It’s been a long road to Lady Gaga’s Chromatica but the delayed project has finally arrived. It needs no introduction. It’s Gaga’s hearty, theatrical return to pop music and we’re going to dig into it right now.
It’s a nice intro. We’re not going to add it to playlists and we’re not expected to but it swells the drama. If you’re not here for the theatrics, why are you still with Gaga on album number six?
Starting with a lyric as on the nose as, “My name isn’t Alice but I’ll keep looking for Wonderland,” is the sign we needed that this album is going to be as over-the-top as we need it to be. Alice lowers us into the ’90s house mode and sticks there. It’s a good start but you get the feeling that she’s still got plenty more to give.
The first single that told us Gaga was plunging straight back into big, bold pop. It’s a pulsating, euphoric triumph that’s dripping with The Fame Gaga nostalgia. It may not be the strongest song on the album but it’s the most straightforward introduction and one of the most joyous drops of the year.
Rain On Me (Feat. Ariana Grande)
Gaga and Grande have both owned the clubs in their own right but their combined powers bring something extra special here. Anthems about strength usually pretend to have risen from the misery but on Rain On Me they stay in it, celebrating their strength by acknowledging they’re still going through it. That turns out to make one hell of a pop song with Gaga’s otherworldly ramblings fused with Grande’s weightless vocals.
Four full songs in and the beat isn’t letting up. Free Woman turns the euphoria dial even higher as Gaga reclaims the dancefloor. “This is my dancefloor, I fought for,” she sings as she delivers the album’s mantra. On Joanne, Gaga sounded defeated at times but on Free Woman she regains her strength. It’s muscular and focussed with a beat simple enough to allow her to shine right through.
Fun Tonight dims the lights slightly but still keeps a steady beat. This one might be the most personal yet as she sings, “I can see it in your face / You don’t think I pull my weight / Maybe it’s time to say goodbye.” Gaga has spoken about her distaste for celebrity lifestyle and she actively condemns it here. If you’re looking for the Robyn-esque, emotional banger – it’s right here.
We’re entering a new phase and this was sounds darker, more brooding.
The transition from those dramatic strings into 911‘s dirty beat is incredible. Gaga has ditched the open-throat-vocals of Chromatica I in favour of something more robotic. Still, she cracks out a twisted, otherworldly melody in the chorus that might be the most sonically intriguing choice yet. This is the Bloody Mary / Heavy Metal Lover of the record and it’s a great change of pace. So far, nothing has interested me more 911.
From there, we go into Aqua territory as the beat begins to throb again. Chromatica II seems to delve into the same sort of robotics that songs like Bad Romance and Dance In The Dark played with. Skrillex and Bloodpop are on production here providing a glitchy yet lush backdrop for Gaga to give one of her softest airiest vocals. Again, the melodies on this one are excellent. She’s really yet to trip up.
Sour Candy (Feat. BLACKPINK)
This one was always going to light up the internet. While other Western popstars including K-pop stars has felt like a grab for social clout, this one feels organic and right. BLACKPINK’s delivery is hard-as-nails in the best way while Gaga comes through with a euphoric bridge to counteract it. The house beat may be the most uninteresting of the bunch but BLACKPINK and Gaga colour it with charismatic performances. Something Katy Perry didn’t quite manage on Swish Swish – the song that shares a sample with this one.
Born This Way was so dramatic that at times it felt like it was pulled from a musical. Enigma piles on the cheese much like BTW with a key-laden bridge that has Gaga howling, “We could be lovers.” Then there’s a saxophone, strings and a beat that creeps higher and higher. It’s absolutely too much and that’s the point.
Chromatica II has been brilliant so far and now she’s bringing it home strong with Replay. It’s the disco record of the bunch. The one that would’ve been at home on Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia. The beat is dizzying, showcasing some of Burns’ best work on the entire record. Gaga is scathing but playful with lines like, “The monster inside you is torturing me.”
I already know Chromatica III is going to bring the drama because there’s an Elton John feature. This intro suggests that I’m right.
Sine From Above (Feat. Elton John)
The intro effortlessly transitions into Sine From Above which starts with classic, Edge Of Glory-Gaga vocals and a glassy beat. The chorus is alien-like but the beat climbs and a rave synth creeps in before we’re hit with the most monster drop of the night. This is proper ’90s rave-pop and we needed the entire album to prepare for it. Elton John hasn’t competed in the modern pop world for a while but he sounds rejuvenated here singing, “When I was young I felt immortal.” This song is a high calory binge but it just feels so good to hear Gaga back on her bullshit, doing the absolute most.
This is the first time she creeps into mainstage EDM and it’s the weakest moment on an album that really hasn’t delivered a bad one yet. The drop is generic and far from the textured, intriguing work that has been delivered elsewhere.
A banger for the BC era. It’s not what you’d expect as an album closer but it’s bonkers and brilliant. “Strut it out ancient style,” is a lyric only Gaga could deliver with a straight face and it ensures we close out this album on a huge grin. Burns, Tchami and Bloodpop are all on this one with their best work from the layered vocals to the slinky brass. This one’s for the ARTPOP die-hards and it’s an excellent closer.
A gobsmacking return to form. The fact that Gaga has delivered this long after people stopped considering her a visionary is triumphant. It returns her back to the top of the pop throne and pulls Grande and BLACKPINK up there with her. The only criticism I have is that it’s an absolute crime that she released this while clubs around the world are closed.