Chromatica is the profoundly personal yet delightfully futuristic new album from Lady Gaga. As her sixth solo studio album, the songs tackle her own demons such as depression, loneliness, addiction, heartbreak, PTSD, and chronic pain, but through uplifting beats and downright bops, there is a feeling of hopefulness throughout that is undeniable, which is exactly what we need at this point in 2020.
Don’t get me wrong, since the songs are so meaningful, some of the lyrics are hard to listen to, and sometimes hard to relate to. But Lady Gaga has never shied away from sharing her personal struggles. Chromatica in many ways is a deep look into her emotional journey through fame, heartbreak, and mental health. Beyond that, it is an incredibly well-crafted album with a lot to consider, both lyrically and musically.
Right off the bat, there will be inevitable comparisons to her other albums, most likely Born This Way and ARTPOP because those are the two whose sounds are the most similar to Chromatica, however, this one is perfectly cohesive.
Lady Gaga is pretty well-known for her experimentation with tonality within an album, and so that is what makes Chromatica so different. Each song is perfectly in-tune with the others, and the album is meant to be listened to in order because they represent different chapters of struggle.
One of the most surprising parts of this album is the lack of a so-called power ballad. All of Gaga’s other albums had “slower” songs that really showed off her vocal skills and were surprisingly deep (I am thinking of “Speechless” or “Dope”) but there is nothing similar to that here.
The closest we come is in the song “Fun Tonight” which is clearly a response to a breakup (fans think it is regarding her ex-fiance Christian Carino and the demise of their relationship) and the lyrics are unquestionably heartbreaking, but on the surface seems like another dance-pop track. To me, it feels like she has nothing left that she needs to prove to anyone. Chromatica is for the fans and was very obviously cathartic to her own healing.
However, don’t think that Chromatica does not show off Lady Gaga’s vocal skills, because it absolutely does. Upon first listen especially, you might think that her vocals are subdued based on the heavy lyrics and boppy beats, but if you listen carefully, this album probably shows off her vocal range better than any prior album. “Alice” and “1000 Doves”, in particular, show her skillfully hitting high notes and then immediately dipping down into that lower register that deep-cut fans know and love. There are so few performers that have this style mastered and are so good at it that it seems effortless, and so it might be overlooked.
The production value of this album is also undeniable. As a huge dance-pop fan myself, I feel that the genre is often misunderstood or looked over as a source of quality. However, listeners can tell the thought and strategy that went into each song’s production through the use of hooks, callbacks, layered rhythm, intentional bridges, and amazing transitions. That transition from “Chromatica II” to “911” is one of the best parts of the entire album, and it is literally a transition from one instrumental interlude to a different song.
Even though Chromatica is so different from other music releases that I have heard recently, there is a nostalgic sound in the beats used that reminds of the techno sounds of the early 90s. As someone who was in junior high and high school in the 90s, this almost had a soothing effect on me because it took me back to those years when I had fewer things to worry about. If you love those dance tracks and female empowerment anthems of the early 90s, you will love this album.
I should mention there are several collaborations on the album. My favorite one is with Ariana Grande and is called “Rain on Me” but the other two are equally good if not more impactful. “Sour Candy” is the collaboration with K-Pop group BLACKPINK and is probably the catchiest song on the entire album. I love myself some K-Pop and this song definitely did it for me and is basically in my head 24/7. The other collaboration is a lively duet with Elton John called “Sine From Above” that showcases some great vocal range and obviously some incredible piano work.
Due to the specific style of this album, it probably isn’t for everyone. The genre and tone are very distinct and I am a big enough music lover to admit that not everyone will like Chromatica. However, if I had to choose a handful of songs to consider my favorites, I would pick “Alice”, “Rain On Me”, “911”, “Enigma”, and “Sine From Above”. This is a good sampling of what the album sounds like and stands for.
Even though I want to be out in the clubs dancing my ass off to this entire album with my friends with a cocktail in my hand, our quarantine doesn’t allow that at this time. Luckily, we can still blast Chromatica and hold our own dance breaks, or if you are like me, dance in your chair while you’re working. Either way, this is Lady Gaga’s presumptive best and most personal album yet.
Editor’s Note: Farid did a reaction video, on our YouTube channel, while listening to Chromatica.
Erin has reviewed many shows over the years including Orphan Black, iZombie, Penny Dreadful, and Killing Eve. She has a keen eye for on-screen chemistry, and loves to tackle the subject of casting. She is also our horror aficionado. She live tweets shows, and loves to share her feelings. Erin has a BA in History, and likes to analyze the lore behind historical fiction. She attends San Diego Comic Con every year and has also attended C2E2 and WonderCon.
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