Lady Gaga created ‘Joanne’ for herself, not her monsters

Even Lady Gaga’s most loyal fans haven’t met Joanne.

Named after her late aunt, Lady Gaga used her middle name as the namesake for her fifth album, which unlike past albums, challenges her voice to the edge of its diversity and skill. Released late October, Joanne successfully treads across genres in a journey of self-reflection and illustration.

Her early work is mostly pop with a few ballads, eventually expanding to R&B, disco and other genres that are equally as outlying.

Joanne includes all the above. At least several songs fall under various subgenres of country music, including country pop, rock and old western (which her voice is arguably most-suited for). “A-YO” especially sounds like a long-lost Dixie Chicks jam. The rest of the album ranges from jazz to Vaudeville to near-hymn.

The overall vibe is soulful and rich. Gaga is one of the few artists that can successfully sing-scream and still sound pretty. “John Wayne” begins with Gaga nondescriptly mumbling until she shouts, “could you go a little FASTER?!” The choruses in nearly every song are catchy, with verses that tell stories; which might explain why much of the LP resembles country jams.

The album’s single “Perfect Illusion” is most similar to Gaga’s earlier hits. Released in September, the fast-paced breakup battle cry, sounds as if it belongs on one of her other albums, like “ARTPOP” or “Born This Way.” Gaga’s fans, affectionately dubbed as her little monsters, will most likely find comfort in familiarity here. Additionally, “Dancin’ in Circles” is also representative of Gaga’s classics, and is most definitely a song about masturbation. Fans who are drawn to Gaga’s wild anthems like “Telephone” and “Alejandro” may get lost among the other vastly different songs on this album.

While the album as a collective is stylistically un-uniform, Gaga’s voice transcends in and out of the various songs, allowing for a smooth transition for listeners. And as multifaceted as the style is, there are reoccurring themes that appear within the context of songs.

A call for companionship and solidarity emerges out of Joanne, “Hey Girl” and “Grigio Girls” — the word "girl" is repeated almost 50 times in just those three songs. Other women-identifying names like "mama," "girlfriend," "sister," "lady" and "bachelorette" are belted nearly 80 times in the album’s 14 songs.


For example, in “Hey Girl”:

We can make it easy if we lift each other

Hey girl, hey girl

We don’t need to keep on one-in’ up another


and in “Grigio Girls”:

A Texas girl real strong

Taught me this strong song

So when I start to bawl

She says, “Let your tear drops fall”


Sisters never pack up

We always run back, love.


While these songs speak to relatable concepts, like friendship, forgiveness and love, Gaga also subtly incorporates her own experiences within those broader topics. The lyrics cited above in “Grigio Girls” references Gaga’s friend, Sonja, who is battling cancer. Additionally, “Hey Girl” is a clear attempt to break down girl-on-girl hate, and features Florence Welch from the indie rock band Florence + the Machine. This collaboration is a lyrical and literal representation of women working together in the music industry, as opposed to competing against each other, and sheds light on Gaga’s own activism within her art.

While Gaga has become a poster woman for celebrating oddities and individuality, this album is perhaps the first where she presents herself as an individual with her own background and identity. Gaga’s monsters love her and her songs for defending all things eccentric, bizarre and weird. Those songs, while necessary and raw in their own right, showcase Lady Gaga as a performance artist, while Joanne shows who Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta is as a woman.

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