Lady Gaga’s Comeback Album: Joanne
by The Milton Measure on Friday, November 18th, 2016
Until recently, many believed Lady Gaga to be just another forgotten pop artist in the mix of come-and-go musicians who once dominated the Top 40 Countdown. In an industry where most pop artists release an album a year, Lady Gaga’s two-year gap since Artpop in 2014 seemed like an eternity for her Little Monsters. Lady Gaga’s new 11-song album, Joanne, came out on October 21, 2016 and is arguably her best album yet, bringing back the forgotten pop artist’s relevancy.
Joanne features a variety of genres, including soft rock, reggae, and to the surprise of many Gaga fans, a few country songs. In her Artpop era, Gaga included controversial songs such as “Aura” and “Jewels N’ Drugs” that featured experimentation with Middle Eastern electronica and trap-rap. During a time when cultural appropriation was becoming a commonly discussed issue, Gaga was looking for a change in her music career.
In Joanne, Mama Monster trades her disco glam for a modest acoustic guitar to focus more on the “un-stripped” aspects of the music, lyrics, and vocals. If anyone has the vocal capability to make this transition, it’s Lady Gaga. During the 87th Academy Awards in 2015, Gaga blew her audience and millions of viewers away with a tribute to The Sound of Music. In 2016, Gaga performed a tribute to her hero, David Bowie, including a whirlwind of his greatest hits, highlighting her vocal prowess and even, as suspected by some of her fans, making a case for herself as his successor. Both artists are dazzling pop musicians famous for their eccentricity and ambition, so the connection between the two is not lost.
When Gaga released Joanne this October, what the Little Monsters really wanted to know was, who is the namesake on the album’s title? Besides being one of Lady Gaga’s own middle names (Gaga’s full name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta), Joanne was the name of Gaga’s aunt. According to an NME article from September 2016, her father’s sister died of lupus at the age of 19, 12 years before Gaga was born. Joanne’s deep influence on Gaga’s life is clear not only in this album but throughout Gaga’s musical career. This same article reveals that Gaga once published a poem, which her aunt wrote before her death, in the album booklet of her first album, The Fame. In a News article from 2010, Gaga explained that she hoped to “finish [her aunt’s] business,” a mission that saved Gaga herself from a cocaine addiction which nearly killed her.
Besides her dedication to Joanne, family is the overarching theme throughout Gaga’s album. In a Rolling Stone interview published in October 2016, Gaga explained, “These are stories about my family, my sister, my father and his sister, my mom’s family, my relationships with men, my failures.” The title track “Joanne” was the product of a conversation Gaga had with her producer when he asked her, “You can write about anything, but what do you have to write about?” Naming the album after her aunt emphasized Gaga’s message about moving forward and believing in yourself, no matter how difficult those tasks may seem.
Some people excited about the album see it as Gaga’s comeback. Others argue that Gaga never needed something to comeback from. Because the album is less centered on a single style, there is a noticeable lack of one smashing hit. Still, the highest ranked singles from the album, “Million Reasons” and “Perfect Illusion” rose to number 57 and 15 on the United States’ Billboard Hot 100, respectively. No matter what effect this new album may have on Gaga’s music career, the process of creating Joanne was introspective and positive for Gaga. Gaga told People this year, “Joanne is a progression for me. It was about going into the studio and forgetting that I was famous.”
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