Lady Gaga's latest album Joanne(2016) finds a way to make old refreshingly new again considering the core of the album isn't based off of some shallow night at the club, but instead is based off of Gaga's past, family, things that actually matter and most importantly it's about Stefani Germanotta. It also happens to be her best album yet, and frankly, one of the best mainstream albums released in a long time.
The title track of the album Joanne is the soul of the album. The song and the album itself is dedicated to Gaga's aunt, Joanne Germanottta, who died of Lupus after being tormented by a sexual assault in 1974 at the age of 19. Unfortunately these are two things Gaga knows all too well, being borderline-positive for lupus and opening up about her own sexual assault when she was 18. The song is the first ballad on the album and cracks into the shell of Gaga and reveals that she's far more than just a pop singer, but someone who can master fast beats and piano ballads all the same.
The opening track Diamond Heart brings out a new Americana feel, which is something Gaga has not has not explored during her career as a pop singer. It's fast-paced dance song reminiscent of Dance in the Dark or Bad Romance that doesn't beat around the bush when it comes to Gaga opening up about bad times with lyrics, "Some asshole broke me in, Wrecked all my innocence" right from the start. It's refreshing to hear guitars, drums and no overly produced vocals which were so present on her last album ARTPOP(2013).
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While Gaga classifies herself as a pop singer, the album has strong country influences that we first hear in its second single A-YO which is fun and twangy country-funk infused song that’s a new sound from anything on the radio currently that’s a huge slap in the face to anyone who judged the first single Perfect Illusion. It's lyrics are fun and infectious with, "Get off on me, my body's got you pleadin', Light me up and breathe in, Mirror on the ceilin'" that get so easily stuck your head for hours on end.
One of my top songs on the album is John Wayne because of it's fun fearlessness. While the old soul of the album is Sinner's Prayer which is defiantly the most country Gaga gets, John Wayne is a raw rock song with a killer opening with Gaga talking in an bar to someone, "It's like, I just love a cowboy, You know, I'm just like, I just, I know, it's bad, But I'm just like, Can I just like, hang off the back of your horse, And can you go a little FASTER?!"
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Dancin' in Circles is a radio friendly song because of it's catchy beat, but not so much context-wise if you figure out what she's actually singing about because it wouldn't be a Gaga album with a song about a little self love. The song's lyrics, "tap down those boots when I beat around, let’s funk downtown” are also some of the most memorable on the album. Another memorable song lyrically is Million Reasons written with Nashville singer-songwriter Hillary Lindsey. The albums second ballad is more powerful than Joanne and resonates with Stevie Nick's Landslide with its minimalism. Gaga is not hiding behind any over-produced beats with this song.
Songs Come to Mama and Just Another Day are very 50s jazz influenced with Come to Mama being one of the big surprise hits of the album. It's the song this world needs right now about why should should spend less time fighting and telling each other what to do, and start loving each other as the human beings we all are. Just Another Day is one of the songs on the deluxe edition and is the perfect closing song because of it's simplicity. It's a light, fun upbeat jazz song that ends the album on a positive note about not being too hard on yourself all the time.
The one let-down of the album has to be Hey Girl, the highly anticipated duet between Florence Welch and Gaga that was destined to be a hit, yet it falls flat. Gaga's voice isn't as strong as Florence's, but Florence sounds like she's holding back a lot in this track. While the song is by no means bad, it just doesn't hold ground with the rest of the album.
The two most heart-wrenching songs on the album are Angel Down and bonus track Giorgio Girls. Angel Down is by far the most important song Gaga has written in her career inspired by Trayvon Martin’s death and speaks directly to our leaders about the injustices happening in our country. It doesn't matter who's side you are on during this tense time regarding the justice system because this song has the possibility to bring people together.
Giorgio Girls on the other hand is one of the most personal songs on the album for Gaga about how her and a friend went out for a night drinking to cry about Gaga's longtime friend and executive director Sonja who has being battling cancer. It's a beautiful song that's catchy, infectious and my favorite song on the album.