It’s only right that one of the last Music Monday’s of the year is dedicated to my queen of life, my idol and inspiration for a lot of the creative things I’ve done in my life so far.
Gaga’s sixth studio album was a whirlwind of emotions and had a life of its own as the release was postponed. Gaga, like many other artists battled with the ethical implications of releasing art in such a dark time that is so heavily saturated with news coverage of Covid-19.
When writing this, I found myself lost of words at many points. This album means so much to me, so I want to do it justice.
The album is a catharsis through mental illness and that is its most unique quality. The juxtaposition of lyrical content and sonic elements work so well together. Where the lyrics need space to breath, the beat allows it, other times the beat elevates the power of the words Gaga sings. The collaborations on the album are perfectly situated to create the catharsis and exploration of self reflection.
If Gaga wasn’t already an EDM icon, she has solidified her place in the genre with this album.
Track by Track
The first of three orchestral interludes – as described by Rolling Stones publication as ‘palette cleansers’.
Composed by Gaga and Morgan Kibby of M83
A 26 piece orchestra create perfect harmony providing a filmic atmosphere.
This is the perfect first lyrical track to open the record.
The fast paced drum beat builds to a punchy dance beat that carries through alongside iconic old school house vocal riffs and licks.
The repetition of ‘freak out, freak out, freak out’ emphasizes the spiral of literally, freaking out. The song is brilliantly paced and Gaga’s stripped back piano version of this song, performed at the 2020 VMA’s truly captured the layers to this song.
Incredible vocal ranges and expressions explored.
Rain on Me ft. Ariana Grande
It verges on R&B then throws you right back into pure pop. That’s how I’d describe the song, pure pop.
Ariana’s mid vocal range is so smooth and controlled, it pairs so well with Gaga’s growls and husks of her low range, especially in the spoken word/rap.
There’s a reason the song won awards and was praised by so many, because it’s message is so transcendental in the realm of accepting the cards you’ve been dealt and saying, ‘I’d rather have gone through this and have survived to tell the story, than to be totally overcome and let it take over’.
‘I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive’ – honestly, the most perfect message for 2020. Why Gaga postponed the release is beyond me as it as been so necessary for me this year.
I think the heavy dance element of the music helped elevate this album, bringing it out of the depths of depression, anxiety and other health issues that Gaga has faced
This track felt very evolutionary for Gaga, for she very rarely subscribes to a specific gender in her lyrics.
Free Woman celebrated femininity with messages of strength, freedom of expression and owning who you are.
This a vulnerable moment that Gaga is sharing with us. The stark different between her relationship with fame in the early days, to now is palpable.
She sings, ‘you love the paparazzi, love the fame, even you you know it causes me pain’.
This strikes me as a commentary on a love interest’s fascination with the level of fame Gaga has and how she doesn’t need to indulge in it 24 hours a day. She doesn’t want to party non-stop anymore, whereas for someone new to the situation, it can be so impressive and enticing to indulge in it all the time.
‘When I’m sad, you just wanna play’
The most well known of the interludes has to be this one, the transition into 911 has been used in so many memes and tik tok.
*check out my detailed analysis of the 911 music video and the film
The Colour of Pomegranates that inspired the video*
– Lyrically sublime
Gaga further explores the reality of being in the spotlight and belonging to everyone, using the analogy of a plastic doll, like Barbie – a character who Gaga has somewhat channeled in an avant-garde way. The blond hair, slim frame, collaborations in high fashion.
The monotone, techno dialogue at the beginning could be the sound of a doll with talking functions.
The heavy production by BloodPop and Skrillex works so well for the full bodied, bold chorus.
Sour Candy ft. BlackPink
Gaga always includes one track that utilizes a metaphor to explore sexuality and for Chromatica, this is that song.
The ‘sour candy’ trope symbolizes someone who is very sweet on the outside but can cut sharp from within when necessary. The theme works well in conjunction with previous themes of plastic dolls and Alice in Wonderland.
The South Korean Girl group; Blackpink add a unique twist to the mainstream pop element with their sections sung in a mixture of English and Korean.
I love that Gaga lets the BlackPink girls sing first, it’s a true sign of a professional artist who knows what works sonically.
‘I might be messed up but I know what’s up’.
On first listen through the album, this was my favourite song. I love the idea of the ‘enigma’ something or someone with mystery surrounding them. This perfectly encapsulates Gaga – an artist that defied the limitations of the many fixed boxes people like to tick.
‘Is what I am seeing real, or is it just a sign?
Is it all just virtual?’
Representative of a culture that lives predominantly online now and how reality and illusion can be one.
There is a real sense of fantasy
The intro sonically creates the notion of being inside Gaga’s mind, with the muted vocal echoing transitioning into the full bodied audio.
In the intro I spoke about how the sonic elements work with the lyrical content and this song is a perfect example. Gaga sings:
‘Scratch my nails into the dirt and pull me out again’
and the record scratches. It’s these small details that support the narrative and elevate the vision.
There is a disco vibe that
‘Your monsters torture me’ – the album includes many references to the singer’s career and this is a retrospective.
This may be my favourite interlude. The strings are so controlled in their classical phrases, they draw bridges, then walk elegantly over them to reach the next. The flux of volume creates a disorientation that works so well for the intro of Sine From Above featuring Elton.
Sine From Above ft. Elton John
The longest track on the record at 04:05 is like a dance hymn that could be sung at a Pop church.
Upon seeing the track list, I wondered how Elton’s vocals would work with this dance record. I should never have doubted it as their previous collaborations have worked beautifully.
The hyper break down of the beat and vocals at the end is so chaotic, reminiscent of an unravelling or a transcendental, religious experience.
This song continues the spiritual healing through music theme. Gaga really exploits her vocal range here, going to an E5 in head voice is
We here a rare falsetto throughout too which is different for Gaga.
I think this is my ultimate favourite song on the album, purely for the iconic sonic qualities and the way it makes me feel like I’m walking down a runway serving fierce Marsha P. Johnson confidence realness, whilst also celebrating Pride down a canal in Amsterdam, which was not possible this year due to the pandemic, but this song was a substitute.