“I always used to say to people, when they would say, ‘Oh, she’s the next Madonna.’ No, I’m the next Iron Maiden. In a span of 30 years I’d like to see my fans united with their fists in the air, singing every song.” This quote reflects ambitions of Lady Gaga in the best possible way. This bold declaration was appreciated even by Bruce Dickinson, leader of Iron Maiden: “Lady Gaga is right. She is not the next Madonna. She is much better. First of all, she can sing. And she can play on the instruments. She has a great sense of drama.” Let me mark those two statements as a highlight of this review, cause one year after stating them, Lady Gaga is turning words into action and recording what is intended to be her ticket to the world of the great, stadium music. To the world of Guns N’ Roses, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi. All those acts who captured the imagination of the crowds in the 80s.
I must admit that in some places it’s really close. Lead single “Perfect Illusion” is noisy, bit psychedelic, endowed with a catchy chorus, which – surprisingly – is not so far from the well-known tunes from her first album. This shows that there is some continuity between disco Gaga from 2008 and analog, guitar Gaga from 2016. Apparently, the New York artist was not ready yet to face with her idols. When leaning a bit more, she did it on the side, quietly – such as on the mini-album The Fame Monster in the marvelously sung and orchestrated ballad “Speechless”. Today she is bolder, and at the same time she maintains consistency. No one should accuse her of opportunism, playing with a trendy retro sounds. Gaga actually had quite a long way doing that and I’m not even mentioning jazz standards with Tony Bennett.
There are few more tracks like “Perfect Illusion” on Joanne such as “Diamond Heart”, “John Wayne” or “Come To Mama” (with very “springsteen-ish” saxophone). However, it should be noted that this album doesn’t end on the experimental pop rock. With “Hey Girl” we still remain in the 80s, but this daring duo with Florence Welch reminds me of Quincy Jones and maybe that’s why I associate it with Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney singing “Baby Be Mine”. In totally different direction goes rough and bluesy, but still very American “Sinner’s Prayer”, too.
For a 39 minutes long record Joanne presents pretty nice diversity. I’ve mentioned few 80s pop and rock gods and I do not withdraw from this analogy but it should be simply replenished with few pieces which don’t fit at all. While “Angel Down” sung with expression worthy of Adele’s is closing an album and is still capable of defending its drama and solemnity – “Dancin’ In Circles” relying on its tropical beat (somebody needs to stop this awful Carribean trend immediately) is as different as chalk and cheese. Just try to imagine Gaga encouraging all her fans at the concert to raise their fists or lighters up, but at some point asking them to bring out their smartphones. Quite ridiculous, isn’t it?
Without this track Joanne would be more coherent, but it’s still a pretty good record. On the album booklet we can see black-and-white pictures of Gaga in the studio or focused next to the typewriter. I have no doubts that it’s a PR trick to present her as an artist in some old-fashioned, natural way and as human as she can be, but I still buy it. In contrast to ostentatiously mannered Lana Del Rey (it’s not like that I don’t like her or something) Gaga seems very reliable and this is also confirmed by her music. She is approaching to her masters and I think that in their reflection she is finding herself.
Best tracks: John Wayne, Come To Mama, Joanne, Hey Girl
Worst tracks: Dancin’ In Circles
(7.5 / 10)