I would say I’m a fan of Lady Gaga. I’ve bought all her albums, even seen her in concert (she was amazing). On all her other albums the ratio of good songs to filler songs is very good. I’m not one of those people who feels that they have to like everything a certain artist comes out with for fear of being labelled as “not a true fan”. That’s just silly, and I had enough of that through my teen years.
I had mixed thoughts when she announced the release of Joanne. I absolutely love the more cool, electronic songs from the likes of Artpop and to an extent, Born This Way. And I also love when she does stripped back, acoustic versions of her songs. After hearing the iTunes clip of Perfect Illusion I have to say, I didn’t love it. But I have found that to be the case when listening to a short clip of a song taken out of context before, so I didn’t want to let that influence my decision about the song before I’d heard the whole thing. Also, I knew that Mark Ronson was producing it, which did worry me a bit as he also worked on Lana Del Rey’s “Honeymoon” album, which I found a bit disappointing compared to Born To Die, so I was hoping that this album wouldn’t share the same fate.
When I saw the tracklisting for Joanne, the one I was most excited to hear was Hey Girl, which features Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine). Then when Million Reasons came out, I absolutely loved it, so it gave me a bit more hope for the album.
Once it was released, I downloaded it and listened to the whole thing twice. Once from start to finish, then on shuffle to listen out for the standout songs when they came up in no particular order.
Diamond Heart: I enjoyed this song much more the second time round. It didn’t really grab me at first until I heard the bridge, which I love, and the chorus. The drum beat in the bridge is awesome. The verses aren’t particularly amazing, but it provides a good light and shade to the song where the bridge and chorus are heavier, so I’ll forgive it. Overall it’s a good song, but I think I’d have to be in the mood to listen to it and not press the ever-dreaded skip button. A good start to the album, but I’m hoping for better songs.
A-Yo: First thing that I notice about that song is that she seems to have gone a bit country! I quite like it, it’s different to all her other albums, she really has that country twang in her voice in places. The song is very catchy, but I bloody hate songs about smoking. Not because I’m one of those anti-smoking types who make a habit of coughing loudly whenever they pass someone with a cigarette, but I just don’t like the whole “oh yeah we’re smoking we’re so cool” kind of attitude. The second half of the song is much better than the first, she seems to let loose a bit. There are more guitar riffs and I really like the final chorus repeats where she changes the song vocally a little bit. Looking back on it, it makes the first chorus seem a bit, I don’t want to say boring, but it doesn’t pop as much as the latter ones do.
Joanne: I’m not a huge fan of the vocals in the verses, but once the song gets going a bit it’s one of the nicer slow songs on the album. Again, it’s got a bit of a country vibe to it. I do like that it’s mainly just her and a guitar. It does get better with a few listens, but it’s probably not the most memorable song on the album.
John Wayne: Probably my favourite song on the album. This is the Lady Gaga we’re all used to. Again, a little bit country, but it has quite a dark quality to it which I really like. I like that it starts out with her talking, and the way she screeches “faster!” which leads into the first verse. The song just seems to flow really well, with there still being a good light and dark element to it. Does make me imagine being in the wild wild west lusting over a sexy cowboy, but that’s not a bad thing, right? I love the distortion effect on her voice throughout the song, and her vocals in general are awesome. I like that the song is a bit more electronic than some of the others on the album, it has a great beat throughout and catchy synth parts. I wish her vocals on some of the other songs would sound like this, as she really belts in parts towards the end, and she has an incredible voice when she does that.
Dancin’ in Circles: As soon as she says ‘boots’, it makes me think of ‘These boots were made for walking’. I can’t help it. The song is ok. I like the ‘ooh oh oh oh’ bit in the pre-chorus. It has a bit of a reggae, beach vibe to it, but unfortunately it does feel like a bit of a filler song. She belts occasionally which is good, but other than that, I’m afraid to say that the song is a tad forgettable.
