Lady Gaga’s Joanne is a triumph from start to finish. While this release is a departure from the flashy synth-pop most have come to expect from the singer, to place the record into any genre would be an injustice.
Instead, Joanne breaks any barriers that have previously defined the star’s career. From the rock-heavy opening number “Diamond Heart,” to country ballads like “Sinner’s Prayer,” Gaga delivers diversity in a way she’s never done before. Some may consider the stripped down approach a step backwards in her ever-evolving artistry, and they’re not entirely wrong with that notion.
With little-to-no promotion for the album, aside from her Bud Light Dive Bar Tour, Joanne certainly is a step back from previous works like The Fame or ARTPOP. But it’s also a step forward, toward the music that has fueled Lady Gaga’s passion from the beginning. Looking back at Gaga’s roots, the only surprise on Joanne is that she waited this long in her career to make it.
As an artist, Gaga has continued to push the envelope by proving her fearlessness in an industry she once ruled, and that’s taken even further on Joanne. The shift away from pop music gave Gaga a platform to write and release honest music without the veil of metaphors and alter egos, which became prevalent (and praised) in albums past.
Within minutes of the record’s start, Gaga sings some of her most cutting lyrics yet. In the opening track, “Diamond Heart,” Gaga sings, “A cruel king made me tough / Daddy’s girl’s never good enough” and “Some a**hole broke me in/ Wrecked all my innocence/ I’ll just keep go-go’n and this dance is on you.”
As a whole, Joanne delivers an entire range of emotions, all centering around the album’s core and title-track “Joanne.” In the guitar ballad addressing the singer’s late aunt, whom the album was named after, Lady Gaga sings the recurring line, “Girl, where do ya think you’re goin’?” The line hits so deeply for anyone who never got to say goodbye to a loved one.
In way of features, Florence Welch adds some flair and girl power in “Hey Girl,” as the only artist to be featured vocally on the album. Writing credits, however, include Beck (Dancin’ In Circles), Kevin Parker (Perfect Illusion), and John Tillman (Come To Mama). Throw in Mark Ronson as a producer, and there’s no mystery to Joanne‘s acclaim.
Joanne is a refreshing twist to the heart and soul-filled music already blanketing Gaga’s career because it is, in essence, a Lady Gaga album about herself. No costumes, no gimmicks, just the need to create the music she’s been singing in her heart for years. She lays everything on the table: her mistakes, her pain, her hardships, and, as always, her strength to go on. The songs aren’t manufactured with radio charts in mind. Without those barriers, Lady Gaga delivered a stunning work of art, ready for anyone who is willing to listen.