By Caroline Meister
The first things most people think of when they hear the name “Lady Gaga” are meat dresses, “Poker Face,” and 2008-2010 (for me, my middle school years). Perhaps that’s the reason I was so surprised when I finished listening to her latest, Joanne, released October 21st, 2016. To be fair, I haven’t really kept up with the popstar since the release of the single “Applause” off her 2013 album, Art Pop. Joanne marks her transformation into an impressive vocalist with a sense of musicality and just a dash of decade jumping variety.
What do I mean by this? Each song on the album appears to fit into a different era of pop, some sounding like 80’s power ballads (“Million Reasons”), the groovy 70’s (“Come to Mama”, “Angel Down”, and “Perfect Illusion”), and a hybrid of 90’s singer/songwriters (“Hey Girl”). Not only does Gaga embody a wide variety of eras, but she also spans several genres, although one she does skip over is her preferred genre of pop. Country, jazz, alternative, acoustic, and techno are just a few of the many genres this album covers, all within the span of 14 songs. My favorite tracks on the album are (in no particular order): “Angel Down (Work Tape)”, “Million Reasons,” and “Perfect Illusion.”
Although I couldn’t exactly pinpoint one consistent theme throughout Joanne, the themes of feminism and universal love stood out to me the most. In “Hey Girl,” she sings “we can make it easy if we lift each other,” which refers to the tendency of girls to tear each other down instead of supporting each other, especially when boys are involved. As for universal love, perhaps the song that best resembles this is the very Beatles-like “Come to Mama,” in which she croons “stop throwing stones at your sisters and brothers.” This song, ironically enough, reminded me of the Beatles’ hit, “Come Together,” which essentially has the same message. I can’t help but wonder if this was intentional on Gaga’s part.
Another interesting facet of the album is the amount of people who collaborated on the record. Beck, Florence Welch (of Florence + The Machine), Mark Ronson (“Uptown Funk”), Kevin Parker (Tame Impala), and Sir John Misty are a few collaborators on the album. To be honest, going into writing this review, I wasn’t super excited to listen to Joanne, as Gaga’s normal fare isn’t really my type. After listening to the first song, however, she quieted my doubts. In fact, Joanne might be one of my favorite releases of 2016. Perhaps what I was most impressed with was Gaga’s seamless transition. Unlike many young stars before her (Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, etc.), she doesn’t feel the need to radically change her image in order to mature. She just does it, and if Joanne was the only side-effect, then I can’t wait for all young pop stars to mature (take notes, kids).