This Tunesday is all about Joanne. I don’t think anyone was expecting Lady gaga’s newest (and 5th) album to be anything like her previous releases. Her music has always been heavily influenced, as with many artists, by her personal life and the different personas she was embracing at that time. She has taken a massive step out of the spotlight in the past year or so and when she was making appearances, she was noticeably more subdued in her presence.
Whatever the reason, if it gave her time to develop and produce Joanne, I am so glad.
She has referred to her earlier songs as “soulless electro-pop.” If that is how she truly felt, then I understand why she poured herself, so vulnerably, into this project. Gaga created a movement, where “never be normal” was truer than ever. It made her unique for a while but, as with most trends, it becomes “normal.” And after other artists also began to portray themselves in that light, her uniqueness was no longer strong enough to be the basis of her brand. People needed to fall in love with her again. Not as Gaga the spectacle, but as Gaga- the classically trained, ridiculously talented musician.
In my opinion, Joanne is an extremely successful combination of Country and Rock, taking root in those genres and showing influences of their respective legends. There are still definite odes to her previous poppy, electro-hit past. Just listen to Perfect Illusion, A-Yo, and even a little in John Wayne. They remind me a little of old, classic Madonna, still elevating them even though they are closer to her previous work. However, the overall aura of this project is a complete 180, and as Mark Snetiker puts it, “her latest record proves that she’s growing into something less glittering but no less colorful.”
Listening to the album through and through, I also hear elements of Stevie Nicks, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Rait, Joni Mitchell, Pat Benatar and Annie Lennox; Sometimes, a few of them at the same time. Most impressively though, and perhaps one of my favorite reminders of this album, is that there is no one else like Gaga. Even in her mellowed, more folk-inspired tracks, you can distinguish her voice from that of any other artist.
I love that Diamond Heart is the listener’s introduction to this album. Like the album, it starts stripped down but picks up with a beat that kind of makes me want to run a 5k or kick some serious ass. Joanne is one of my favorite songs, by far. I feel a physical reaction to her vocals on that song, not to mention the emotional meaning behind it– something that is far-too-relatable for many.
Take my hand, stay Joanne
Ready for you
Of my aching heart
Needs you more
Than the angels do
Zach Ruskin put it perfectly: “Gaga isn’t naked on Joanne, but she has stripped off the flank steaks and AutoTune. The result is a work that may not close any circles, but instead start the pattern of a new shape: something weird, but compelling, and largely authentic.”
I flip-flop between sometimes wishing the folksier songs were somehow separated from the poppier ones but, all in all, this is by far my favorite thing Gaga has ever released.