The two souls of Lady Gaga

Lost between remix albums (“Dawn of Chromatica”), of duets (“Love for sale”), celebratory (“Born this way – The tenth anniversary”), actor film companies (House of Gucci and the sequel to ‘the joker’ soon to be released) and what else, perhaps we forget the fact that the last real album of Lady Gaga, “Chromatica”dates back to May 2020. Today the American pop star turns 37 with best wishes we thought we’d listen to that record again and repost the review we published three years ago.

He wants to go home. Indeed no, she wants to be taken to wonderland. She wants you to keep her company. Indeed no, she prefers to be alone. One minute she laughs, the next she cries. Now she wants to dance. Now, however, she is depressed: “Call 911,” she says in song (it’s the emergency number in the United States). Welcome back to the world of Lady Gaga. If you have come this far, that is, if you have followed the vicissitudes of her troubled career, made up of rises, falls, redemptions and quite a few twists and turns, you know that Gaga is not new to these stories: the line between reality and fiction is always blurred , between the character of the mad artist and the person who sees reality in his own way. But be careful, because this time you could get lost even before entering.

If you thought you’d find the American pop star at the door wearing the clothes of “Joanne”, the breakthrough album similar to country, or those of Ally Campana, the talented lead singer of “A star is born”, well, you were wrong.

The Lady Gaga of “Chromatica” doesn’t play the guitar, doesn’t sing tearjerker ballads, doesn’t wear wide-brimmed hats. In this new album she plays another character – yet another – and changes style once again, disorienting: now she is a warrior at the head of one of the tribes that populate the world in which the songs on the album are ideally set, enlivened by the feuds between the various clans (as in the video of the single “.Stupid love”). A concept not even that difficult to tell, but full of subtexts to be deciphered which – according to the singer – concern issues such as inclusiveness, equality, the sense of community. As always when it comes to Gaga, a lot (too much?) irons in the fire. Better to talk about music, then.

In “Chromatica” Stephanie Germanotta tries to recover the pop flashes of the first records, “The fame” and “Born this way”, combining them with the pseudo-experiments of “Artpop”, much loved by some fans but also much contested (and after years repudiated by the pop star herself), seeking a balance between her melodic vein and the more avant-garde one. On one side is Lady Gaga dueting with Ariana Grande (“Rain on me”) and South Korean Blackpink (“Sour candy” sounds like a nod to the world of k-pop, Korean pop, which has become a global phenomenon), and ensures a potential of millions of streams; on the other there is the one that involves producers and djs not famous in mainstream pop such as the French Tchami (he already had a hand in some pieces of “Artpop”), Madeon (25 years old) and Morgan Kibby in the production of the disco (she is the frontwoman of the Los Angeles indie band the Romanovs and has collaborated with M83), alongside the better known Axwell and Skrillex.

It’s hard to say whether the experiment actually succeeded. The fact is that although the singer and BloodPop, promoted here to executive producer after the collaboration for “Joanne”, have tried to get them to get along as much as possible with each other, Lady Gaga’s two musical souls struggle to live in harmony and often conflict. As soon as one tries to prevail over the other by proposing attractive melodies or fascinating ideas, the other enters straight leg with productions with a strong style, mostly made of electronic sounds sometimes too cumbersome, including synthesizers, keyboards and drum machines. The ballads, which in the early records, between one dance pop anthem and another, were not lacking (“Speechless”, “Yoü and I”, “Hair”), are not here: from “Alice” to ” Babylon”, passing through “Free woman”, “Plastic doll” and “Enigma”, the sound world of reference this time is that of Eurodance, EDM and house music.

It is a conflict, the one between these two souls, which permeates the whole record: it does not even spare the duet with Elton John on “Sine from above” (mr.

“Crocodile rock” sings here over a dance-pop beat that doesn’t quite suit the characteristics of his voice), and which translates into musical schizophrenia: “My biggest enemy is me”, he sings on “911”. There are good ideas, such as the house beat of “Soud candy”, which soon fades into the background, overwhelmed by the keyboards, or the (implicit?) homage to Daft Punk and Depeche Mode of “Just can’t get enough ” of the same “911”, a synth-pop experiment which, however, remains barely sketched. Interesting ideas, but totally lacking in developments and evolutions. There are few exceptions, which slightly improve the fate of a confused and incoherent record: “Stupid love” is a good single, which plays its part within the record; “Fun tonight” in certain passages could recall the more intimate Lady Gaga, and with self-quotations like “You love the paparazzi, love the fame / even though you know it causes me pain” it still manages to elicit a half smile from you; “Babylon”, which deviates slightly from the 90s atmosphere of the album to recover more 80s flavors.

Will the fans, once the hype related to the release fades away, promote it as they did for “Born this way” and “Joanne” or will they reject it as in the case of “Artpop”? One thing is certain: one way or another, it will be talked about for a long time: after the era of “Joanne” and “A star is born”, this album is the real test of his career.

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