing about how throughout her career, she has kind of fit every mold of what a pop star should look like. She has been able to transition in a way that so many people have not been able to, which is one of the main reasons she has been so successful. She realizes, though, that this is not necessarily a good thing. Because of these grand characters, she has created, she has kind of given people the opportunity to classify and objectify pop music. She knows that certain characters she made have attracted negativity from some people, and now that younger artists are emulating her they are receiving that same unfair criticism. Following this, we get the final single from Chromatica, which is called ‘Sour Candy’ and features BLACKPINK. I can not say that I ever expected Lady Gaga to make music with a K-Pop group or artist; with that being said, though, this collaboration works super well and sounds very natural. I know that a lot of newer K-Pop artists did get some inspiration from Lady Gaga’s early work, and like Ariana Grande, BLACKPINK made the absolute most of their opportunity to make a song with Lady Gaga. ‘Sour Candy’ is another track from this album that has a major 90s Underground House feeling to it; once again, I easily see this song being played at a crazy New York dance club in 1995. One thing I really like about this song is BLACKPINK’s vocals; I have never really listened to them, and the different styles of single and harmonies that they use really make me want to check out their own music. The next song, ‘Enigma,’ is a song that reminds me a lot of some of Lady Gaga’s early music; specifically, it reminds me of the weird and funky Dance-Pop that was on her album ARTPOP. I read that this song is sort of meant to be a bridge between ARTPOP and Chromatica, and I can totally see how that is the case. ‘Enigma’ does have elements of it that relate it to the other songs on this album, like the fact that it has a similar House music tempo to a lot of the other songs on this album. Something about how this song is structured and something the melody just remind me so much of ARTPOP, though. If you are a fan of that album, ‘Enigma’ is a sort of blast from the past that you will love. ‘Replay’ is another song that has a sound that sort of relates to most of the rest of the music from this album but also reminds me a lot of music from a completely different era. It reminds me a lot of the Disco-Pop music that ABBA made popular back in the day. The breakdown that comes in after the chorus does have a House music feeling that sounds a lot like the breakdowns on a lot of other songs from this album, but something about the melody and the way Lady Gaga sings it just reminds me so much of the late 70s and early 80s Disco-Pop. On ‘Replay,’ Lady Gaga is trying to get over some of her past traumas by just dancing them away. She knows that she can never get specific scenarios and thoughts from her past to completely go away, so all she can do is try to stay positive and not let those thoughts consume her in a negative way.

After ‘Chromatica III’ gives us another symphonic break(watching the videos that go with these pieces really do provide a ton of context to the record so I suggest checking them out), we get the song ‘Sine From Above,’ which features Elton John. Although Lady Gaga has performed with Elton John, made music with Elton John, and covered Elton John’s music in the past, this is the first time I have heard them together on a Lady Gaga record(I believe it is the first time they have made music together within the context of one of her characters). It is only fitting to get one of the first flamboyant kings of Pop on a song with one of the current flamboyant queens of Pop; this is a collaboration that was long overdue. ‘Sine From Above’ is a Y2K-style Euro-Pop track with a super sweet and heavenly melody that is bound to bring up anyone’s mood. ‘Sine From Above’ is a song that is about pushing through the hard times and trying to be happy and live in the moment. No matter what we go through, there will always be reasons around you to keep pushing forward and do everything you have to stay happy and thriving, whether they are spiritual or otherwise. I really love the vocals on this song, specifically the points in the song where Elton John is singing with a super low and deep voice. ‘Sine From Above’ is a song that I am certain is going to be a fan favorite. The melody and overall sound of ‘Sine From Above’ transitions super well and super fluidly into the next song, which is called ‘1000 Doves.’ Instead of the Euro-Pop tempo and feel that the last song had, though, ‘1000 Doves’ has a House music sound that is similar to a lot of the other Club tracks on this album. Even though the last two songs have such a similar melody and sound and even though I said ‘Sine From Above’ will be a fan favorite, I actually enjoy ‘1000 Doves’ more. Usually, any song that has Elton John in it would be my choice when comparing it to a song that does not have him in it, but I just enjoy the tempo and the way the song is structured on ‘1000 Doves’ more than the one that precedes it. This track is the only one on the album that seems like it is truly a love ballad. The lyrics are really romantic and emotion and the way the vocals are performed remind me of 80s Rock Love Ballads by artists like Pat Benatar. ‘1000 Doves’ is yet another song from this record that makes me want to dance the night away and belt out the lyrics until I can’t talk. The record closes out with a song that merges two of the most prevalent sounds that are on this album: Funky 80s Pop and 90s House music. ‘Babylon’ has elements to it that are very reminiscent of artists like Whitney Houston and Cyndi Lauper, but also has a tempo and sound that will make you want to dance the night away at some EDM club in Miami. I really love the sharp Disco-style melody provided by the keyboard on this song; along, with the multitude of other instruments in the background, like the saxophone, for instance, a super cool and fun soundscape is established on ‘Babylon.’ It does have a very grand and bold sound that makes it perfect to end an album on; I really like it when albums come to a big and beautiful ending like this, as it leaves the listener walking away with nothing left to be desired. ‘Babylon’ is a song that uses imagery and references of ancient Mesopotamia to express the idea of being free and happy and doing what you want. In the Bible, the city of Babylon is a place where God scrambled up the dialects and languages of all the groups of people who lived there because they were being evil; when he did this, it became a place of chaos and miscommunication because none of the little groups of people who lived there could communicate with each other. On ‘Babylon,’ Lady Gaga is telling the listener to push through the bullshit and ignore the gossip. Instead of letting mean people ruin your day with their lies and assumptions, just be you and be free and let them think what they want to think. ‘Babylon,’ is a great way to end the album sonically and lyrically, and it puts a great cap on a great pop record.

I have to say, Lady Gaga sure was unlucky when she said she wanted to release an album in 2020. Originally, she wanted to release it around the beginning of the Quarantine, and she wisely moved back the release date because a high energy Dance-Pop record like this just was not the type of thing to release when people first learned they were going to be locked in their homes for the unforeseeable future. She ended up moving the release date back to the beginning of summer, as everyone hoped the world would be opened up by then and people would be able to dance the summer away to Chromatica at clubs. Unfortunately, the same week this album came out, George Floyd was murdered, and everyone knows how the world reacted to that tragedy. Even though the timing this record’s release ended up not being the best(at no fault to Lady Gaga because she obviously could not have known what was going to happen), it is exactly what her “Little Monsters” would have wanted to be and exactly what they needed. Chromatica is full club-style ballads that will be perfect to belt out on the dance floor when that can happen again. Chromatica is everything a fan of Gaga’s would have wanted it to be, and it is a near-perfect return to the throne for the Dance-Pop Queen of the 2010s.

Favorite Tracks: Stupid Love, Rain On Me(feat. Ariana Grande), Alice, Free Woman, Plastic Doll, Sour Candy(feat. BLACKPINK), 1000 Doves, Babylon

8.31/10

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