Spending its twelfth day atop iTunes worldwide and knocking off Lemonade‘s previous 2016 record for a female artist, the country-influenced Joanne officially scores Gaga her 4th #1 album this decade, but most importantly, it secures its spot as Gaga’s ripest record yet. Undoubtedly, our girl Stefani finally wrote the album she was born to perform.
Throughout the record, we get an insight on Gaga’s family history, more precisely in regards to Joanne, her father’s sister who died of lupus in 1974, at age 19, after being sexually assaulted on University campus – if Til it Happens to You didn’t make sense already, it just did. Affecting her family’s legacy, the tragedy’s emotional depth translates into the music right from the first listen.
Stripping off of what made her a pop cultural icon, the Lady is giving us the human being behind the music. Or put it her way, she’s singing for
this girl, in a field somewhere, and she’s got a glass of Pinot Grigio in one hand and a kid in the other […] and she doesn’t have a lot of money, and she’s crying her eyes out singing every word to my song trying to fucking understand how she could possibly relate to “Lady Gaga”, the girl who wore the meat dress.
And that girl, is Gaga herself.
Taking off with the all-American anthem Diamond Heart – which would be perfect for the Super Bowl – Joanne quickly establishes its candid approach. Telling the story of a 19-year-old Italian American girl, the opening track depicts the artist’s good old go-go dancing head full of dreams – and Jameson.
Second on the countdown is A-YO – which should’ve been called Mirror on the Ceiling – a bop that transports you into the perfect cowboy fantasy, the one where you get eaten out in a barn. Or put it this way: if MANiCURE is the garter-wearing little sister who’s in charge of her sexuality, A-YO is the cowgirl sister with a $25 million mansion to her name, leaving Perfect Illusion as the delusional one still finding her way through the chaos.
In fact, once you’ve listened to Joanne as a whole, Perfect Illusion might sound out of place. Not only does it seem unsuitable as a lead single, but it even comes off as the album’s weakest link. However, your perception of it might go through a radical change once you’ve seen it performed live in a dive bar.
As for the other tracks, buckle up for a quick rundown. If you’ve never lost a relative, the title track will instantly let you know how it feels as it awes you with Gaga’s ability to really carry on a tune. Followed by a farmer’s version of what up-beat is supposed to be, John Wayne tackles Gaga’s desire for dangerous men, while Dancing in Circles is an immaculate So Happy I Could Die-follow-up and ode to masturbation.
Moving on with slower melodies, the official 2nd single Million Reasons combines repetitive pop elements and vulnerable lyrical content in order to build the perfect pop ballad, and sets the tone for Sinner’s Prayer, one that goes deeper musically with its intricate instrumentals and vocal freedom.
Come to Mama is very Born This Way when it comes to its theme, but still manages to distinguish itself sonically by its friendlier flow. And if you’re looking for the perfect study-buddy-song, Hey Girl is your girl: gentle and soothing, this Florence Welch female-empowering collaboration will comfort you through the loneliest nights.
As we get to the closing number, Angel Down is undeniably Gaga’s version of John Lennon’s timeless Imagine, considering he’s one of her biggest inspirations both musically and philanthropically. Inspired by Trayvon Martin’s shooting, this track is not something you can cheat your way through like you’d do for a radio-friendly hit, we’re talking social justice and systemic oppression fused into a celestial jewel here.
As for the deluxe tracks, Grigio Girls stands out as the most sentimental and heartbreaking on the whole album. Inspired by Sonja, who’s been Joanne’s executive director and friend since 2009 and who happens to have stage four cancer, the melancholic melody takes us through a journey of friendship and tears.
Last but not least, the mixture of Brown Eyes, Again Again, and Cheek to Cheek on the closing deluxe edition track Just Another Day serves as a nod to Gaga’s Bitter End roots and Tony-fostered jazzy voice. It’s always been important in the eyes of many fans to have her write a song all by herself on each album, and this is how this final track continues the Speechless / Yoü and I / Dope legacy.
All things considered, just when people thought she might actually be over, she hit them right back at the Grammys, the Super Bowl, and twice at the Oscars. And if her classically trained vocals weren’t enough to convince them, she released her most mature record yet. Setting herself apart from her contemporaries, she reminded us of the reason why we consider her to be an icon of this generation. Soon to be legend, this incredible hard-working musician has once again blown us away.
And remember, she’s always been the odd one out of the bunch, people just happened to enjoy her first record. Lord knows she’ll be known for worshipping the devil before she ever submits to the yoke of the industry.