From meat dresses to planned performances in space, Lady Gaga has been pop music’s most bombastic, over-the-top performer since debuting in 2008. Gaga ups the ante once again with her sixth studio album “Chromatica,” released on Friday, by introducing listeners to an imagined world.
According to Pitchfork, Gaga dubbed the album “a perspective, an opportunity to reframe pain into positivity.”
The concept is fresh but the results fall flat. “Chromatica” sounds like a parody of itself rather than the fully fledged product it could be. Lead single “Stupid Love” genuinely sounds like a bootleg “Born This Way.” Gaga’s lyrics are surface level, the production is overly noisy and the songs suffer from their short length.
“Chromatica” takes clear influence from 90s house music, such as Madonna’s “Vogue,” but the album fails to offer anything new to the genre. Closer track “Babylon” has potential but never develops beyond Gaga’s talk-singing to become the fully formed song it needs to be.
With three interludes and more than half of the tracklist under three minutes, the tracks on “Chromatica” often seem more like interludes than complete songs. It often sounds like Gaga only recorded half a track and the producers had to remix and stitch it together to create a full song.
While it’s unlikely this is the case, the results are the same. The album is undercooked and a waste of potential. Tracks such as “Replay” are forgettable and unlikely to be replayed by the masses.
The lyrics are frequently very one-note. “1000 Doves” attempts to paint the picture of a lovestruck woman who’s content with the possibility of her relationship ending, yet the lyrics are so plain. In the bridge, a rarity to have at all in this album, Gaga sings, “If you love me then just set me free / and if you don’t then, baby, leave.” With such a complex issue and four different song writers, one would think they could come up with something more descriptive.
The album features Elton John, K-pop girl group BLACKPINK and Ariana Grande. “Sour Candy” featuring the girl group sounds suspiciously like Katy Perry’s 2017-track “Swish Swish,” which isn’t a track worthy of emulating in the first place. And any potential the song has is wiped away when it disappears after barely two and a half minutes.
“Rain On Me” offers an emotional escape for Grande and Gaga as they sing away their pain. A track featuring two of pop’s biggest names should hit much harder. Even then, it’s still one of the album highlights. It’s unabashed fun and Grande’s vocals are smooth like butter over the disco-influenced beat.
The hook “I’d rather be dry but at least I’m alive” isn’t revolutionary but it does offer insight into Gaga’s personal situation. She hasn’t escaped her life’s tribulations but she’s grateful to be where she is and that’s a nice message to send during this trying time.
The best lyrics come from “Plastic Doll,” where Gaga makes note of objectification and how men in her life have mistreated her. “I’ve got blonde hair and cherry lips / I’m state of art, I’m microchipped” and “Who’s that girl, Malibu Gaga? / Looks so sad, what is this saga?” are wonderfully campy lyrics that make the playful track stand out.
“Chromatica” is fun background music but it isn’t a revolutionarily exceptional album. It’s sure to offer some fun to clubs, whenever they open, but its usefulness dies there. While she attempted to drop an alien-chic album, “Chromatica” is more of a misfire. It sounds like music that would play in a Disney Channel Original Movie about outer space. Not even a musical, just the tracks that would flutter in the background as the characters eat in a space diner.
If that’s what she shot for, she succeeded. If Gaga wanted “Chromatica” to be her magnum opus or live up to her lofty past heights, though, she failed.
Although “Chromatica” isn’t going to be remembered as Gaga’s best album, maybe even remembered at all, it’s still an experimental album that sounds unique in the current sonic landscape. It’s rarely good but the effort is apparent.
“Chromatica” is available on all music streaming platforms.