The creative juices were definitely flowing for Joanne but not always in a good way.Streamline / Interscope Records, 2016
6.0 / 10
I usually don’t read reviews before writing my own because I don’t want to let other writers affect my own opinions. However, after listening to Lady Gaga’s new album, Joanne, and making a quick judgement, I couldn’t help but read Stereogum’s take on the album. Their critique of the album pretty much aligned with mine. Joanne is a different album for Lady Gaga, and she worked with some interesting collaborators such as Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, Beck, Father John Misty, Florence Welch and others to get the creative juices flowing. Unfortunately, many of these creative choices aren’t good.
For Joanne, Gaga essentially plays musical chairs with genres; jumping from pop to country to rock to funk to soul to folk to whatever. Some artists (many of our beloved indie favorites) can leapfrog with ease. For Gaga, it proves somewhat difficult as Joanne lacks any semblance of cohesion or structure. Rather all this experimentation feels dumped on an album instead of taking the time to tweak and make it fit. Many of these songs could work as singles, but together they cause too many dog-eared reactions.
The good? Well, “Diamond Heart” is probably the most traditional Lady Gaga song on the album. It’s a rousing pop pleaser that features an exhilarating line, “I might not be flawless/ But you know I got a diamond heart.” This song was co-written by Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, who also contributes on the very fun “John Wayne”, which I would lovingly refer to as Lady Gaga’s answer to the Farmer’s Only jingle. “Dancin’ In Circles” is a reggae/funk collab with Beck about masturbation, and I actually enjoy the corniness of it (then again, I’m also a Beck fanboy so it could be shit). “Come To Mama” is Father John Misty’s contribution to the album – it gets a little soulful and feels quite distant from the rest of the album. It’s somewhat in the retro style of Father John Misty’s recent one-off single, “Real Love Baby”.
The bad? Is “A-YO” an attempt at a rock song because it stinks. There’s even a sound effect in the song that sounds like a fart that blasts constantly. There are a couple attempts at country/folk – the title track and “Sinner’s Prayer”. “Joanne” is the better of the two but still feels awkward. “Sinner’s Prayer” aims for inspiring but lands as cornball. Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine) shows up on the synthy R&B jam “Hey Girl” I guess to show the limitations in Gaga’s singing. Yikes!
So while Joanne isn’t a total train wreck, it comes close to derailing several times. A few songs save the album from being a total waste of time, but I don’t think this album will land with the impact that Gaga was hoping for. I wouldn’t mind seeing her on American Horror Story again.