Reviews by mars
Lady Gaga’s Chromatica review: Gaga returns to her pop roots and serves up a smashing escape from reality (8/10)
From the opening pulses of “Chromatica I,” it is evident that Lady Gaga intended on creating a piece of art as self-reflective, cinematic, and refreshing as that of her decade-plus-long career. Despite achieving career milestones such as her award-winning performance in “A Star is Born,” performing both the National Anthem and coveted Halftime Show at recent Super Bowls, and, you know, releasing the most awarded song in history (“Shallow”), we can all note that Gaga’s last two releases were both crooked and did not match the levels of her prior success. With 2016’s folk-rock infused Joanne, Gaga had seemingly said goodbye to the party, vowing to explore toned-down reinvention rather than continued recreation of her prolific pop days.
Chromatica (released May 29, 2020) serves as a much-welcomed reunion of Gaga and the beast she knows best - marrying dance-pop and lyrics so deeply personal, only Gaga could author them. Four years have passed since Joanne, and both society and the music industry are radically different from when Gaga last graced us with her presence. Streaming is the dominant form of music consumption, and hip-hop and TikTok beats have consistently controlled the upper echelons of the Hot 100. With Gaga’s “pregnancy” announcement late last year - “rumors I’m pregnant? Yeah, I’m pregnant with #LG6” - the idea of what a true “PopGa” release in 2020 would look like was left with more questions than answers. Thankfully, Chromatica grasps the pop music reigns and drives it toward its sweet spot.
With its 16 song-long tracklist (including three gorgeous orchestral pieces segmenting the album into thirds), Chromatica marks Lady Gaga’s most impressive release in a decade. So long to the confusion that plagued ARTPOP and Joanne. Don’t be fooled - the spectacle of the enigmatic Lady Gaga remains, but she finally found the perfect balance of mystery and transparency.
Gaga has never sounded more at home or vocally cohesive than on this record. This may also serve as her most honest and straightforward release to-date. In just 43 minutes, Gaga takes us to the world of Chromatica, filled with '70s inspired disco and ’90s infused house. Lyrically, we’re taken on a journey through the loss of love in “Fun Tonight,” anxiety over perfection in “Alice,” and musical love in the wondrous “Sine from Above” featuring Sir Elton John.
Chromatica’s biggest success is how it magically brings all of us out of the sadness that dominates modern life. And while we’re all socially distanced from our friends and loved ones, Gaga brings along fellow pop titan Ariana Grande and K-pop stars BLACKPINK to brighten up our quarantined days. A centerpiece of the album, and quite possibly her strongest single since 2011’s “The Edge of Glory,” “Rain on Me” serves as both a therapeutic anthem for overcoming trauma and a surefire song of the summer contender. Both women bonded over their shared experiences with pain - Gaga with abuse and sexual assault; Ariana with mourning the tragic bombing at Manchester Arena and the loss of her former boyfriend, Mac Miller. “I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive,” sing the two pop divas, a statement sure to ring true throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The enveloping quality of Chromatica is no more evident in both its production and flow. On a production level, Chromatica welcomes back Gaga’s trusted partner BloodPop as executive producer. The duo, alongside famed EDM collaborators such as Axwell, Skrillex, and BURNS, created a flamboyant techno universe. The album also marks the first union of Gaga and music legend Max Martin on lead-single “Stupid Love.”
Nothing speaks more to Chromatica’s victory than the seamless transitions between the orchestral pieces into their subsequent tracks. They are audibly flawless and further add to the all-encompassing quality of the album. In fact, it is almost impossible to notice the shift from “Chromatica II” to the Madeon-produced “911.” Sonically reminiscent of the Born This Way days, “911” shows Gaga expressing her dependence on antipsychotic medication with a production and vocoder use that expertly depicts the lyrical darkness.
Where Chromatica will ultimately rank in Gaga’s discography and career is yet to be determined. Nonetheless, the album marks Gaga’s return to form, her most rewarding and introspective body of work yet. The woman who told us now twelve years ago to “just dance, it’ll be okay” now finds herself emerging into the light at the end of the tunnel. Chromatica is a euphoric escape that Lady Gaga has surely earned - filled with tears, joy, and admirable perseverance.
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NY-based, 26-year-old, music-obsessed and loves to write about it.