Lady Gaga seems to spend her off seasons reinventing herself. It’s her time to take on side projects and activism roles while quietly calculating her next personality switcheroo.
Although the success of her debut album, “The Fame,” received positive reviews for club anthems like “Just Dance” and “PokerFace,” fans and critics alike were still left wondering who Lady Gaga was, and where she came from, and what she came to do.
Fast forward a year later and most of America is suddenly engulfed in Madonna’s reincarnation with Gaga’s release of “The Fame Monster.” The short, eight track album was released as an extended play of “The Fame,” with smash hits “Bad Romance,” which topped the charts in eighteen countries but failed to make it to number one in the United States.
Despite the fact that a number of Lady Gaga’s singles, if not all of them, were catchy enough to get me to sing along, I was still unconvinced of Gaga’s vision and couldn’t get past the comparisons to past legends. One song in particular, never released as a single, titled “Speechless,” finally changed my mind and I became a fan of Gaga.
I was confused (and quite frankly, still am) with her vision as an artist. Is she pop? Rock and Roll? And with her latest release, folk? Sure, I can get behind genre-defying musicians any day of the week (As we all should know, I am Taylor Swift’s biggest fan). But Gaga’s seemingly addictive tendencies to switch it up was giving me whiplash.
With that being said, I do think that 2011 was Lady Gaga’s prime. The 2011 release of “Born this Way” revolutionized her career and allowed her to become an idol for millions of people. The track was raved about for a couple years – if not still, and characterized as one of the biggest moments in female pop music (I realize that this may sound dramatic, but it’s just what I think). The song debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and gave her the momentum to finally crossover as a commercial success with the release of “The Edge of Glory,” also one of my favorite Gaga moments.
I finally thought that she had found her niche. Songs like “Highway Unicorn (Road to Love),” “You and I,” and “Bloody Mary” are where she shines, whereas songs from “ArtPop” (didn’t even bother to listen to the entire thing), and “Joanne” make me question if she’s having an identity crisis. Does she feel pressured to continually shock us?
And WHAT is with her decision to make a track with R.Kelly, one of the most disgusting men in modern pop culture? Why aren’t we talking about the strangeness that surrounds her surprise collaboration with Tony Bennet? This isn’t meant to offend either party, but that entire phase was like invasion of the body snatchers and suddenly Gaga was just interested playing another character role.
With all of this being said, the more I look into it, the more I realize that I was never as big of a fan of Gaga’s musical choices, rather than quite obsessed with her image and character as a human being. Aside from being quite philanthropic and using her platform in a positive way, I guess I never really LOVED her music, rather than the idea of who she is.
As any pop culture enthusiast, I was excited to hear “Joanne” because I enjoy being apart of the conversation. I try to listen to all types of music and create an opinion on it because it is something I am passionate about.
“Perfect Illusion” took me a couple times, more like at least ten, to finally get into it. This song, and the album are definitely new directions for Gaga, and I was curious to see where the rest of the album would take her. The second single, “A Million Reasons,” was like hitting the jackpot for me. I was absolutely obsessed. I still am. And I probably will be for the next couple months. I felt SO ready to consume this new album!
Then “A-Yo” came out. And it all changed.
Despite a ridiculous amount of dedicated fans telling me they love this song, I honestly think it’s one of the worst songs of 2016. I find it annoying, amateur, and everything that I thought Gaga wasn’t. But I moved past it and listened to the album in its entirety, from start to finish, the day it was released.
To be frank, I am extremely disappointed with this album. The only song I find more annoying than “A-Yo” has to be “Dancin’ In Circles.” These tracks, and a few others on the album, solely remind me of a weak demo track that an up and coming twenty-something aspiring pop star would send to a record deal with hopes of landing on the radio (see Diamond Heart).
I can’t help but feel like Gaga thought that this album would be a turning point in her career, a Joni Mitchell or Stevie Nicks comparison of some sorts, when all I can compare these songs to are Meghan Trainor’s attempts of converting to folk-pop superstardom (tell me you don’t hear it the next time you listen to the album).
The album reaches high points with tracks like “Hey Girl,” featuring Florence Welch (an angel sent from above), and “Grigio Girls.” These songs remind me of 2011 Gaga.
Otherwise, I don’t have many positive things to say about this record.
With that being said, I don’t think Lady Gaga knows exactly where she’s heading, and she definitely doesn’t want her fans to know either. I just wish she took a little more time perfecting this album in order to meet (my) high expectations.
It looks like we are one meat dress away from something crazy.