Lady Gaga’s Soft Rock Album “Joanne” is Taking Over
Lady Gaga, known for her extravagant outfits and electronic pop tunes, recently released her fifth album, Joanne. Joanne, however, is not quite like anything Gaga has ever released before. Instead of avant-garde pop that is marketed as abstract art, Joanne is a mix of soft-rock, country, folk, and bluegrass with very few hints of Gaga’s pop background ever making an appearance. Instead of flashy dance songs to play in clubs, Joanne brings up thoughts of long car rides down well-known back roads at night with friends. Each of the songs on this album is the opposite of what audiences normally associate with the pop sensation. Nevertheless, despite being a new side of Gaga, this album is gaining more traction and love from her Little Monsters than her last album, Artpop, ever did.
The title of the album, Joanne, was chosen for two distinct reasons by Gaga. The first is that Gaga does not believe this album favors one direction or the other, but rather rests squarely in the middle of who she is. In an interview with The New York Times Gaga states, “It doesn’t lean necessarily in a particular direction, which is why the album title is Joanne. This is my middle name. This is the middle, on the center of me.” Joanne is not just her middle name though; it is also the name of her father’s sister, a sexual assault survivor who died of lupus the year Gaga decided she was really going to dedicate herself to her passion.
The songs on the album vary wildly in what genre they belong in individually, but yet they flow together with relative ease. From “John Wayne,” a Westworld-esque country tune mixed with pop beats, to her collaboration with Father John Misty on “Come to Mama,” an indie rock number, Gaga proves that even if songs contrast in genre, with the right voice and talent they will blend together seamlessly. Despite the new feel to her music, Gaga has not left her roots of contributing her albums to important social issues. “Angel Down,” one of the songs on the album, acts as a soulful tribute to Trayvon Martin and the Black Lives Matter movement. The real heart of this album though is “Joanne,” a soft, acoustic ballad written in honor of the singer’s late aunt. Instead of masking her voice within explosive electronic mixes, Gaga presents us with simple accompaniment and a focus on the emotive range of her voice. Overall, the songs bring Gaga into a new light and show off the singer’s amazing voice in a way listeners have never seen.
Instead of staying strictly in her comfort zone and only existing within the boundaries she knew she could thrive in, Gaga challenged herself. She created an album in a variety of genres that the media and music listeners would never have connected her with. Not only did she dare to break the walls that created the box around her, she smashed them with an album that is genuinely one of the best records of the year. Clearly trying to keep Gaga in a single box is choosing to underestimate her musical talent and ability, and let’s hope that other musicians will push themselves to go outside of their boxes as well.