Lady Gaga flops with ‘Joanne’

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, October 26th, 2016 at 6:31 PM
Lady Gaga flops with ‘Joanne’ by Britton Rozzelle

“Joanne” is an album that seems entirely centered on contradictions. It moves, quite rapidly, from genres over its duration, starting with “Diamond Heart,” which sounds like it would have fit on “Born This Way,” to “Sinner’s Prayer,” a repurposed Kelly Clarkson song, back to pop without any warning. Gaga has stated that this was one of her favorite albums to make, and that’s all well and good, but it’s certainly not one of my favorite albums to listen to.

“Diamond Heart” is a fun enough introduction, a song about self-worth and being a “wild” American that lacks any real depth. “A-Yo” is equally as fun sounding as “Diamond Heart,” but much more party-centric. These two high energy songs rush right into “Joanne,” a slower, reserved and emotional ballad that’s almost offensively bland and is, unfortunately, probably the best blend of pop and country on the record.

“John Wayne” follows. Another high-energy song and probably one of the only ones I enjoyed on the album. “Dancin’ In Circles” calls back to Gaga’s range from “Aura,” on “Artpop,” which manages to merge the country-twang on the rest of the album with interesting production and pace.

The first single, “Perfect Illusion,” is without any hesitation, not a song I particularly enjoy, but it’s the most Gaga-sounding thing present. The album version does sound slightly different than the single version released in September. Some of the instrumentals are now more obvious, and her pitch has been adjusted slightly out of her almost Baritone jazz range it was before. 

“Million Reasons” is repetitious, but Gaga’s range and dedication to the vocals is apparent. Much like “Joanne,” its placement on the record is confusing, coming off of the high- energy conclusion of “Perfect Illusion.”

“Sinner’s Prayer” is my least favorite song on the album, despite the inclusion of Father John Misty. It’s the most country-sounding thing on here, but that’s not why I don’t like it. I have nothing against country; this song is just very, very boring.

“Come to Mama,” one of my favorites on the album, is a very classic-sounding rock song, sounding like something right out of the early ‘70s, managing to put Gaga’s impressive range to good use while quietly protesting current events.

“Hey Girl,” featuring Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine, is another solid track on the album, despite the almost criminal reworking of “Benny and the Jets” that introduces the song. Florence and Gaga’s voices complement each other very well and help launch this song to great heights.

“Angel Down,” a protest- track referencing the loss of Treyvon Martin in 2015, seems oddly-placed on the album, but stands out as a powerful example of Gaga’s songwriting and vocal talent, excelling on a more reserved instrumental behind her.

Following the sadness of “Angel Down” comes the party song “Grigio Girls,” which I think is supposed to be an empowering anthem, but falls flat.

The final song, “Just Another Day,” comes quite literally out of nowhere with more old-school songwriting and production, ending with a bombastic band-display featuring an entire brass section. It’s sad when the best part of a song is the end, but that’s how I feel about this one.

Half the album just falls flat, but the highs are impressive.

“Joanne” just never really finds a sense of self, and while it has a handful of solid songs, something just feels off, for lack of a better term. You can hear in Gaga’s voice that she had a lot of fun recording these songs, so I guess if you’re a fan, do your best to have fun listening. 

Britton Rozzelle is the Executive Editor for The Spectator. He can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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