It's finally here – one of the most anticipated pop albums of recent years.
After several delays, leaks and various ups and downs, Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' has been released at last.
If you're looking for some background info on her sixth album, you can find it here.
Otherwise, let's get cracking, shall we?
A cinematic orchestral intro opens the album; we certainly weren't expecting this. It's only a minute long, but it certainly strikes an unusual tone for a pop album. Is this going to be a very different album to the one we thought, or is Gaga just throwing us a curveball?
Okay, this is more like it. 'My name isn't Alice, but I keep looking for Wonderland' she says over a throbbing electronic pop beat. We got a real '90s club-pop vibe off her recent single with Ariana Grande, and this treads a similar path. It's upbeat and fun – even the vocoder-heavy spoken word bit.
You'll know this tune by now – it was the first taster of 'Chromatica' that we all heard a few months ago. We liked it from the first time we heard it, and our opinion hasn't changed; it's not the most revolutionary pop song you've ever heard, but it does the job. Can we mention Madonna in a Lady Gaga review? Okay, it reminds us of Madonna, in a way.
Rain on Me
The second single from the album also features one of the other biggest pop stars on the planet – the aforementioned Ariana Grande. Like we said before, it sounds to us like Gaga's been raiding the 90s dance pop playlists on Spotify. Hey, that's no bad thing in our book.
We're keeping on the same uptempo beat – no 'Shallow'-style ballads yet, anyway – as Gaga declares that she's “still something if she don't got a man”. The empowering feminist lyrics lead the charge on a tempo and melody that's not a million miles from the previous few songs...
Ouch! Gaga takes the pace down a bit on this track, but there's a definite barb to the lyrics as she addresses a former flame. 'You love the paparazzi, love the fame,” she says, weaving references to her own work into a savage takedown, “even though you know it causes me pain.” Could it be about her ex-fiance Christian Carino? We love a bit of goss. It's a bit forgettable musically, mind.
Another orchestral interlude, and a chance to have a breather. So far, as much as we're bopping away to most tunes, we have to admit that we're not getting much of a sense of this so-called planet of Chromatica that Gaga has supposedly devised for this album.
A grimy '80s-style electronic riff kicks things off, as a robotic-sounding Gaga sings about building a facade around herself; 'My biggest enemy is me ever since day one, pop a 911', she admits. If you're wondering what a 911 one is, it refers to antipsychotic medication that the singer takes, as she recently explained to Zane Lowe. It certainly gives lyrics like 'Can't see me cry ever again' a darker slant.
We've heard the empowering Gaga earlier in the album; now we're clearly in 'vulnerable' territory. Over a laidback, summery pop chorus, she compares herself to a plaything, as she begs: “I'm no toy for a real boy – if you're a real boy, don't play with me / It just hurts me”. Catchy number that once again, harkens back to the 1980s to our ears - but it's lacking a killer punch.
K-Pop girlband Blackpink feature on this track, and if that sample sounds familiar, it's because you've heard it on a Katy Perry track in the past. 'What They Say' by Maya Jane Coles – which has been sampled countless times over the years – also featured on Perry's 'Swish Swish'. This is an energetic, super-catchy, ice-cool number that sees Gaga join in on the chorus, singing “I'm hard on the outside, but if you give me time, then I could make time for your love.” One of the best songs on the album so far.
To our ears, this sounds more like early Gaga as she strips away the effects and allows her voice to soar over a simple, groove-laden pop number. Okay, so her lyrics – as always, if we're being honest – aren't the most poetic (“We could be lovers, even just tonight / We could be anything you want”) and rhyming 'enigma' with 'stigma'. But who listens to a Lady Gaga song for the lyrics?
Well, this was unexpected. Having taken in the 1990s and 1980s on previous tracks, there's a bit of a 1970s disco vibe to this one – particularly in those gusts of violins that blow through from time to time - before the thumping chorus kicks in. Is she possibly discussing her mental health again with lines like “Every single day, I dig a grave / Then I sit inside it, wondering if I'll behave” and references to the 'scars on [her] mind'?
Third orchestral interlude. We're not opposed to the odd sweep of strings, don't get us wrong – but it seems like the wrong kind of album for them here; they're totally incongruous with the rest of the tracklist.
Sine from Above
“When I was young, I prayed for lightning / My mother said it would come and find me,” she croons in the opening line of this song before a cantering beat kicks into gear. If you were dreaming of the day you'd hear Elton John and Lady Gaga together at last, it's finally arrived. It's odd hearing Elton John on a brazenly cheesy pop tune like this, and we're not sure how well their voices work together; perhaps we need more time to digest it. The dodgy jungle outro, though – whose idea was that?! Also, maybe it's just the time of year, but is it just us who gets a definite Eurovision vibe off this track? Lads, if you fancy representing Ireland one year... gis a call.
We're coming to the end of 'Chromatica' and songs like this are probably the closest we'll get to a ballad (i.e., not close at all). A surging chorus sees her plead “I'd do anything for you to really see me” while other lines confess “I cry more than I ever say / Each time, your love seems to save the day.” Is she speaking about her fans, or a lover? Either way, it's a serious profession of both devotion and heartache.
Okay, if nothing else, the lyrics to this song will make you laugh. We're guessing it's intentional because if not.... yikes. “We only have the weekend / You can serve it to me 'ancient city-style' / We can party like it's BC / With a pretty 16th century smile”. We're going to drop the M word again. Sorry Gaga fans, but this is practically 'Vogue' reworked. And hey, that's no bad thing!
We had high hopes for this album, especially considering it's been four years since 'Joanne' and Gaga's clearly been through a lot (both good and bad) in the intervening period. In retrospect, the brilliant 'Stupid Love' may have set us up for a bit of a fall. It's... grand. There are clearly some top tunes and some uncharacteristically personal confessionals in the mix, but we're a little confused by the concept(or lack thereof) that Gaga talked up quite a bit. It's an album that we'll need to go back to a few more times, but as things stand, Dua Lipa remains the Pop Queen of 2020. Hail Dua!