Criticism | ‘Joanne’ explores Lady Gaga’s painful soul

Originally published April 5, 2019.

Lady Gaga is perhaps the most versatile singer in the contemporary pop world. Not only for his vocal range and for the weaving of the notes that he proclaims with so much skill and skill, but for having been able to create an identity in the most diverse musical currents that exist, from electro dance, through jazz and culminating, in 2016, in a folk source called “Joanne”. And even though he has come under harsh criticism for his increasingly severe and transgressive attacks when one thinks of the endorsed classicism of musical construction – see “ ARTPOP ” – he has remained faithful to his time and time. its values ​​and ideals.

His latest studio album was a game-changer as well, mainly because it was very well received by specialist critics although it disappointed some fans. It’s easy to piss off the little monsters as they eagerly awaited Mother Monster’s return to pop, but the idea here isn’t to please them, so to speak. In this new album, the artist finally allows himself to explore his inner and intimate demons in a way so simple and subtle that it is difficult not to be moved by the countless odes to his family and even to his past loves. . In “ Joanne, ” she finds herself in a bind that she can only get out of when she finally brings into play exactly what hurts her, what keeps her from moving forward, and what matters most to her: those around him.

The title of the work is not chosen at random, like all the others. If his previous compositions openly dealt with ambition, desire and creativity, here Gaga decides to rest in his lair of creation and to unravel the mysteries of a past marked by pain and trauma, especially with regard to her aunt, Joanne Germanotta. For those who did not know the name, she was the aunt the singer never met, whose tragic outcome came after being diagnosed with lupus and who is said to prevent her from using her hands, that is that is, her only working tools – after all, she was an artist. And despite the pain, her mother and Gaga’s grandmother understood that her daughter couldn’t go on living without doing what she loved.

Love the people around you. It’s essentially this premise that sums up Joanne’s sad story. And it is from there that the singer launches into a complicated territory which results in another masterpiece, so important that it becomes subject to the misunderstanding of a large part of the audience. Perhaps the song that gives its name to the title is the most touching of all – I couldn’t help but hold back my tears when I heard the composition embedded in the sweet chords of the guitar, scrutinized by the rawness of Gaga’s voice: “Take my hand. Joanne remains. Heaven is not ready for you ”. The lyrics begin with a huge impact that does not remain in a classical linearity, but develops until a climax which dialogues directly with the painful soul of the artist.

And if the record is about people, it doesn’t just remain in a nostalgic environment, allowing to create a positive and negative amalgamation of memorable and affectionate memories, affectionate disillusions and “heart problems”. This is how the main trilogy of “Joanne” emerges. Starting the saga we have “Perfect Illusion”, an assault that is essentially about a reverie taken by the lyrical ego, who strongly believed in the love of his partner, but who later realized, although too late, that everything was just a perfect illusion “; even torn, Gaga still tries to save a good feeling of what she had with this person in” Million Reasons “, an almost dreamlike abandonment that changes guitar solos in softened composition of the guitar (again) in praise for something that made her change her mind.

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It’s no surprise that she finally decides to move on. With one foot on your back and deciding that you will live life – that is, you make more mistakes that will lead you down a different path than you expected. In “John Wayne”, a much more country attack for her CD, she even uses cinematic references, like the name of the actor who serves as the inspiration for the track, to come to the conclusion that every man is a “John. Wayne ”, that is to say a dangerous philanderer. And instead of shielding yourself from possible and future love illusions that once broke your heart, you simply decide to take the plunge.

His psychological and emotional maturity emerges with “Diamond Heart”. Using and abusing her vocal skills, which remain at a splendid and clapping level mainly due to her husky and at the same time natural architecture, Gaga says she has a heart as impenetrable as a diamond, but which shines with potential to to explore. And that harshness and coldness is the result of a “cruel boy who made me stronger,” probably referring to the one he believed in, but disappointed him. The brilliance of this album is the ability to converse, in the most numerous cases, with the desires and fears of people: the fear of loving and not being reciprocal, the fear of being alone, the fear of lose those we love without making them known. .

“Angel Down” is the song that most encompasses the duality between chaos and order, hope and dismay: abruptly shifting to the deep pulse of classical piano, with some folk touches (mostly vocals) , Gaga talks about the war. Not necessarily referring to the great battles of war, but also embracing the inner crises that we all experience or will one day have, and what we feel when we realize that we will have to deal with them sooner or later, in a solitary way and that many sometimes make us give up in order to continue. And even as we seek refuge in our beliefs and prayers, the fallen angel is still there, waiting to be saved or noticed by those who, even indirectly, were responsible for the tragic fall.

To think that the disc is essentially depressive is to fall into a very external and superficial observation; the full roster is also filled with creations of reaffirmation of friendships, fellowship, and even support in places you least expect to find. If in “Hey Girl”, a duet made between Gaga and Florence Welch, he values ​​sorority and empowerment through a feminist discourse, “Come to Mama” is essentially a notorious friendly shoulder call whose main idea is to console the inconsolable.

It is undeniable that the main basis of “ Joanne ” is the sensations: whether melancholy or pleasant, worldly or transcendent, it is the people that Lady Gaga loves who turn the gears of the album, and who it. transform into an assault so intimate that it can be hard not to connect with the subtlety of the compositions and the viscerality of the lyrics that are both exciting and complex.

Rating per track:

Diamond Heart – 4/5 A-YO – 5/5 Joanne – 5/5 John Wayne – 4/5 Dancin ‘in Circles – 4.5 / 5 Perfect Illusion – 4/5 Million Raisons – 4.5 / 5 Sinner’s Prayer – 5/5 Come to Mama – 4.5 / 5 Hey Girl – 4/5 Angel Down – 5/5 Grigio Girls (released in deluxe version) -3/5 Just Another Day (released in deluxe version) – 4/5

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