The triumphant latest album from pop icon Lady Gaga proves she still excels at what she became famous for more than a decade ago - feel-good dance tracks with powerful, often deceptively emotive lyrics. Words by Rozz Cottrell.
A casual listener of Lady Gaga might remember her for the infamous meat dress that she wore at the 2010 MTV music awards, or for the iconic staples of the 00s, Love Game and Poker Face – the sound of many a primary school disco. However, Lady Gaga has always been more than this. Her meat dress, for example, was a political statement referring to discrimination against LGBT people serving in the military. Her art has always been masterfully layered and complex.
She is undeniably talented: from her debut album The Fame to follow up Born this Way and the impeccable ARTPOP, Gaga has released some of the most memorable and phenomenal electro-pop songs in the genre’s history. Though her dance-pop style was abandoned in the Cheek to Cheek and Joanne era, I was eager to listen to Chromatica due to it returning to what Gaga does best: fun, complex, and amazing electro-pop songs.
'Her art has always been masterfully layered and complex [...] Gaga has released some of the most memorable and phenomenal electro-pop songs in the genre’s history'.
Gaga’s new album crash-landed just when we needed it most. The atmospheric Chromatica I – which starts the album – is a cinematic and orchestral transitional song, creating a fantastical atmosphere that leads to Alice, transporting us to a different space and time. Alice is an energetic, fresh start to the album, with the beat winding as Gaga asks to be taken to Wonderland. This first track is somewhat hypnotic, nodding to tracks in ARTPOP with its intergalactic sound.
The next track, Stupid Love, was released at the end of February and is classic Gaga. It is flamboyant and reverent, harking back to the message of Born This Way to love ourselves for who we are. Its release had fans anticipating an epic album, which she certainly delivered on. The music video feels like Gaga is ‘back’ if she ever went away; it features ‘Kindness Punks’ who don pink clothing and a futuristic aesthetic to encourage you to dance along and enjoy the fun.
Another song released in the lead up to the album’s release was Rain on Me, which blends the different styles of Gaga and Ariana Grande beautifully. The up-beat and hopeful sound only emphasises the meaning of the lyrics; Gaga talks about ‘water like misery’, exclaiming that ‘at least she’s alive’. The poignancy of the lyrics encourages the listener to embrace their emotions, suggesting it is empowering to be able to feel, even in the darkest of times. Fans of both Gaga and Grande knows how meaningful this is to them both, and it is always refreshing to see a bond of friendship between two women in the industry, especially when so many female artists are pitted against each other.
I cannot help but dance and scream along to Free Woman, with its addictive and electrifying beat. The momentum of the song is invigorating, transporting me to a time post-lockdown when I will be on the dancefloor with my friends, screeching the lyrics and dancing until my feet hurt. This song is certainly a hit, building up to reinforce the theme of empowering the self; for Gaga, ‘woman’ could be synonymous with ‘creative force’, assuring listeners to look inside themselves for the power and strength that they may crave from other outlets.
Fun Tonight is vulnerable, emotive, and profound. Though the song is built as a perfect sing-along track, the lyrics fashion a different landscape, discussing mental health, healing, and the complex relationship she has with fame. The first segment of the album ends on the lyrics ‘I’m not having fun tonight’ before leading on to Chromatica II – the second transitional track, with a more sombre orchestral sound, suggesting vulnerability. This blends into the next song amazingly; 911 combines the attention drawn to issues of mental health with a synthetic, somewhat extra-terrestrial sound, only emphasising the meaning of the lyrics.
'Fans of both Gaga and Grande knows how meaningful this is to them both, and it is always refreshing to see a bond of friendship between two women in the industry, especially when so many female artists are pitted against each other'.
The celestial sound is cleverly continued in Plastic Doll, which explores the need for autonomy and recognition that, though many pop figures like Gaga herself can become iconic, she’s not just an object with ‘blonde hair’ and ‘red lips’; she is a human like everyone else. The long-awaited collaboration of BLACKPINK and Gaga in Sour Candy did not disappoint, with a catchy melody and confident verses. This song is easy to listen to, as is next track Enigma, which embraces the concept of being ‘misunderstood’ – something true of Gaga herself.
Replay stands out as one of the best songs of the album, with the allure of the winding, distorting pulse of the beat. In this sense it transcends being just a mere backing beat, instead emphasising the lyrics, which feature the candour of Gaga discussing her PTSD and trauma which is ‘on replay’. The third transition track leads to Sine from Above – a collaboration with Elton John, and one which marks a lasting friendship between John and Gaga. The euphoric and cinematic production accentuates the experience and power of surviving through music; a relatable concept for music fans as well as artists.
Final songs 1000 Doves and Babylon serve to affirm the rest of the album’s artistry. 1000 Doves channels Gaga’s heartache into a hopeful, positive soundscape. Babylon, the final song, is the perfect ending to the album; there are undeniable similarities to Madonna’s Vogue, which adds a hint of nostalgia to the intoxicating beat. Gaga’s distinctive voice repeating ‘Gos-sip’ is camp and unforgettable, distinguishing this song as one of the best on the album.
Chromatica is not just an album, but an experience, compiling anthems that discuss potent and personal themes whilst boosting the mood through the effervescent and positive harmonies established throughout. Exceeding any expectations, Chromatica proves that Gaga’s art is nothing short of invincible.