Album Review: Lady Gaga - Chromatica

Album Review: Lady Gaga - Chromatica | Random J Pop

After amassing fans and winning everybody over with The Fame, The Fame Monster and Born This Way, things turned sideways with Artpop. Then a bitch was all the way upside with Joanne. Neither were terrible albums, but they presented a shift that not everybody was ready for nor expected at the times of their releases. Which is crazy considering that Lady Gaga's thing from the start was always that anything goes and that she could change her shit as she pleased without warning. And we'd had artists like Madonna who was clearly an influence of Gaga's, who had already set a precedent that every single thing can change between albums. But, still folk weren't ready. So Chromatica had to be a return to form. Not just musically for her lil' Monsters and critics, but an emotional return to form. Joanne was an album from a woman who was broken and needed to be put back together again. This is what makes the Chromatica visuals of Gaga having this cyberpunk aesthetic which sees her put together with machinery both metaphorical and literal. Especially with her also having fibromyalgia.

The problem with Chromatica is that whilst is solves one problem, it completely ignores the other. Gaga is back to a look which is far more synonymous with the Gaga most are familiar with. But the sound kinda is, but also isn't at the same time.

Gaga isn't fully back together again.
Album Review: Lady Gaga - Chromatica | Random J Pop

Chromatica feels more interesting to me as a concept than it does musically, because Chromatica to me is two things. Chromatica is a return to the Lady Gaga that many missed on Joanne and wanted more of from Artpop. Lady Gaga is back to a focused aesthetic of colourful wigs and zany looks. Creating this world in which Lady Gaga is a larger than life character and an avatar for acceptance. But Chromatica is also a form of armour. Lady Gaga bared some of her self on Artpop and then gave more on Joanne, yet people didn't take to it too well. They wanted "Bad Romance" Gaga. They wanted "Born This Way" Gaga. So Chromatica is a way for Lady Gaga to still fulfil her personal need to expel her truth and pain through her music, whilst wrapping it in a package that will please those who tapped out at Artpop and, or Joanne. It's clever in a sense, but it doesn't always work, and Lady Gaga may find that she's backed herself into a corner by not providing an actual solution to her problem.

I admire what Chromatica represents, and that it allows me to understand Lady Gaga in a way that I didn't before. Chromatica actually provides a great deal of context to the Gaga we got on The Fame, The Fame Monster and Born This Way. My issue with Chromatica is that the music isn't reflective of what I believe Chromatica should have sounded like. Maybe that's my fault and my own projecting. But the music isn't as interesting to me as the story being told or the vision.

The music on Chromatica feels so basic, and not in an endearing or refreshing kind of way. Lady Gaga is taking us through a journey lyrically, but it doesn't always feel like Chromatica producer and Gaga's partner in crime BloodPop is doing so sonically. There are instances where Lady Gaga and BloodPop completely align, such as album opener "Alice", "Stupid Love" (which feels really out of place), "Rain On Me" and closer "Babylon". But for the most part it's just 'Now That's What I Call House music 20'. Janelle Monáe did a far better job of what BloodPop and Gaga attempted here with Metropolis, The ArchAndroid and The Electric Lady. Each song felt like its own story, with the music of the song being like a score to what Janelle was singing. No one song was just a beat with Janelle over the top, which is how I feel about the bulk of Chromatica. I do wonder if the Chromatica concept was something which came later in the album production when Gaga started to think of how the album would be represented visually, because that's the vibe that I get.

