As a massive fan of Lady Gaga, this review is bound to be biased. However, no one can deny that this refreshing change to authentic country music hasn’t come as a pleasant surprise. This move to a country sound in her brand new album Joanne was supposedly inspired by her imagining of a regular girl from the country (cue hilarious Alaska Thunderf**k video which you can find here) having a deep human understanding and connection to the honesty of the lyrics.
The album is dedicated to her Aunt Joanne, a sexual assault survivor, who passed away at 19. The albums explore emotions profoundly linked to her death and the impact on her family. Another source of inspiration came from her acting career where she has been starring in the popular TV show American Horror Story; in this role Gaga professed she rediscovered the “art in darkness” and this feeling of dark but honest sentiment is definitely something that permeates the album.
The country sound somehow merges perfectly with Gaga’s well-known punchy pop and it all serves to enhance her vocal prowess and talent. The first track “Diamond Heart” really packs a punch and is, like most of the album, devoid of the decorous bells and whistles that pervaded her earlier work. As a stylistically and sonically varied record, the excitement doesn’t end there. “A-YO”, “Dancin’ In Circles” and “Perfect Illusion” stand out as key tracks that up the tempo and remind us of Lady Gaga’s amazing ability to bash out dance floor hits.
Amongst this diverse array of thrilling dance beats are some raw soulful ballads that see Gaga truly stripped back. “Million Reasons” echoes the rich emotion of her one-off single “’Til It Happens To You” (you can find a link to the compelling performance of this at the Oscar’s here) written for hard-hitting documentary The Hunting Ground about sexual-assault survivors. Co-written with country music writer extraordinaire Hillary Lindsey, “Million Reasons” is a bare-boned ballad that is set to reach the top 10 before long.
The album features collaborations with a multitude of talented artists including; Mark Ronson, Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, however only Florence is the only collaboration that has made itself especially known. Not a match made in heaven you may think, and though it isn’t quite perfect, in the track “Hey Girl” their voices compliment each other wonderfully and the track they’ve created is vibrant and powerful.
This new Lady Gaga isn’t too far removed from the meat-wearing, Kermit-the-Frog-exhibiting Gaga of previous years, her music maintains a quirkiness despite it’s rawer central topic. Nevertheless, in Joanne she exposes a far more human side to her personality, and it definitely suits her.