Lady Gaga’s sixth studio album is a journey not only to the fictional Chromatica, but to the root of pain and anguish. Chromatica serves as a reminder that Gaga is still the daring and visionary creator that she was when we first met her. Don’t let the Oscar-baiting of A Star is Born or the tame demeanour of Joanne fool you; Lady Gaga is still completely and utterly Gaga.
Chromatica opens with a grand orchestral arrangement that transports us to the eponymous planet. You can’t help but imagine the desert landscape, seen in the ‘Stupid Love’ music video, as strings rise up to deliver a truly cinematic opening to Gaga’s first dance-pop album in almost seven years. As the orchestra winds down and you land on the planet, you are greeted by ‘Alice’, a dark track about being stuck in a hole and looking for a “Wonderland” to escape to.
Every track on Chromatica is used by Lady Gaga to cathartically explain what’s going on inside her head. The majority of artists will tell you that they make music as a way to purge the pain they feel. For Gaga, she takes this method of pain-killing to a whole new level. Chromatica shows her in an emotionally weakened state, but she proves that it’s possible to be both vulnerable and strong at the same time.
Chromatica is also an education in how to tell a story
‘Stupid Love’, the hit dance track, sees Gaga being shamelessly unapologetic about how much she yearns for her lover’s affection. Despite the infectious sound of the track, it’s also frustrated – Gaga just wants to be heard. A similar sentiment is followed by ‘Rain on Me’, an Ariana Grande collab and the second release from the album. The music video depicts Gaga and Grande, doused in tears, who are simply happy to be alive and to have survived heartbreak. Both tracks prove that, no matter how many pushbacks Gaga suffers, she’ll always get back up.
Chromatica is also an education in how to tell a story. If the three instrumental transition tracks are meant to break the album into chapters, then the first is about standing back up, the second, acknowledging what’s still wrong, and the third chapter focuses on finding hope again. The album acts as a playground for Gaga to vocalise the emotions she’s been dealing with over the past few years.
Instead of purely being a testament to Gaga’s sadness, it’s more concerned with showing how sure she is of her indestructibility. ‘Free Woman’, a house-inspired track, portrays Gaga’s immense strength. It’s empowering to see her acknowledge her resilience as she enjoys the dancefloor she fought so hard for. It’s an endearing moment in which she realises just how much she’s worth.
Other standout tracks are ‘911’ and’ Replay’. A song about Gaga’s reliance on an anti-psychotic drug, ‘911’ is a little bit reminiscent of ‘Telephone’, but its intro outshines the rest of the track. The disco-esque ‘Replay’ is a mournful track about the effects fame has had on her persona and her life. Both are very self-deprecative: they symbolise an internal conflict as Gaga struggles to stop herself from self-destructing.
It’s a reflection of a defiant artist who struggles with love, fame and living with herself
In addition to the Ariana Grande collaboration, the album also boasts features by BLACKPINK and Elton John, on ’Sour Candy’ and ‘Sine From Above’ respectively. ‘Sour Candy’ is short and, as its name suggests, sweet. Its bubblegum-pop, club sound takes a few listens to appreciate and its short length makes it feel as though it never really gets going. ‘Sine From Above’, on the other hand, feels drawn out yet necessary. It’s a spiritual collaboration of two revered artists yet it feels a bit boring at times. However, the outro takes you by surprise as the pop track turns into a drum and bass song that evokes the feeling of Gaga rising up out of her sorrow.
The album ends with a standout track, ‘Babylon’, that is heavily reminiscent of Madonna’s ‘Vogue’. With jazzy sounds in the background, choir-like backing vocals, and a defiant tone, the song is the perfect way to end the album. It sees Gaga able to finally ignore the negatives that fame has brought her and, as you would expect, the song boasts biblical references that only help to show how close she now is to finding happiness within herself.
Chromatica isn’t perfect, but that’s what makes it so good. It’s Gaga’s confession of her flaws. It’s a reflection of a defiant artist who struggles with love, fame and living with herself. Above all, it’s a return to the sound that first made Gaga famous and a departure from the hit and miss efforts she’s made over the past few years. Chromatica sees Gaga leave her recent cocoon of confusion to morph into the confident artist we always knew she was.