Perfect Illusion: As I said before, I didn’t think much of it when I heard the iTunes clip, but put into context I do quite like it. I’m not a huge fan of the verse melody until the “caught up in your show” bit which leads into the chorus. I love the way the end of the verse flows really well into the chorus. I really like the “it wasn’t love” vocal melody, but sometimes I don’t like the way she pronounces “illusion” – I’m not sure why. I really don’t care for the key change. Please make it stop. Just no.
Million Reasons: I love this song! A lot of her other slower songs feel like they’ve been put in just for the sake of it, but I feel like this one just happened naturally and is meant to be there. Her vocals and the melody are beautiful, and I love that it’s an acoustic song but gets more layered up in the bridge and choruses. It sounds like it would make a great sad car song to pretend you’re in a music video.
Sinner’s Prayer: Again, very country, but HOLY SHIT I LOVE THE INTRO BEAT AND GUITAR RIFF. The only problem with that is that it makes the rest of the song feel like it doesn’t match up, but I will forgive it for the sick guitar. I really like her vocals and the vocal melody in the verses, but the chorus is a bit underwhelming compared to the rest of the song. One thing I don’t like though, is that it turns from an edgy, electro-country song into a happy, acoustic country song somehow. If you like that then great, but I much prefer the first half of the song. This song grew on me the second time round, but I will keep listening just for that beat. Feels kind of like a part 2 to John Wayne.
Come to Mama: Not a fan of this one, I’m afraid. It feels like a forgettable pop song, not like the Lady Gaga we’re all used to. It’s not really like her to do happy, the world loves each other kinda songs. It’s a bit of a filler, in my opinion. It does get better towards the end, with her heavier vocals, the sax and the “ooh ooh oohs”, but unfortunately, I will be skipping this one in the future.
Hey Girl (feat. Florence Welch): I was so looking forward to this song, and, I HATE to say it, but I’m really disappointed. I was thinking it was going to be a bit like the Florence & Calvin Harris song; Sweet Nothing. At first it sounds like a cheesy sex soundtrack, but after that it’s very forgettable. I had such high hopes for this song, it could have been amazing. Slightly better with a few listens, but nowhere near being a standout track. It’s almost like they couldn’t find a style that worked for them both, so they just kinda met somewhere in the middle of both their musical styles and it just doesn’t work. Such a shame. I think it would be quite good if they did a live performance of it, but the recorded version doesn’t do a lot for me unfortunately.
Angel Down: On the first listen I thought it was a bit odd, but I like it much more with another couple of listens. She has that country twang again, and I really like the drum beat in the second verse. Her vocals are awesome in parts of this song, I really like the “ooh ooh” breakdown towards the end. The very end of the song is a bit weird, it goes from satanic style chanting to angelic harp suddenly. I’m confused.
Grigio Girls: Not a bad song, but it doesn’t stand out. I don’t like the first two lines, the verses are a bit forgettable but I really like the chorus. I think this song would be amazing if it was just her and a piano. I really like the acapella vocals at the end, but I was hoping it would go into a heavier chorus afterwards instead of just fade out laughter.
Just Another Day: I wouldn’t go as far as to say I don’t like this song, but it doesn’t particularly grab me. It’s a happy, cheery piano song, but not a very strong end to the album. I like the chord progression and that it features a synth solo, but it just mimics the vocal melody, would have been better if it was different. I think this song would probably be good live, but where she says “Ladies and Gentlemen, Brian Newman” – could get awkward if he’s not there when she plays it live!
Angel Down (Work Tape): I like this version better than the actually Angel Down. It’s much more raw and stripped back, and I love the gravelly parts of her vocals. This is the kind of acoustic I was hoping for on this album, it’s a shame it’s only 2 and a half minutes long.
To conclude, it’s not a bad album, but for me, it’s not one of her best. There are songs I’ll pick out to listen to but I doubt I’ll listen to the whole thing much. If you enjoy the softer side of Gaga I think you’ll really like this album, but if you’re still feeling the dirty beats from her previous albums, this may not be the album for you. I do love the fact that it feels like this is who she really is, and that she’s been fighting for years to finally be able to create the kind of music she really wants to.