Album Review: Lady Gaga - Chromatica | Random J Pop

There is clearly a trust that Lady Gaga has in BloodPop, given that he produced every song on the album with one exception, and also executive produced and A&R'd the whole thing off the back of his heavy involvement in Joanne. Lady Gaga seems to have relinquished a lot of control to BloodPop to help steer and guide her. Because of that trust, Lady Gaga would've followed BloodPop anywhere. She's never seemed like the kind of artist to shy away from taking a risk, so BloodPop had the opportunity to really take Lady Gaga out into the stratosphere. To really drive his fist through Pop, House and Dance music to create something unique and truly special to score her story. 'What would a Dance or a House record sound like in Chromatica?' should have been the nucleus of this album, as opposed to 'Let's just do generic House and Dance'. There's nothing wrong with taking an existing style and slotting an artist into it, but it needs to feel like it started with the artist and that they are so intertwined into the sound that they are the sound. Jessie Ware's What's Your Pleasure? works because the songs aren't just her singing over Dance and Disco cuts. She is literally the embodiment of the songs, and she is in the DNA of every song. Rina's Sawayama works because every sound on the album and every song feels like an extension of her. Britney Spears' Oops!...I Did It Again worked because Britney was the ingredient to making that style of Pop work as well as it did. Even with the genius that was Max Martin at the helm, those songs wouldn't have popped without Britney. On Chromatica, Lady Gaga is just singing over House records and nothing more. It's a far cry from the Gaga who had cultivated a whole sound with RedOne and was creating out-there, zany Pop records which weren't afraid to zig-zag and take listeners wherever the fuck she and RedOne wanted to take them. There's a real disconnect between Gaga and the music on Chromatica, even though the music here is of a style which should fit her like a glove.

So much of Gaga's melodic sensibility feels watered down on this album to the point where the songs don't feel like they're uniquely hers. I couldn't imagine anybody else singing a song like "Poker Face", "LoveGame", "Paparazzi", "Bad Romance", "Scheiße", "Aura" or "G.U.Y". But I could imagine many artists who could sing songs from this album and do them far better than Gaga did. Azealia Banks would've run circles around "Alice". "Rain On Me" would have worked better as just an Ariana Grande song. "Sour Candy" would have worked better as just a BlackPink song. "Plastic Doll" sounds like a Charli XCX song and she would have owned the shit out of it.

The production on all of the songs is great. The problem is that they don't push Lady Gaga into any particular direction. Nor do they hold her up. They just keep her...stationary. The only song on the album which feels like this perfect symbiosis of Gaga and the music is "Replay", which is tellingly the only song that BloodPop didn't produce.

BloodPop should have framed the songs in a way which highlights the lyrics and really paints a picture with sounds as to what this world of Chromatica is. BloodPop had a chance to really take House, Dance and Pop, fuck it up and twist it into whatever he wanted with one of the world's biggest Pop stars who was willing to bare it all. But instead he just gave us basic Dance and House records and not much else, with an artist who didn't even seem to always be in the head space to match the energy. And even with this, BloodPop kinda did the bare minimum. If you're going to do a Dance and House album, go all the fucking way with it. Release a continuous mix version of the album so Monsters can have a 40 minute non-stop rave. Extend the song lengths. "Alice", "Rain On Me" and "Babylon" all should have been 6 minute long Club bangers. The demo version of "Free Woman" is a better Dance record than the final version we get here. Yes, the Chromatica interludes are lovely, but they don't really add anything. They're not the vital connective tissue between the songs that Lady Gaga seem to think they are. If Chromatica was gonna be a dance album, then it should've just been a lean 11 track Dance album. Madonna had already laid that cheat sheet out with Confessions on a Dance floor.

Album Review: Lady Gaga - Chromatica | Random J Pop

Chromatica is one of Lady Gaga's more consistent albums, but is also one of her least exciting. Artpop was all over the place, but at least it took you on a ride. Joanne wasn't the Lady Gaga album many people wanted, but at least it gave something that Gaga had never given us prior, and she may not have ended up doing A Star is Born without it.

The issue with Chromatica is that it feels at odds. Lyrically it's personally progressive for Gaga, but the sound...not so much. I honestly would like this album more if it were released as an instrumental album. Because it's not that the songs are bad, they just don't deliver when paired with Lady Gaga. It feels like the sound of the album was born out of a sense of 'Gaga doing House. YAAAAAAS. The gays will love it.' And that's it. There was no conscious effort made to really frame what Gaga had to say. No sense that the music was built around her.

Chromatica should have been a Lady Gaga Dance album. Not a Dance album featuring Lady Gaga.

👍🏾 Consistent.
👎🏾 A pretty flat listening experience, which is nowhere near as exciting as it had the potential to be.


Album highlights:
■ Alice 🔥
■ Rain On Me
■ Plastic Doll 🔥
■ Replay 🏆
■ Babylon