Lady Gaga is probably the last artist you would think would produce music with a western feel, but her album Joanne has gone and done just that. Gaga noticed that her musical peers had caught up with her in-your-face, oddball ARTPOP sound and instead of being a cutting edge, steak-wearing musical pioneer, she is now one among many. So, she took a page from Bruce Springsteen’s book and created a laid back, easy listening album success.
Joanne, named after Gaga’s late aunt, a sexual assault survivor who died of lupus at age 19, experiments with styles like country and folk yet again surprising her audiences with her innovative authenticity.
The glorious, boot-stomping “John Wayne” is a raunchy robo-romp. “A-Yo,” one of the album’s top hits, is a more satisfying “Shake it Off.”
The autobiographical opener “Diamond Heart” is a fascinating tryptic of Gaga doing The Killers doing Springsteen. “Joanne,” the title track, is as stylistically varied as ever. “Dancing in Circles” is a moody Latin number, while “Hey Girl,” a duet with none other than Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine, is a relatively subdued soul-funk slink, and “Come to Mama,” a glammy show tune, the penultimate Springsteen sound.
Gaga experimented with recent societal events, particularly the murder of Trayvon Martin. In “Angel Dow,” ultimately about what happens to a person after she dies, an ode to the Black Lives Matter movement, she sings, “Angel down. Why do people just stand around?”
It’s the same story on “Million Reasons,” an undeniable power ballad. “I bow down to pray,” Gaga sings at her piano. “I try to make the worse seem better.” This kind of semi-desperate negotiating will be uncomfortably familiar to anyone who has tried to will a doomed situation into something worthwhile. Her man’s already given her a million reasons to split. “But baby, I just need one good one to stay.”
Gaga’s listeners need no other encouragement to stay either. This album is a refreshing break from the overblown Born This Way and her little monsters. This time, Gaga allows more of her internal narrative and problems to shine through simple ballads, fun dance numbers and heart-wrenching choruses.