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Atlantic review of Chromatica

Franch Toast

I think there's a thread compiling Chromatica reviews, so mods can feel free to move this there (I can't find it!) if they think it's better suited. I don't think this review counts toward the Metacritic score or anything (I don't see a "grade"), but I found it interesting. I'll just paste some snippets below since we're not supposed to paste full articles. 

https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/06/lady-gaga-chromatica-dazzling-and-smaller-ever/612463/

Lady Gaga Is Back and Smaller Than Ever

The sometimes-dazzling dance pop of Chromatica is a return to form, but she’s not overselling it.

[. . .]

"Yet here comes Gaga’s new album, Chromatica, a front-to-back rave that she has billed as a return to form. Like in her early days, there are disco drums and spoken-word passages in vaguely European accents. There are colorful costumes, otherworldly music videos, and even a half-baked thematic gimmick. (Chromatica, you see, is a planet of translucent mountains and warring tribes. There is no mention of this in the songs themselves). But the album’s not a reversion—it’s a deescalation. It is pop music that tries to wash itself of the trappings of popularity, so as to be more nourishing or therapeutic. The results include patches of fabulosity and long stretches of just-okayness, suggesting that she’s made peace with the idea that not every track needs to change the world. Sometimes a beat and a hook are enough."

[. . .]

"As always in Gaga’s career, the standout moments here are wacky ones. The gasping chorus of “Alice,” the whipping dynamic turns of “Rain on Me,” and the trampolining sound effects of “Replay” all are addictively dramatic. Other highlights show Gaga’s knack for tunes in which incongruous-seeming passages—silky one moment, shrieking the next—fit together deliciously. The playfully robotic “911” reveals new intricacies with each listen. The opening melody of “Enigma” radiates vulnerability and intrigue. Best of all is the baffling closer, “Babylon,” whose b.c.-ballroom conceit conjures the thought of hieroglyphic figures lip-synching to Madonna’s “Vogue.” If certain listeners get snippy at her channeling the Queen of Pop yet again, Gaga’s absolutely unbothered. “Rip that song,” she drawls. “Gossip, babble on!”

Indeed, hand-wringing about Madonna’s influence on Gaga—hand-wringing rooted in sexism and naïveté about the referential nature of pop—are exactly the sort of celebrity-narrative nonsense Gaga wants to transcend with Chromatica. She is no longer baiting the public with Andy Warhol tactics obscuring her identity. Nor is she making arch anthems bragging about fame or lust turning her into a glamorous monster. She’s not even particularly interested in tidy political messaging. Mostly, now, she lets her themes arise simply from the stories she tells about her own struggles with depression, anxiety, and the record industry."

[. . .]

"On “Alice,” Gaga sings of her racing mind needing a “symphony” to clear it. The preposterously theatrical Elton John collaboration “Sine From Above” attempts to spin a mythical origin story about sound waves striking her in the fashion of Peter Parker’s irradiated spider. It’s the joy of pop as a sensory experience, separate from the machine around it, that she wants to access with Chromatica’s straightforward, relatively statement-free sound.  

It was likely inevitable that she’d make an album with that intention at some point. In recent years, the melodically forceful, production-polished, perkily danceable sound Gaga helped perfect has lost cultural centrality as hip-hop and R&B have become America’s most-listened-to genres. Dance pop now sometimes seems like an object of cult admiration led by lower-key singers such as Carly Rae Jepsen and Charli XCX. Gaga still has the name and talent to land hits; “Rain on Me,” her collaboration with Ariana Grande, should chart well. But after ARTPOP and 2016’s Joanne failed to produce smashes, she surely knows that hits aren’t guaranteed anymore. Chromatica comes across as the work of someone ready to decouple from expectations of cultural domination.

Maybe the context of 2020 turmoil makes Chromatica’s ambitions feel small, too. The coronavirus pandemic robbed her listeners of the dance floors on which these new songs would make the most sense, and accordingly Gaga pushed back the album’s release by nearly two months (during which she trained her celebrity firepower on raising money for relief efforts). Now, as Chromatica arrives amid tense clashes over racism nationwide, Gaga has mostly suspended promotion of the album while expressing support for protesters. She probably gets that there is no credible way to say her new music speaks to our times, save for one: by providing escapist joy to individuals in pain. That’s an important feat, but one whose limits Gaga knows well."

 

 

 

 

She/Her/Hers
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Jessica Germ

Period 

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CheapGin

This is really fair! And mostly praise. My favorite bit is "From 2008’s The Fame to 2013’s ARTPOP, Gaga and her producers fused together an ever-shifting, hyper-modern rumble over which the singer performed a campy horror show" because it describes her style and also articulates why people either LOVE or HATE whatever she's up to.

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