Lady Gaga reclaims the dance floor with ‘Chromatica’ – album review
I’ve been deliberating for quite some time on how to approach this review, because if there’s one artist I’ll inevitably always have a slight bias towards: it’s Lady Gaga. Chromatica marks the singer’s 6th studio album, and the return to her stronghold: the dance floor. Upon first listen, Chromatica depicts a colourful, strobe-infused utopia where even taking a quick water break from dancing could result in a mysterious masked stranger taking you out back and executing you in the name of the state. The album starts off strong but, and this pains me to stay, dives head first off a cliff around two thirds of the way in.
In true uninhibited Lady Gaga style, the album is theatrical – an act in three parts – distinctly marked by three cello-heavy interludes. The first of these, the aptly-named ‘Chromatica I’, opens the album with a grandiose Hollywood-esque score that serves to set the scene and introduce the listener to the spectacle about to unfold. As the dramatics reach an adequate amount of flair, the track transitions seamlessly into ‘Alice’ – an explosive euphoric trance tune. It’s not distinctively Gaga at first, and could be mistaken for any generic radio hit after 11pm, admittedly. But as the song progresses, it’s entrancing and gets you moving enough to be out of your seat.
‘Stupid Love’ is recognisably Gaga from the first note, and reminiscent of the ‘Born This Way’ era with its catchy hooks and infectious lyricism, reinforcing her affinity for electronic pop. This is fortified further by ‘Rain On Me’, featuring instant hit machine Ariana Grande. It took a few listens to get past the slower start on this one, but once the pre-chorus rings out, it’s a full-throttle pedal-to-the-metal kind of dance anthem.
‘Free Woman’ emits an airy tropical house melody that sugar-coats the empowering message behind it; Gaga reclaiming her independence and vocalising her strength whilst simultaneously showing us the strength of her vocals. The beat drop is slightly lacklustre, but this is overshadowed by the forceful declaration of freedom and liberty. ‘Fun Tonight’ is a fitting follow-up with somber, almost a cappella-like, vocals that draw parallels to her 2011 hit, ‘Edge of Glory’, spotlighting the most vulnerable lyrics on the album.
At this point, the album is one big high-energy endorphin rush. Perfect time to maintain the fast-pace, right? Wrong. The ‘Chromatica II’ interlude kicks in with another cinematic, albeit more sinister-sounding, string arrangement to mark the start of the second act. It has to be said that the 10 second transition that then unfolds as ‘Chromatica II’ merges into ‘911’ is, without doubt, the PINNACLE of the perfect pop beat. If you can only spare just one minute in your busy life for something, listen to this transition once and then listen another five times. ‘911’ is Lady Gaga through and through, encapsulating the very synthesised melodies and staccato-like vocals she spearheaded her career with.
“Am I your type?” Gaga repeatedly asks of the listener in ‘Plastic Doll’. A song seemingly sung from the perspective of Barbie, it’s superficially upbeat but reflective of the outdated beauty standards upheld within the music industry, and ultimately rejects the objectification of women in fame. ‘Sour Candy’ is the smartest business move on the album, teaming up with K-pop girl band sensation Blackpink and therefore harnessing the power of the Little Monster fanbase with the force that is K-pop stans. It would be hard to avoid noting the obvious similarities between this slightly lazy house track and Katy Perry’s ‘Swish Swish’, however.
From this point, the album rapidly begins to lose momentum as you start to question whether you’ve already heard this beat on an earlier track – yep, I’m looking at you, ‘Enigma’. I found myself hastily skipping through this space filler, with no regrets, to get to ‘Replay’. A slow-burner, it’s redeeming where its predecessor falls short. The chorus is adrenalising at its peak and an electrifying whirlwind of synths. This comes to an abrupt end, however, with the third and final instalment of the interludes: ‘Chromatica III’, sonically symbolising the denouement of our plot.
In a shocking turn of events that no-one would’ve placed on their 2020 bingo card, Gaga calls upon Elton John for a dance ballad duet on ‘Sine From Above’. The Elton John. On a dance track. The song takes a while to build up, aided by a crescendo of drums, but it’s the last 30 seconds that are standout as the song closes off to a drum and bass solo. To reiterate: Elton John. On a drum and bass track. ‘1000 Doves’ is another unmemorable and questionable addition to the album, the part of a show you wouldn’t mind missing for a quick toilet break, before ‘Babylon’ rounds off the album in a ‘Vogue’-like narration that feels like the closing credits of the spectacle that is ‘Chromatica’. Whilst the song is rather monotonous, it’s for this reason alone that it makes for a fitting final song.
Whilst ‘Chromatica’ doesn’t push the boundaries of pop as with Lady Gaga’s earlier works, it remains consistent with her message from the very start: just dance. The album is upbeat to the point of being cathartic, with dance as a form of escapism, making it true to its aim.
Favourite song: 911
Favourite lyric: This is my dance floor I fought for
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