REVIEW: Lady Gaga – Chromatica (Musicalypse Archive)

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New-age pop legend Lady Gaga is back at it, having released her sixth studio album entitled “Chromatica” on May 29th, 2020, via Streamline and Interscope Records. Like many others, the album was delayed from April 10th, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many folk often mistake Musicalypse for a metal media, we are not married to the genre. I, for one, am a big fan of Lady Gaga and so upon hearing that she had a new album out, I was more than excited to check it out. Gaga‘s albums as a whole have always been very hit or miss for me in general, with her debut “The Fame Monster” (2008/2009) showing her lyrical cleverness right away, “Born This Way” (2011) had a lot of great material but also a fair bit of filler, and “Artpop” (2013) had only two or three tracks that I enjoyed. However, she took a turn for the mature with the very personal release “Joanne” (2016) that made it to my favorite albums of the year. It was thus exciting to hear what this album had to offer.

According to several interviews, “Joanne” had been somewhat of a reboot for Gaga after the lackluster “Artpop,” spending time in the studio putting some passion back into the music, trying to forget the fame monster, so to speak, and find the passion again. This created further intrigue into “Chromatica,” which promised to tackle subjects on personal struggles such as PTSD, depression, empowerment, and more.

“Chromatica” as a concept has been explained as a world within her own mind that Gaga made up, where colors blend and equality reigns supreme. In a similar sense, the electronic pop elements of the album blend far better than on “Artpop,” where the music felt like an effort to cover up the lack of any real inspiration in the lyrics. While “Joanne” was more stripped down with less heavy EDM, “Chromatica” brings the bounce of electronic music back in a tasteful manner that doesn’t feel overdone or gimmicky.

Starting with the 1-minute “Chromatica I,” the album contains three of these interludes but, interestingly, “Chromatica III” does not conclude the album and there is no outro track. The singles are mostly grouped towards the beginning, such as “Stupid Love” and “Rain on Me,” which features Ariana Grande on guest vocals. Grande isn’t the only guest on the album, as “Sour Candy” features someone I’ve never heard of called BLACKPINK and towards the end, none other than legendary pianist/vocalist Elton John appears in “Sine from Above.”

First official track “Alice” references the classic story Alice in Wonderland and works as a strong opener to the album. “Chromatica” doesn’t have quite as many obvious so-catchy-I-love-them songs as I may have hoped; however, the overall feel is a good blend of the maturity and personal feelings of “Joanne” with more of the electro-pop fun of the past. The aforementioned concepts of empowerment are easily notable in the lyrics from “Free Woman,” while “911” has electronic lines that are strongly reminiscent of “Funkytown,” though Gaga takes it in her own direction and it doesn’t feel like a rip-off. “Fun Tonight” is a really nice track with an upbeat melody yet the lyrics are a bit sad, creating an interesting contrast.

Elton John‘s vocals on “Sine from Above” are auto-tuned to the point that I frankly wouldn’t have known it was him if I hadn’t read about it first; he’s got a great and memorable voice on its own so the auto-tune didn’t really work for me; it’s a nice song otherwise. Grande and BLACKPINK have subtle contributions as other female pop vocalists, perhaps not notable if you’re not paying attention but their sounds are evident when you give the songs active attention, though frankly, I’d say that their voices (the latter particularly) are evident because Gaga has a deep, complex voice and theirs are more basic pop, though Grande‘s gentle touch is rather soothing.

The album as a whole piece to listen to straight through has no offensive moments. While I’m still seeking my personal favorites (“Alice” is definitely one of them and “Enigma” and “Babylon” are catching on as well), the album overall creates a strong feeling and I look forward to listening to it more. It’s an easy album to put on while you’re working and enjoy without requiring your full attention.

Overall, “Chromatica” is a nice continuation of Gaga‘s musical timeline. The lack of obvious mega-catchy songs may not be commonplace in pop music but to a metalhead, this translates into songs that need more than one listen to appreciate and that’s a sign of maturity in our world. Rumor has had it that Lady Gaga does enjoy heavy metal, which perhaps allows for a touch of influence that makes her music diverse and unique enough that it’s okay for metalheads to admit that they like her (unlike many other pop artists).

Written by Bear Wiseman
Musicalypse, 2020
OV: 5760
OS: 8/10

Tracklist

  1. Chromatica I
  2. Alice
  3. Stupid Love
  4. Rain on Me ft. Ariana Grande
  5. Free Woman
  6. Fun Tonight
  7. Chromatica II
  8. 911
  9. Plastic Doll
  10. Sour Candy ft. BLACKPINK
  11. Enigma
  12. Replay
  13. Chromatica III
  14. Sine from Above ft. Elton John
  15. 1000 Doves
  16. Babylon

Lineup

Lady Gaga (Stefani Germanotta)

Label

Streamline / Interscope Records

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