By Jennifer Ives
Lady Gaga’s 6th album “Joanne” dropped in October 2016 but is just now trickling on to the radar of many individuals after her spectacular Super Bowl performance medley nearly eclipsed the Patriots’ overtime win. While one or two singles such as “Million Reasons” have received relatively wide radio play and streaming accessibility, the rest of the album has been conspicuously absent from casual listening outlets.
Named after her aunt Joanne, who died at the age of 19, this album marks what may be Miss Gaga’s most tentatively acoustic album yet. This is due to its lacking the carefully manufactured dance numbers and beat driven tracks she is best known for. Despite the overall thematic narrative being tenuous at times, its strong notes of melancholy, family, and retrospection bring to life some of the otherwise unnoteworthy numbers and elevate the memorable ones to resonate beautifully with the listener. Softer and deep numbers like “Angel Down” and “Just Another Day” are perfect for listening while mournfully staring out the window at the rain on a cloudy afternoon. More upbeat songs like “John Wayne” and “A-Yo” are excellent supplements to badass walking around playlists.
Stylistically, the album leans towards an old western influence, but elements of hip hop and reggae make it hard to pin down. Perhaps this is why it has not become a triumph with any particular genre of listeners. The vocals are frequently soft and wavering, lacking Miss Gaga’s strong technically perfect and powerful performances that were her mainstay in her previous albums. These, however, bestow a note of vulnerable honesty heretofore missing from her work. Simpler vocal arrangements and the extensive use of acoustical instruments work around the softer vocals to evoke a story, rather than simply sing a song.
“Joanne” overall feels like what it is; Miss Gaga’s reminder to the world that she is more than just a provocative dance music maven. While missing the chance to fully display her classically trained vocals the way that 2014’s “Cheek to Cheek” did, it does take advantage of Miss Gaga’s prowess as an accomplished musician and songwriter. If she can manage to marry all of these factors in her next album, Miss Gaga can be assured success and acclaim for years to come.
“Joanne” is available at local retailers in physical format, and for purchase on iTunes.