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'dance-floor divinity, a triumphant return to club'
After what seems like an eternity of waiting, Lady Gaga has finally released her long-awaited sixth studio album 'Chromatica' which sees the chameleon queen of pop re-invent herself once again, this time under the guise of a post-apocalyptic princess. Encompassing the epic sounds of EDM, house and disco the album was intended to be a reminder of Gaga's "absolute love for electronic music”. The multifarious record features production from various producers such as BloodPop, BURNS, Axwell and Tchami. Thematically much of the album revolves around mental health, healing, and finding happiness through hardship. Featuring collaborators such as Ariana Grande, BLACKPINK and Elton John, 'Chromatica' serves as a farewell to Gaga's sometimes troubled past and bids a warm welcome to gaining strength, finding light in her purpose and dancing despite the rain.
Extremely accomplished thematically as a body of work, Chromatica is undeniably ideal for any trip to the club. Although conceptual, the album retains a strong sense of integrity and authenticity, no doubt due to Gaga's trademark emotional lyricism. Differently to 'ARTPOP', the project is much more accessible to the mainstream and it feels like a better place in time for this experimental brand of emotional electro-pop. The record doesn't express as much range in terms of song types in comparison to her previous albums, however, it is made fairly obvious that 'Chromatica' is meant to focus on lifting the listener and pushing a message through dance.
The album itself is split into three different arcs, opening with 'Chromatica I', a gorgeously cinematic string arrangement that sets the scene for Gaga's complex inner world we are entering. Sweeping and swirling with gloriously triumphant brass and heavenly harps, the composition creates a truly ethereal scene that skyrockets immediately into the club-ready bop 'Alice' which pays homage to the 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Throughout the track, Gaga connects her inability to find peace in her life to Alice’s need to survive the hardships of growing up and maintaining peace-of-mind. We are instantly dosed with a lethal injection of club and house-infused pop, all driven by an infectious four on the floor, pumping bass and heavy synths.
My name isn't Alice
But I'll keep looking, I'll keep looking for Wonderland
Could you pull me out of this alive?
Where's my body? I'm stuck in my mind
Next up on the track-list is the lead single off the record 'Stupid Love', a high-spirited eighties sounding electro-pop track which describes Gaga falling for someone and irrefutably wanting their love no matter how stupid it might be. The track is classic Gaga and was received with open arms by fans as her return to dance music after previous works such as 'Joanne' and 'A Star Is Born' left fans wanting for Gaga to return to her club kid heritage. Perhaps one of the most care-free and fun tracks on the project, Gaga dives into deeper topics later on.
The second lead single on the record and the third track 'Rain On Me' featuring Ariana Grande is easily one of the records most anthemic songs as the pair sing about persevering through your troubles and finding solace and comfort in the fact that things will get better. The song has a French House inspired sound and in a recent interview Gaga stated 'Rain On Me' was also a reference to her heavy drinking during the making of the record "I'd rather be dry but at least I'm alive". The two singers contrasting voices compliment each other surprisingly well and the immaculate vocal delivery hits home the profound message being conveyed even harder.
'Free Woman' is one of the most uplifting and self-celebratory songs on the record, showing off Gaga's one of a kind talent for combining serious topics with chart-topping pop. Lady Gaga stated that the song was about moving on from defining herself as a victim and the realisation that she could be free from the chains of her pain if she wanted to. The songs start mellowing down a bit at the point as the second act approaches.
This is my dancefloor I fought for
A heart, that's what I'm living for
So light up my body and kiss me too hardly
We own the downtown, hear our sound
"I tend to aspire for things to be genderless but It was significant to reference my gender in Free Woman because I was assaulted by a male music producer. I'm no longer going to define myself as a survivor or as a victim." - Lady Gaga
'Fun Tonight' continues the emotionally driven dance feel as Gaga sings about her struggles with fame, feeling numb and her mental health. She describes Fame as feeling like a "Prison Hell" and we can't help but empathise with the singer as she spills her emotions all over this track, giving us a glance of what the reality of fame must be like for the star. The song seems to perhaps reference her 2019 split with fiancé Christian Carino.
You love the paparazzi, love the fame
Even though you know it causes me pain
I feel like I'm in a prison hell
Stick my hands through the steels bars and yell
What happens now? I'm not okay
And if I scream, you walk away
When I'm sad, you just wanna play
I've had enough, why do I stay?
"A song that means a lot to me and every time I listen to it, I get choked up because I can’t tell you how many nights that people who really loved me, trying to get me to smile, or laugh or be optimistic, and I just had no ability to be happy, it just wasn’t there. Then I would write this music and I would listen back and I’d go, “Why is that so fun? Why is that so happy?" – Lady Gaga
The second act of Chromatica feels much more like traditional Gaga and serves as a throwback to her older sound, reminiscent of 'The Fame Monster' and 'ARTPOP' in certain parts. Delving deeper into the singers' mental health struggles '911' is about an antipsychotic the singer takes due to the fact she "can’t always control things that her brain does" and she has to take medication to stop the process that sometimes occurs. The song has a slightly insane robotic vibe to it which echoes the control and precautions of taking the drug. Next up is 'Plastic Doll' which could be interpreted as a running commentary on objectification, Instagram and the pursuit of perfection. This track has one of the most inherently pop melodies in the chorus which sticks in your head.
'Sour Candy' marks the first collaboration between Lady Gaga and South Korean girl group BLACKPINK. The track is a sassy pop song performed over a beat sampled from the house classic 'What They Say' by Maya Jane Coles. The girls of BLACKPINK and Gaga warn their partners to accept them with their flaws and not try to change them. Waining more on the side of disco the next two tracks are 'Enigma' (which initially served as the title track for the project) and 'Replay' are a bit lacklustre and the genre shift seems somewhat odd if you are paying too much attention. 'Replay' redeems itself with a darker undertone and poignant lyrics however.
Every single day, yeah, I dig a grave
Then I sit inside it, wondering if I'll behave
It’s a game I play, and I hate to say
You're the worst thing and best thing that's happened to me
'Chromatica III' sparks instant hope, rightfully predicting the album going into more introspective subject matters for the listener. Although the album isn't chronological the overall feeling in this act displays tales of the human experience and our ability to recover from pain. 'Sine From Above' with Elton John is an absolute showstopper which freezes you dead in your tracks. Elton Johns performance is timeless and the two compliment each other flawlessly. You can hear the artists shared painful experiences of being lost in places during their careers due to struggles with drugs, alcohol and the pressures of fame. This track, in particular, transcends the album and feels rather powerful, a definite highlight on the record.
Elton’s always really challenged me to take care of my artistry and to really take care of myself. And I really, really honour that about him. He is so uniquely special and I cannot tell you how instrumental in my life he’s been to showing me that you can go all the way in life and… be authentic and be you and do good things in the world and take care of yourself. We use a sine from above, “S-I-N-E” because its a soundwave and music is what healed me enough to be able to dance my way out of this album.” - Lady Gaga
The final two tracks on the album '1000 Doves' and 'Babylon' are where the club vibe perhaps becomes a bit too repetitive, the catchy and heartfelt fun continues nonetheless. 'Babylon' has one of the most unique productions on the record and is extremely reminiscent of 'Vogue' by Madonna and the whole nineties house movement. Referring to people gossiping Babylon is a play on words, sounding out as "Babble On". Gaga makes a statement that she refuses to let the fake people and gossip rule her life anymore and we end Chromatica with her seeming re-invigorated with pride, power and prowess, more confident and artistically inspired than ever.
New Wave Rating: 7/10
Favourite Track: 'Sine From Above' with Elton John
Least Favourite Track: Replay