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Lady Gaga - Chromatica (Album Review)

Monday, 08 June 2020 Written by Sophie Williams

“This is my dancefloor I fought for,” Lady Gaga sings with unbridled conviction on Free Woman, the fifth track on ‘Chromatica’. She’s certainly not wrong. Candidly navigating depression and her attempts to shoulder its burden in the spotlight, the chameleonic pop icon’s sixth album builds upon the triumphant reclamation of her internal battles to heart-swelling effect.

Here, there is no personal hardship that can’t be intelligently transformed into a club-primed melody. Underneath the eye-watering neon blaze of thumping electro-pop number Plastic Doll, for example, lies a deeply affecting mediation on sexual objectification.

Similarly, the new wave-indebted 911 brazenly maxes out the vocoder while Gaga lays down a sobering ode to finding comfort in the antipsychotic medication Olanzapine. “Paradise is in my hands,” she repeatedly muses. 

Elsewhere, she pushes her commanding, half-spoken vocals to dizzying new heights on the closer Babylon, taking aim at tabloid gossip over classic house piano and outrageously fun saxophone breaks. By that stage the pulsating Replay has already wrestled with the harrowing aftermath of PTSD over a Technicolor trance groove. 

But while ‘Chromatica’ reads as an empowered journey into healing, it also manages to create space for the sort of maximalist dance-pop that secured Gaga a foothold in the mainstream with 2009’s peerless ‘The Fame Monster’. For evidence, look no further than the lead single Stupid Love, a bombastic love song that dances to the tune of EDM-lite beats and theatrical excess.

Above all else, though, as the album unfolds it becomes increasingly euphoric to hear Gaga’s impassioned self-revelations thrown into relief with each emotional breakthrough, particularly during Rain on Me. A duet with Ariana Grande, the song is an electric paean to the power of perseverance. 

When its stratospheric chorus breaks into glowing catharsis thanks to the dynamic, looped refrain of “I’d rather be dry but at least I’m alive”, we realise that the track, and by extension Gaga herself, has finally started to break free.

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