A Track by Track Guide to Lady Gaga’s “Joanne”
I’m not going to lie, I really wasn’t looking forward to Lady Gaga’s new album.
After hearing “Perfect Illusion,” and realizing Lady Gaga’s pop sound from “The Fame” would not be returning on “Joanne,” I was sad.
But after a thorough (and by thorough I mean on-repeat all morning) listening, I have come to the conclusion that this album isn’t what we asked for, but it’s what Gaga needed. She needed to become herself, without the wigs and meat dresses. This album has been four years in the making, and since Gaga’s last solo album “ArtPop” did so poorly, many fans and critics highly anticipated the return.
We originally predicted that Gaga’s formative sound from “The Fame” era would make a comeback on “Joanne”, but with the release of “Perfect Illusion,” she immediately shattered all of our Disco-Stick illusions with a completely fresh and stripped down soft rock sound.
Now will that make every fan of Gaga’s happy? No it won’t, and that’s okay. This album has a little bit of everything, so for those of you who haven’t listened to it yet, we’re gonna break it down track by track to give you a feel of what Gaga’s been up to the last four years.
1. Diamond Heart
This is a really strong opener for the record. It’s an ode to Gaga’s beginnings as a go-go dancer in NYC, and she’s basically asking them to throw money on her, and even though she wants it, she’s claiming herself as a strong woman with a Diamond Heart who can get through anything.
At the beginning of this track, I was reminded of Miley’s Hannah Montana “Hoedown Throwdown” so that kind of turned me off a little. But the lyrics here are arguably some of the strongest on the record, like when she says, “I can’t wait to rev you up faster than you can say Ferrari, tearin’ up the gravel, watch you unravel, now it’s a party.” There are some really funky guitar riffs at the end though that redeem the song for me.
I was not expecting the title track to sound this soft and mellow, but the acoustic tones really complement Gaga’s voice in a way that allow her to show off her impressive af range. Gaga has said that this is about her aunt Joanne who died of Lupus at only 19 years old. It’s almost as if Gaga is channeling her father’s grief over the loss of Joanne on this.
4. John Wayne
I would expect this song from the Dixie Chicks, but not Lady Gaga. I love the beginning when she screams, and the build up to the chorus is awesome. I think this song might have the strongest lyrics on the record. This is also another track on this record that might have to do with her break-up from fiancé Taylor Kinney earlier this year.
5. Dancin’ In Circles
I. Fucking. Love. This. Song. This is the Gaga I was hoping would shine through on this record originally. It’s like “The Fame” version of “Sexxx Dreams,” which is enough of a taste of old Gaga to keep me happy. And I can see myself this weekend raging to this song.
6. Perfect Illusion
Since we’ve had about a month to listen to this one, my feelings have changed a little. Originally, I said I was disappointed in Gaga and this track, but after a really listening to it, I started seeing some of her pain after her breakup with Taylor Kinney. Although abrasive and rough at first listen, I’ve realized how catchy and groovy it is.
7. Million Reasons
Aside from “Angel Down,” this is the most emo track on the record. Like at some point during the weekend, I guarantee I will end up under a table somewhere drowning my sorrows in rosé and this song. It’s truly so beautiful and raw especially for Lady Gaga, who has always been so performative and less exposed than this.
8. Sinner’s Prayer
This track is pure country, and being from Tennessee, it sounds like home in a strange and removed way. I love the picking of the guitar, and the simplicity of the chorus. Another reason I might like this song is because one of my favorite musicians, Josh Tillman a.k.a. Father John Misty, helped Gaga write the track.
9. Come To Mama
At first listen, this track seems like a happy-go-lucky song, but it’s actually really loaded. She’s alluding to the Mother Monster role she has given herself in relationship to fans. Many of them have come to Gaga because they don’t feel accepted in the world, and her music helps. She ends the track with a shoutout to her LBGT fans, saying, “Why do we gotta tell each other how to live? Look what that rainbow did.”
10. Hey Girl ft. Florence Welch
This song is a complete flop. What was supposed to be a feminist anthem with both Gaga and Florence Welch of Florence and The Machine just kinda sucks. This song is like if Shania Twain’s “Come On Over” and Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets” had a really drunken night together and accidentally procreated. I really expected a dope ass collab and I just know in my fan girl heart they could do better than this.
11. Angel Down
In what is such a politically charged song about Trayvon Martin, I think the lyrics could have been a little bit more metaphorical rather than so straightforward. Like when she says “In the age of the social,” I cringe. Although the words themselves fall a little flat, the desperation and anger in her tone do come through, especially in the second half of the track. I would recommend listening to the Work Tape version of it on the deluxe version. It’s a little bit more palatable.
12. Grigio Girls (Deluxe Version)
The best song on the record, like fight me on this one, I dare you. Although it’s apparently about one of Gaga’s close friends Sonja Dunham who is fighting stage 4 cancer, I still find myself jiving and getting in the spirit, and by spirit, I mean wine. “On the Pinot, Pinot Grigio girls pour your heart out, watch your blues turn gold,” she says about their sadness turning to golden happiness with wine. Honestly, same.
13. Just Another Day
My honest opinion: skip it. It’s like a more painful version of “Walking On Sunshine.” I love that song too, which says a lot.