Lady Gaga’s newest studio album, Chromatica, released on May 29th, 2020. Distributed by Interscope Records, this would be her return to the world of dance-pop that launched her career. Feeling like a blend of Artpop meets the Fame Monster, Chromatica is heavy with dance track after track. However, there is a deeper emotional presence in this album than her previous releases. Shedding aspects of her hyper-fame musical persona, Gaga attempts to reconcile the persona to the human aspects of herself in this album making for a poignant listen wrapped in sweetness. Here are my favorite 5 tracks.
This song starts off with dance-heavy, rhythmic synths. Gaga adds autotune to her voice to give the piece a robotic flair. This sets up the theme of the song. With lyrics like, “Turning up emotional faders,” and, “this is biological stasis,” Gaga tunes listeners into the robotic nature of her emotions. It is the norm for her. When she lifts the autotune off of her voice, she belts, “My biggest enemy is me, pop a 911,“ revealing that she uses medication to deal with her intense emotions. The reason I love this song so much is that it resonates the most with me. I have struggled with mental illness since my early teen years.
Music has always been an avenue to explore those feelings safely. Lady Gaga has always been important to my mental health, however, she has never so blatantly discussed her own personal mental health issues. The exploration of her experience taking antipsychotic medications, further discussed in this Zane Lowe interview, places me in my sophomore year of college. I felt like my emotions did not make any sense. I tried three different anti-depressants to stop myself from self-destruction. Life at the time felt robotic and tedious. My body tried to adjust to Zoloft, two different doses of Effexor, and Prozac. Hearing Gaga pleading, “I can’t see me cry, can’t see me cry ever again,” in the pre-chorus is cathartic. At 2:53, this song cuts raw and deep while being my absolute favorite off of Chromatica.
If we had to pick a definitive tongue-in-cheek Lady Gaga song, Babylon would be the top winner. Being the last track on Chromatica, Gaga leaves the rabbit hole of her emotional vulnerabilities for a club anthem that shreds her fear of celebrity gossip. Being a play on words, Gaga brilliantly uses Babylon and “babble on” to poke fun of the idea of rumors. To add another layer of camp, the song features her with in sync spoken word verses and a beat reminiscent of Madonna’s Vogue. For years, tabloids have created somewhat of a feud between the authenticity of Lady Gaga as nothing but a Madonna copycat.
The intentional choice to explore that idea is further evidenced by the lyric, “that’s gossip, what you on/ money don’t talk, rip that song,“. This self-referential lyric is so fun but also shows the growth of Gaga as an artist. I find it not only amusing but fresh that Gaga would willingly put to rest this feud by being incredibly cheeky. She no longer cares, so what if people gossip about her. So what if people gossip about you? At the end of the day, this banger with roaring saxophones and a jiving beat is telling you, “gossip, babble on, battle for your life, Babylon.” I love this last song off of Chromatica so much because it;s a dance anthem telling you to embrace yourself and not care about what others think is always a great addition to the party.
With a soft, disco fade-in, the tune begins with Gaga asking, “Am I?” repeatedly. The beat is slightly bouncy and Gaga’s vocals are light and airy. She immediately packs this song with heavy emotional weight. She asks, “Am I still alive? Where am I? I cry. Who was it that pulled the trigger? Was it you or I? I’m completely numb, why are you acting dumb?” The first verse sets up the initial conflict that she has with someone close to her. Upon first hearing, I knew that this track would hit hard. As the chorus finishes with, “the scars on my mind are on replay,” the notion of reliving past traumas is not only relatable but felt by many survivors of abuse.
Lady Gaga on the Spotify storyline for ‘Replay‘ states that this is an abstraction of her trauma that has been a huge influence to push her to bravery. However, using this trauma has been mentally taxing on her. The lyric, “your monsters tortue me,” in the outro reminds us that our trauma is not our fault. The heavy belting, in the end, coupled with the consistent disco flare is Gaga’s declaration to keep dancing, even if “your brain is breaking.”
4. Rain on Me Ft. Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande is the current reigning princess of pop music. The last time fans have been excited about a Gaga collaboration was when Beyonce joined forces to create pop anthem, ‘Telephone‘. This was the second single off of Chromatica. I just love pop music so my expectations were high and I was not prepared to fall so in love with the track. The differences between Grande’s light, breathy singing style juxtaposes Gaga singing in her lower registerer. Their back-and-forth exchange in the pre-chorus is so interesting but intoxicating to listen to.
The song explores the idea of letting yourself cry, letting the tears fall. So when Grande and Gaga harmonize in the chorus with, “I’d rather be dry but at least I’m alive. Rain on me,” I can’t help but revel in that declaration. Listening to this song, by myself in my room, feels like an emotional dance party. I am jumping and screaming these lyrics that feel like sweet relief. I, also, may have listened to it on repeat 10+ times upon its release date.
Despite the fact that I didn’t add any other tracks, Chromatica’s entire tracklist is jam-packed with songs that explore Gaga’s emotional vulnerability. Having listened to her work for years, this is the album I resonate with the most. From trauma to mental health, to overcoming anxieties, there are multiple ways that Chromatica can resonate with someone. With every song wrapped in a sweet, pop wrapper, it feels bittersweet and transcendent. Meshing the iconic dance anthems of her early career with the emotional resonance she has cultivated in her lastest musical projects (Joanne and A Star is Born), Chromatica delivers a thematically cohesive album that you will cry and dance too.