Lady Gaga Chromatica, Album Review— Liam Maloney -
I know we don’t really do reviews here. Half the fun of music is making up your own mind (and then googling what the Guardian thinks about it to see how well your taste barometer is functioning). But sometimes an album drops that just requires a moments thought and reconsideration. Gaga’s Chromatica just dropped.
No one is going to look back at Gaga’s previous full length outing Joanne as anything less than a misstep, at worst a serious lapse in judgement. Stripping back her disco-friendly-one-world-humanitarian-euro-shite-dance-pop formula that had worked for her for The Fame (Monster), Born This Way and Artpop, she moved from trans-humanist android to trailer trash soft rock. Yes, reinvention is a great thing for many artists and has worked almost countless times for Gaga’s most obvious influences (Bowie, Madonna, Prince, Kate Bush).
But when your reinvention fails or your new concept is revealed as nothing but glib marketing, should you just give up and revert to type or should you reinvent again? For Bowie it was a long strangled road back from the post Let’s Dance hangover (Tonight, Never Let Me Down, and the abysmally weak Tin Machine records) but we eventually get to Outside and Earthling. Madge followed the turgid dullness of Bedtime Stories with Ray of Light; the album that was responsible for her creative renaissance. Gaga’s failed Joanne has not resulted in a shining new reinvention. Or even in another failed reinvention where she goes afro-futurist hip hop or Japanese breakbeat. Gaga has bottled it and returned to her dance-pop roots.
The problem with that is that 12 years ago Gaga’s brand of dance-pop felt fresh and unashamedly fun. It was a breath of fresh air in a fug of other pop songstresses hanging out on boats with vajazzled bikinis. It was also oddly edgy, gender-flipping, and subversive. But when you’ve pulled those same tricks for over a decade with no real variation it fails miserably. On “Replay” she sings:
Am I still alive? Where am I? I cry Who was it that pulled the trigger, was it you or I?
I can say with absolute certainty it was her. She made this mess of an album. She constructed this conceptual horseshit and tried to tie it together with some vague attempt at a pounding anthem or two. Don’t get me wrong, there are a couple of tracks on the record that raise the glimmer of a smile, but by the time you get a drum and bass track feat. Elton John, you know you’re ploughing a very arid furrow indeed.
It pains me to say it, but I think we need to admit to ourselves that Lady Gaga has officially jumped the shark.