Lady Gaga’s new album Joanne can make you miss the days of meat dresses, eccentric wigs and glittered faces. The days of eight-inch heels, outrageous stage setups and ridiculous costumes seem to be gone completely. Even the album cover shows Gaga wearing a simple hat with minimal makeup, nothing like The Fame Monster’s cover in which she dons a white wig, thick eyeliner and shiny black leather. However, the raw, almost untouched music, a far cry from the over-synthesized hits of the past, illustrates who Gaga is now. It sheds light on the extreme transformation Gaga is undergoing to become a more honest and real performer. Joanne demonstrates her inner struggles and her attempt to reinvent her name and move away from her infamous old personality.
The least successful aspect of the album is Gaga’s attempt to cross over into country. In songs like “John Wayne,” the guitar seems out of place when paired with the voice associated with songs like “Bad Romance.” Her theatrical and played-up voice in “A-YO” seems like it would fit in perfectly on Broadway with synchronized backup dancers and twirling props. Gaga always attempted to push the envelope, to portray a larger-than-life personality. Toning down the energy of her music in Joanne makes this drama feel out of place with her new persona.
On a more positive note, Gaga draws listeners in with her more melodramatic tracks. These songs feel more personal and expose Gaga’s true inner dialogue. In songs like “Angel Down” and “Joanne,” listeners can hear the true Gaga that her over-the-top public displays previously hid. The deep, heavy voice is a welcome change of pace throughout the album.
Gaga tried rock early in her career with the song “You and I” and absolutely nailed it. Imperfections in her voice help Gaga fit into the rock and roll genere despite her pop image. The genuineness of “You and I” was probably some of her best work prior to this album, which diverged from the typical over-the-top pop music that made her famous. If Gaga had used “You and I” as inspiration for her new album, it would have been an instant hit. While certain songs on the album do show signs of this inner rocker, the country overtone completely overshadows this side of Gaga.
It’s difficult for fans who were infatuated by Gaga’s old personality to appreciate this new image. I loved the outlandish displays of weirdness that helped define her in modern music. She was so different from everyone else that populated the covers of magazines and the charts.
I liked Lady Gaga because she was different and strange and because she challenged what society allowed and because she wasn’t afraid of what others thought. This new album seems to let us in to the more intimate and shy side of Gaga that is more vulnerable and personal. Lyrics like “Come to mama / Tell me who hurt ya” in “Come to Mama” reveal the understanding and more empathetic side of Gaga.
In many ways, Joanne is Gaga’s mode of communicating and showing the world that she is more than a ridiculous, crazy performer. She opens up about family, love and inner struggles that are difficult to see through all the costumes, wigs and glitter. Overall, this album accomplishes its purpose of showing another side of Gaga; however, it does so in a way that differs from expectations a little too much.