By: Brenna Mata
Lady Gaga’s long awaited and highly anticipated sixth studio album Chromatica is an adventurous journey through healing – mentally and spiritually. Chromatica is much different than that of its predecessor album from 2016, Joanne, which was geared towards a more “stripped-down” sound, a sound that Gaga fans didn’t see coming. But fear not, she has come back (very dramatically I must say) to her dance pop roots. In a recent interview with Apple Music, Gaga explains that she had to embrace her own struggles before she felt free enough to start dancing again. “It turns out if you believe in yourself, sometimes you’re good enough. I would love for people that listen to this record to feel and hear that.”
At first listen, Lady Gaga proves to be greater than “good enough” in her dance utopia of Chromatica. It is opened with ‘Chromatica I’ which is featured in two more parts of the record that are all accompanied by an array of cinematic string arrangements. This cinematic effect heightens the Chromatica experience by making you feel as if you’ve been transported to the fictional world as seen in Gaga’s music video for ’Stupid Love.’
’Stupid Love’ was the first released single off of Chromatica that gave us a glimpse into a new and exhilarating Lady Gaga era. A world in an “extra-terrestrial desert” as NME explains, filled with Gaga’s clan of dancers. If the visuals weren’t enough, wait until the actual song begins and you’ll be up on your feet in seconds! It’s electro-pop madness about undeniably wanting someone’s love regardless if it seems like a “stupid” idea.
The many influences of disco, techno, house and modern 80s inspired pop lasts through out the entirety of the record and all in intriguing ways. Arising from the first section of Chromatica is the club-esque jam ‘Alice’, which references Alice in Wonderland. The message behind this song has more depth that its “I’ll keep looking for Wonderland” theme. Gaga emphasizes that finding that “Wonderland” entails searching for a happiness in life and being unsure of where you’re going, but at least you get up and try.
Track 4 is arguably one of the best Lady Gaga songs ever created and possibly one of the finest collaborations of the year. ‘Rain On Me’ features fellow pop superstar: Ariana Grande. This is a pop culture enthusiast’s dream, two powerhouse voices in one euphoric track. There’s pop perfection everywhere from the two dancing side-by-side in the futuristic music video to the funky drumming pattern that dubs it as an ideal club song.
The last two tracks in the first section of Chromatica go hand in hand with each other (at least from what I gathered from the lyrics). ‘Fun Tonight’ is an uplifting song that contradicts its title as it’s about being caught in a toxic relationship and in fact not having fun at all. It gives off a bittersweet moment of realization of being down on your luck but slowly coming to terms with it. Gaga’s vocals can really be heard here in terms of emotion. ‘Free Woman’ is a feel good power anthem for staying inspired and motivated. It reminds you that you don’t need to have somebody to actually be somebody in terms of a relationship. Everything is of course open for interpretation in each track, but Lady Gaga explains how she was sexually assaulted by a music producer and that it compounded all of her feelings towards life. “[‘Free Woman’] is me going ‘I no longer am going to define myself as a survivor, or victim of sexual assault. I just am a person that is free, who went through some fcked-up shit.’”
From there we are presented with ‘Chromatica II’ that transitions the listener to the second section of Chromatica with a suspenseful and troublesome arrangement. Following it is ‘911’, a robotic and monotone track. It’s a bit anticlimactic for my taste but I can respect it for what it is. ‘Plastic Doll’ and ‘Enigma’ will be filling up the playlists of club DJ’s which makes sense because they are produced by BloodPop and Skrillex.
K-Pop girl group BLACKPINK are also featured on the trance-like ‘Sour Candy.’ Its heavy bass and edgy lyrics paint a very vivid image in my imagination: synchronized dancing cutting scenes from BLACKPINK to Lady Gaga and her dancers with disco balls and pink splattered matching outfits. Before the second section comes to an end we are given a disco masterpiece, ‘Replay.’ Every second of this track is immaculate and has hints of disco and techno sounds. I imagine some intense choreography to this on tour.
The final interlude ‘Chromatica III’ transcends us into an unknown yet a peaceful area of Chromatica. Blissful might even be a better adjective for it, as the legendary Elton John makes a surprising feature on ‘Sine From Above’, which might be Gaga’s most personal song. She references her mother multiple times about finding a “sign” to keep moving forward in life, because there’s more meaning to it than what can be seen. Elton John’s voice harmonized with Gaga’s sounds like a natural fit even with its glimmering beat that isn’t the norm for him.
‘1000 Doves’ reaches a content and joyous state of mind, a theme that has played on through the tracks but shines the most here. “Lift me up, give me a start, ‘cause I’ve been flying with some broken arms” is such a longing feeling for hope. It’s followed by ‘Babylon’ the final track of the journey through Chromatica. Bass-filled, 80s disco vibes, an accompanying choir and a glorious saxophone. “Battle for your life, Babylon” really wraps up an important message to consider for this album, that your life is your life and you control how you feel and what you do, and there’s a lot of power to that.
Chromatica is a beautifully crafted concept album that needs to be heard in its entirety, no shuffle necessary. The production of it all wears many hats in terms of its use of electronic subgenres and 80s pop inspiration. It holds a perfect balance in delivering a story while simultaneously producing some of the best pop music. In an interview with Paper Magazine, she exclaimed that “I’ll do whatever it takes to make the world dance and smile. So if you’re in pain and listening to this music, just know that I know what it’s like to be in pain.” Thank you Lady Gaga for sharing your Chromatica journey with us.