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Album Review: ‘Joanne’ is Gaga’s country genre manifesto

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Kendra Craighead
Arts Editor

A soft ballad on the piano begins to play and singer/song-writer Stephanie Joanne Angelina Germanotta soulfully releases the words, “You’re giving me a million reasons to let you go, you’re giving me a million reasons to quit the show,” from her 2016 Album “Joanne.”

Yes, Germanotta is Lady Gaga, but “Joanne” is not like anything audiences have heard the pop-artist create before. Her previous albums, “The Fame,” the winner of the Billboard Music Award for Top Dance/Electronic Album, and “Born This Way,” winner for World’s Best Album, were incredibly successful. Gaga seemed to have found her niche in the pop style of music, so her transition with “Joanne” came as a shock to her listeners and broadened her appeal across genres.

“Joanne” has 14 songs total, and follows the beat of an acoustic guitar. There is no trace of auto tune or heavy bass, just honesty and a feeling of vulnerability.

“Perfect Illusion” was the album’s leading single, released early to promote “Joanne,” While the song is more upbeat than the rest, it relies on an original rock band sound where Gaga’s voice transcends and stands out among the aggressive instruments. Other songs like “Sinner’s Prayer” and “Angel Down” take on a passionate range of tones, showing a more natural side of Gaga.

“This album, it doesn’t lean necessarily in a particular direction, which is why the album title is ‘Joanne,’ this is my middle name; this is the middle and the center of me,” Gaga said in a video interview with New York Times Style Magazine.

“Joanne” is a refreshing new take on Lady Gaga, which allows her vocals to breathe and take flight. It is something completely different from songs like “Poker Face” or “Bad Romance” that feature avant-garde and futuristic ensembles and settings. The music video for “Perfect Illusion” is set at an outdoor festival with Gaga in denim shorts and a black shirt. The video is reminiscent of her choreography in previous albums. This time she takes center stage without background dancers.

Although Gaga’s new approach to music is a break away from the style that made her a pop culture icon, her unaltered vocals, the simplicity of the guitar and piano based melodies and its roots in soft, country rock make “Joanne” another triumph.

Kendra Craighead can be reached at kendra.craighead@laverne.edu.

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