The world has seen Lady Gaga transform umpteen times since she hit the scene in 2008. First there was the disco-stick-wielding New Yorker, then the meat-wearing Mother Monster, followed by the self-love preacher, the avant-garde creative, the Tony Bennett bestie, the pink-hatted folk star and, of course, Ally Maine. But now, a new Gaga has emerged — and she’s ready for her return to the dance floor.
On her highly anticipated sixth album, the Grammy winner, 34, goes full nightclub, vogueing and healing her way through life’s ups and downs. Chromatica (out now) is broken up into three acts, each separated by instrumental interludes with ever-so seamless transitions. (“Chromatica II” into “911,” in particular, is a must-hear, with a progression so smooth it should be illegal.) The 16-track record is the love child of Born This Way and Artpop, with no sign of Joanne in sight.
That said, the pain that followed the death of Joanne Germanotta, the aunt who inspired Gaga’s 2016 album, remains present. On the opener, “Alice,” the pop star is “looking, looking, looking for Wonderland” while down on her luck, asking, “Could you pull me out of this alive?” Fortunately, things start to turn around as the album progresses. By the time the closer, “Babylon,” rolls in, Gaga confidentially sashays away from trivial gossip, commanding her Little Monsters to “battle for your life.”
On Chromatica — much of which is produced by electropop hitmaker BloodPop — Gaga enlists three collaborators: Ariana Grande, Elton John and Blackpink. She and Grande, 26, celebrate their tears rather than wiping them away on the colossal single “Rain on Me,” while John, 73, harmonizes with his good friend on the philosophical and angelic stomper “Sine From Above.” Considering Blackpink’s global success, it’s surprising that “Sour Candy,” the track on which the South Korean girl group is featured, leaves much to be desired. It samples Maya Jane Coles’ “What They Say,” rehashing the same bass line used in Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish” and Nicki Minaj’s “Truffle Butter.”
Luckily, the rest of the album disproves the misconception that Gaga reached her creative peak early on in her career. “911” is her weirdest song since 2011’s “Scheiße” (in a good way), while “1000 Doves” showcases how effortlessly she can turn her emotions into art with just a pen and paper. Her vocals are stronger than ever too, especially during the choruses of the diva-sized disco cut “Enigma” and the girl-power anthem “Paper Doll.”
It’s a shame the world is in quarantine because Chromatica is one big dance party waiting to happen.
3.5 stars (out of 4)
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