For her fifth album, Lady Gaga has side stepped into yet another genre. Leaving behind the gaudy disco of 2013’s ARTPOP and the smooth 2014 jazz collaboration with Tony Bennett for the country twang of the deep south. Gaga remixes all the usual tropes of the Bible Belt, trying out different flavours of musical vintage, but never truly embodying the country genre.
The album’s two lead singles are arguably the two worst songs on the album. ‘Perfect Illusion’s 80’s synths and fist-bump drumbeat are unlikable from the beginning, but by the time we reach the last chorus’ boy band regurgitated key change, the song is unbearable. ‘Million Reasons’ is quite possibly the least interesting song Gaga has ever released. The other acoustic cut on the album, title-track ‘Joanne’, is better, as Gaga tries out her best Dolly Parton impression, while crooning about her late aunt.
Sinner’s Prayer and Come To Mama are best enjoyed as fun filler songs. The former sounds like it was pulled directly from a Spaghetti Western remake or the credits of Django Unchained. While Come To Mama could’ve been sung in a 40’s dance hall to army boys dancing with their sweethearts, the track becomes tiring around the two-minute mark.
‘Angel Down’ is a surprisingly genuine moment of social commentary, as Gaga laments the racial and sectarian violence of the US. She cries the question, “where are our leaders?”, Gaga manages to steer clear of her usual melodrama and touches on the earnest emotion and authenticity that were present in early Gaga tracks, like ‘Speechless’.
‘Hey Girl’ is a Elton John-esque keys track. Gaga and Florence Welch make a formidable pairing, having two of the most interesting voices in today’s pop music. Lyrically, ‘Hey Girl’ is a call to arms to carry each other. It’s a duet that could have been performed at a 70’s benefit concerts and could easily become the feminist anthem that had been mostly missing from Gaga’s repertoire.
‘Grigio Girls’ is an airy folk song and a bonus track that would’ve been a welcome replacement for some of the album’s less interesting numbers. With a similar theme to ‘Hey Girl’, Gaga shares the recipe for the blues: open a bottle of white wine, stick on the Spice Girls and have a bit of a cry with your best friends.
This is Lady Gaga’s most musically stripped album, and perhaps the closest she has been to her early work. Yet it is behind the masquerade of the country genre she attempts that the best and most genuine Lady Gaga tracks can be heard.
CT Rating: 5/10
Muireann O’Shea | Music Writer