After almost four years of being starved for a new collection of Lady Gaga originals, Mother Monster delivers a shining album that was worth the wait: Chromatica.
Where and what is, Chromatica, you may ask? As anything Gaga does, it’s an invention from own her creative mind, but it represents, in her words, “this beautiful abstraction of my perception of the world/opening my creative world to another realm”.
This is a huge difference from the last Gaga release, 2016’s super-stripped back Joanne. While listeners got to experience the Stefani Germanotta side of Gaga with that album, Chromatica provides the dichotomy of both of her worlds, person and persona. This is evident by the lyrics on the album, often contrasting each other, but as a whole, similar, as they represent the full spectrum of natural human emotion.
This record is heavy on the bass drop and dance beats, making it perfect for dancing the night away in a nightclub, surrounded by closest friends. However, it’s pretty difficult to take the deeper emotions of insecurity, combined with a fear of failure, that she continuously talks about and make it something you want to get up and move to instead of wallow in.
Such is sung in ‘Plastic Doll’, where she reveals just how much of a facade her public persona can be, “why is she crying, what’s the price tag? Who’s that girl, Malibu Gaga? Looks so sad, what is this saga?” (More on this topic later, but am I the only one who is reminded of the ‘Poker Face’ alliteration with the robotic-sounding “I’m-i-e-i-e-i-e-i-e-i-e-i p-plastic do-o-o-o-oll” lyric?)
For this record, the best song, lyrically, is the iconic duet with Elton John, ‘Sine From Above’. With an unexpected, upbeat drum solo at the end, it seems like a musical mirage is being hand-delivered from the heavens. Note the clever spelling of the title as well; she doesn’t spell it as “sign” on purpose, instead using the word, “sine”, a music waveform, further enhancing the song’s meaning that music did literally save her life. Her and Elton have been very open in the past about their struggles when they were young and just learning life, so while this doesn’t come as a surprise to hear, it’s still inspiring to see how they landed feet-first on top by using their talent as an outlet.
‘Sour Candy’, the collaboration with music’s newest girl group force, Blackpink, does admittedly sound a lot similar to Katy Perry’s ‘Swish Swish’, as fans so notably pointed out on social media upon first listen. However, it’s a treat that Gaga doesn’t just make them a feature on the song; they are just as much an equal part, if not even a little more, of the entire track. Including Blackpink’s native language throughout it also enforces the fact that pop music is for everybody, and there’s enough space in the industry for all of them to thrive.
Though of course, we can’t forget the lead singles, ‘Stupid Love’ and ‘Rain on Me’; two perfect selections to introduce you to Chromatica, without giving too much away, but still being obvious that you’re in for a really fun treat when you have the chance for a full listen. The collaboration with Ariana Grande is the best she’s ever had, flawlessly blending two powerhouse vocals of the female pop leaders of today and tomorrow.
As a young woman myself currently navigating her career and life in a big city, Free Woman was my favorite, delivering a feminist anthem I didn’t even know needed so badly from her. It never fails to surprise me how Gaga can make a song seem like it was written just for me, but that’s what secures her number one spot in my heart, time and time again.
‘911’ sounds like it could fit right alongside the title track on 2013’s Artpop, much to the delight of fans that thought the critical review of that album didn’t garner the artistic respect it deserved. With cutting lyrics such as “my biggest enemy is me, ever since day one”, it’s definitely one of the catchiest on the album, where you remember the words pretty much instantaneously, or could find yourself singing along to it hours later without realizing it got stuck in your head. The same goes for ‘Replay’ with the constant first letter repetition, Artpop digital sound, and possibly even an allude to one of her earlier works, the song ‘Monster’, with the lyric, “the monster inside you is torturing me, your monsters are torturing me”. ‘Enigma’ probably isn’t a coincidence either, possibly named after her ultra-successful Las Vegas residency that she’s been busy selling out nightly since her last album release. On ‘Love Me Right’ (The Target exclusive track), she alludes to her Netflix documentary, titled after her short physical statute, five foot two (“I’m tall in high heels, but I am only five foot two”).
With Chromatica, she’s constantly looping back to her past self, serving some major Gaga throwback vibes, but with a fresh take. The message is crystal clear: as obvious as it is that Gaga has evolved in her voice and sound, she’s still the same artist exciting, innovative, gifted artist we fell in love with back in 2008.
At a time in our society with so much unrest and depressing realities, Chromatica is Gaga’s own positive, freeing world, that now thankfully, we get to live in too.