Album Review: Lady Gaga – Joanne

By Tanner Bidish, Contributor

[Interscope; 2016]

Rating: 6/10

Key Tracks: “Joanne,” “Hey Girl,” “Come to Mama”

Lady Gaga is nothing short of a pop icon. She’s shocked the entertainment world with the power and unpredictability of her live performances, made statements clad in raw meat, advocated for LGBT rights and started a career in acting. Gaga’s influence extends far beyond music, invigorating both pop and art. Media consumers have come to learn that what should be most excepted from Lady Gaga is the unexpected. Her latest album, Joanne, falls short of this mark.

Joanne is strongest in Gaga’s vocal performances. Whether it’s a full-on belt or a soft falsetto, Gaga can do it all and this record will remind you of that. Influences in country and folk have Gaga showcase the subtle twang her voice controls. The Americana bop that is “John Wayne” is a good example. The aforementioned country influences are Joanne’s other great strength.

The track shines for its authenticity. It’s an acoustic farewell to Lady Gaga’s late aunt, for whom the album is named. One of the Father John Misty collaborations, “Sinner’s Prayer,” rejoices in the folk authenticity. Meanwhile the other, “Come to Mama,” pays homage to ’50s soul. “Hey Girl” follows up with good momentum. Funky synths with playful piano back the duet between Gaga and Florence Welch (of Florence + the Machine) smoothly. It’s a treat to hear the two together.

The genre influences are pleasant on Joanne, but it’s perhaps its biggest weakness also. The blend of roots isn’t strict through the album. As a result, the work feels a bit incoherent. “Perfect Illusion” jams as a single, but in the context of Joanne, it becomes distracting and flat. Likewise, the social commentary on “Angel Down” feels a bit lost because of the delivery. The heavy pop songs feel more like filler tracks, especially “Dancin’ in Circles.” Songs about masturbation aren’t revolutionarily freeing or even exciting anymore; this number feels like it was tacked on to be reminiscent of the evocation of Gaga’s early career; it doesn’t work here.

Joanne isn’t structured to hold your attention. A few of the jams are good body for fall playlists, but listening to the record in its entirety isn’t more than a one-time occurrence. Sadly, Lady Gaga’s latest doesn’t captivate like her other work. However, the country highlights are worthwhile.

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