Count me in! I am committing myself in becoming a fan of Lady Gaga. That’s right! Is there room for a 53-year-old Monster? I hope so, because I withstood the hype until her recent performance on Saturday Night Live. So, I went out and got her latest album, Joanne. Now, I’m all in on this little dynamo of a performer.
I have to be honest. When she first arrived on the scene back in 2008 and 2009, I literally thought she was Madonna rip-off who had the great taste to name drop David Bowie, Queen and Elton John as musical role models. Sure, all musicians aspire to that level, or some equivalency depending on the type of music they are writing. The only thing is that Lady Gaga has made a slow deliberate shift into artist mode.
Look, she began as a very good dance artist. Then, on her second album, Born This Way, Gaga made a slight turned into the very appropriate ’80s-type dance-rock music. On that album, Gaga became a superstar. Unfortunately, superstar status is a relatively easy level to reach in the 21st century, but a very hard thing to maintain. How many times have we watched the latest pop queen reach the top, only to follow up the triumph with an album that only makes your shoulder shrug. No matter how much hype the pop press wants to give Beyoncé or Rihanna or Drake, I only shrug my own shoulders at their latest masterpieces. Sorry guys! I’ve heard it before and done better by some little known artists from the Seventies. Oh, and Katy Perry? Please! Or OneRepublic? Uh, no! These are all the artist equivalencies of pop rocks.
But, Lady Gaga backed away from that superficial superstar status in order to become an artist who is becoming worthy to be listed amongst those she idolizes. First, she is blessed with the best voice that is now capable of emoting the pain we all experience. Sure, her fourth album, Artpop, was a mess, but at least she was reaching for more substance than her peers. But, I watched her make artistic strides by recording an album of duets of classic jazz and pop songs with the immortal Tony Bennett. Her association with the King of Cool was the kind of stamp of approval that I was looking for. Yet, I was not prepared for her latest album, Joanne.
Yes, you can still dance to much of her new music, but you can find her branching out with touches of country-rock here or flat-out rock there. But, what pulls me in the most is her voice. Now, I can feel her pain, joy, or whatever emotion she is throwing at us. I know that right now this album is getting pretty average ratings, but this album is one of those that will on grow on you after percolating for some time.
Highlights are “Diamond Heart”, “A-YO”, “Come to Mama” and “Hey Girl”, a duet with Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine. But, the emotional centerpiece of this album is the beautiful piano-based ballad “Million Reasons”. That song continues to grab me by the throat each time I hear it.
I think Lady Gaga has finally made an album worthy of her last name, which she copped from the Queen song “Radio Gaga”. If she keeps up these artistic moves, Lady Gaga will become immortal like her heroes. She finally is beginning to become an artist.