Updated: Jun 11
Special thanks to Julia Jarzyna for her artwork seen in the cover image.
Lady Gaga’s sixth studio album, Chromatica, is a disappointment. Not a ground-breaking triumph in the same vein as her early work, in particular her debut, The Fame, and its re-release, The Fame Monster, although it does manage to deliver some dance tracks that will get listeners bopping to the strong bass and electro beats. Gaga’s last studio album, Joanne, was deeply personal and not as commercial as some of her previous work. Following Joanne came her work on the soundtrack for the 2018 feature film, A Star Is Born, starring Gaga and Bradley Cooper. This was triumphant and could almost be regarded as Gaga’s unofficial sixth studio album. It certainly warranted the Oscar win for Best Original Song with the track Shallow, written by Gaga with the distinguished DJ and record producer, Mark Ronson.
A number of the tracks, especially Alice, Fun Tonight and Plastic Doll, are uninspiring and generic, even bland, as pop tunes. The first single from the album, Stupid Love, is relatively enjoyable and a great anthem for the clubs (when they open again). But it is really Gaga’s collaborative efforts on tracks like Sour Candy, featuring the Korean pop group BLACKPINK, and Sine From Above, featuring Elton John, that make the album worth listening to. However, Rain On Me, a track featuring vocals from Ariana Grande, falls flat compared to some of the other tracks, but will probably be another hit for the summer (cue eye roll).
It is a shame to see that Lady Gaga’s raw and virtuoso talents aren’t bared as candidly in Chromatica. I suppose it is a ‘fun’ album, and perhaps that’s what the whole point of the album is. Even so, it seems a far cry from the acoustic sensibilities of Joanne and the musical perfection of Cheek to Cheek, Gaga’s jazz collaboration with Tony Bennett. It also doesn’t have a clear message in the way that some of her past work does. From the angsty, pro-LGBT ballads of Born This Way to the soulful and poetic songs of Joanne, Lady Gaga has long been a musician on a mission. Chromatica seems to be little more than electro-fodder for the dance floors in comparison. One potential exception is the song Replay, with its hypnotic disco beats and disturbing lyrics, perhaps alluding to the singer's struggles with PTSD.
If you’re looking for songs to dance to and blast through your AirPods as you walk briskly through the city (or wherever), then Chromatica is probably the album for you this summer. And it is, by no means, a train wreck of an album. What it lacks is depth. It is commercial, and not much more. I’m inclined to believe Gaga is better than this. You should too.