The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

REVIEW: Lady Gaga – ‘Chromatica’ (Interscope)


In a sentence:

While there’s highlights aplenty, the slightly over-calculated nature of the production prevents ‘Chromatica’ from going full Lady Gaga.

Lady Gaga is the chameleon of the modern pop industry, constantly reimagining herself and becoming a cultural icon through her assertion and deconstruction of what being a pop ‘diva’ really means whilst making bold artistic choices. Audacious and camp, she has delivered several of the most notable music industry moments of the ‘00s – the famous ‘Paparazzi’ performance, for example, amongst many other meaty things of which we don’t need to be reminded, and with a slew of pop albums that both became a soundtrack of a generation and a pot of inspiration for the highest rank of kitsch. And yet, in the recent years Stefani Germanotta has had some notable transformations that diverged from the norm of Lady Gaga, who used to always be seen in full glam, always in performance, visual artistry in everyday existence.

After the slightly convoluted but notably conceptual and theatrical 2013’s ARTPOP fuelled by kitsch and postmodernism, Lady Gaga took a jazzier turn with Tony Bennett on Cheek To Cheek, only to serve us the back-to-basics Joanne in 2016 which nobody really saw coming as its acoustic, grassroots sound and introspective nature was far from her previous musical extravaganzas. And with the projected persona of A Star Is Born’s Ally, all of the allusions to Germanotta’s personal experiences with the music industry in the Bradley Cooper film, it was unclear what’s next for her.

READ MORE: Lady Gaga // ‘The Fame’ at 10 years old

So here we have Chromatica – a disco fuelled ode to a made-up planet, and a new Gaga, who’s new in the way of excavating her own personal woes and failures whilst trying to bring back that sheen of her back in the day dance pop. But the excess doesn’t feel audacious enough, there’s something missing that prevents this album from going full Gaga. Though it’s conceptually buckwild (‘Earth is cancelled’?) and has some fantastic highs, all in all it feels very slightly hollow. Is it due to the heavy, memory filled heritage of her previous work? Possibly.

Music video for ‘Stupid Love’

There are three parts to Gaga’s extra-terrestrial journey to a higher plane of existence, divided by uncharacteristic orchestral interludes that, surprisingly, land as a treat. On the first part, we have a tight squeeze between two of the most recent album’s singles ‘Stupid Love’ and ‘Rain On Me’, that have already been accepted as its highlights. And whilst ‘Free Woman’ and ‘Fun Tonight’ open us to a greater understanding of Lady Gaga’s, or rather Stefani’s, inner struggles with independence, back to back these tracks battle for attention, blending into each other. Somehow, the professional, calculated, bound-to-be-successful production of many of these tracks feel like a let down, too much of a safe bet, despite the emotional vulnerability.

The middle of the record, with its deadpan robotics of ‘911’ and ‘Plastic Doll’ feel more Gaga, as she lifelessly chants “My biggest enemy is me, pop a 911”, referencing the antipsychotic drug Olanzapine.  The dancefloor ecstasy of ‘Enigma’ and ‘Sour Candy’, the sassy collaboration with BLACKPINK, turn it up a notch, bound to have a lasting impact towards the upcoming Pride season. And yet, nothing rivals the exquisite questionability of the last part that includes an orchestrated EDM collaboration about a godly sine wave with none other than Elton John on ‘Sine From Above’ (get it?) and the classic campiness of ‘Babylon’. It’s both comforting and bizarre how wrong yet right these tracks feel. ‘Sine From Above’ might not be the most elegant of compositions – what’s a drum’n’bass breakdown doing on a song with Elton John? – but ‘Babylon’ harks back to the original Gaga of late ‘00s, and it’s both funny and fun.

Music video for ‘Rain On Me’

Maybe constantly looking for the past in things of the present is counterproductive in pop music, but one cannot shake the slightly over-calculated nature of Chromatica in its musical production. It has plenty of highs, but somehow the promised colourfulness and pizzazz of it stays in the promotional material and music videos, not meeting the musical compositions in its freaky middle. Somehow, the music on Chromatica is uncomfortably comforting, as the exhilarating splash of the brilliantly blasphemous has become the norm for her, and its newest blend feels a tad weak. But who knows, maybe time will grow Chromatica and all who doubted Lady Gaga’s newest vision will be proven wrong. Given her track record, you’d be safer not to bet against her. (7/10) (Aiste Samuchovaite)

Listen to Chromatica by Lady Gaga here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.