Lady Gaga has released her new, highly anticipated album Joanne. The term highly anticipated is often over-used by music journalists who live in a bubble of their own music taste, but it is fair to say the music industry has been waiting to see what Gaga would do with this album after her forays into jazz with Tony Bennett and the relative flop of Artpop.
Let's start this off by saying this is not The Fame or Born This Way. If you were looking for another album of songs like that, sorry but Lady Gaga isn't going to fulfill your wish. She tried that on Artpop and missed the mark.
There were signs in the album creation process that there would be some dance-pop bangers like her continued studio work with RedOne. The first single "Perfect Illusion" made an attempt to get back into that lane, but in the end it felt like a weak attempt to recapture old glory and put her name back in the charts on the radio.
The rest of the album is where Gaga sounds her best and most assured.
It starts out the personal "Diamond Heart" where she addresses the sexual abuse she faced as a teenager. "Some asshole broke me in/wrecked all my innocence," sings Gaga.
She storms through "A-YO," the upbeat country influenced, jam that could be the better radio hit from this record.
Joanne speaks to the loss of her aunt, who died tragically at the age of 19, whom this album is named after,
She is not done with the tributes to those taken from this world too soon. On "Angel Down" she wonders, "doesn't everyone belong in the arms of the sacred" about the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
Delves into deeper personal issues to try and empower other women like on "Hey Girl," an enthralling duet with another incredible pop singer, Florence Welch.
Gaga feels as assured as she felt in years on Joanne. Pop is a genre about growth as it is about the hits. She has grown into a woman confident to share her own story and tackle some important issues facing the world. She has become more self-aware and found a sound that allows her to reveal more about herself and show off her talents as a complete musician. There are times when some songs lack the depth you know she is capable of delivering, especially with the songwriting and producing power she had on hand with Mark Ronson, Bloodpop, Beck and others.
This isn't an album that will be easy to cherry-pick singles from. Rather it is a more complete body of work and will live on in her legacy as such.
Stream the album below and pick it up on iTunes.