Album Review: Joanne by Lady Gaga / by Nadia Fallahi

Disclaimer: This was supposed to be relased on Oct. 21 (the day of Joanne's release, but the internet broke, so apologies.

Well.  The day has come.  Joanne, the long-awaited album from global superstar Lady Gaga, officially drops today!!  For Little Monsters and fans of authentic, talented music everywhere, this day could not have come sooner.  It’s been three whole years (just about) since Gaga’s last record, Artpop, and I honestly feel like the wait was worth it.  (Also, she did that whole gig with Tony Bennett and won a Grammy for a classical jazz album, went #1 and sold out a national tour, but who’s counting!) (Oh, and there was that time she was the star of “American Horror Story: Hotel” and won a Golden Globe for her performance.) 

Oh, and she’s playing the 2017 Super Bowl Halftime show after showing everyone up by singing the National Anthem at the 2016 Super Bowl.

Joanne is a new era for Gaga.  Each of Gaga’s albums sets the tone for the “era,” meaning how she will dress, what she is interested in, what the projects and endorsements she may be working on, how her tour will be, who’s sponsoring her (right now it’s Bud Light!!), etc. 

The eras: The Fame, The Fame Monster, Born This Way, Artpop, Cheek to Cheek, Joanne

The eras: The Fame, The Fame Monster, Born This Way, Artpop, Cheek to Cheek, Joanne

 

ABOUT JOANNE

You must be asking yourself “Who the fuhhhh is Joanne?”  For starters, Joanne is the name of Gaga’s late aunt (the younger sister of Gaga’s father) who died when she was 19.  Gaga never got to meet Joanne but always felt she carried pieces of Joanne with her.  Gaga always talked about her Aunt Joanne and how she was so full of life and an artist, much like how Gaga is.  She also has said, “[Joanne] is the woman of my past who is becoming and helping me bring more of my honest woman self into the future.”  Joanne is also one of Lady Gaga’s middle names (her full name —fun fact!!— is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta).  In an interview in 2011, Gaga even said that she felt this obligation and duty to “'finish (Joanne’s) business’ in being an artist.”

Joanne Germanotta

Joanne Germanotta

When discussing the concept for the album — even though Joanne is not a conceptual album, Gaga has noted, unlike her other albums — she talks about her newfound, deeper relationship, for last of better words, with her Aunt Joanne.  She also discusses how she wants to make music that connects with everyone, especially those who never thought they would be able to relate the Gaga.  She talks about a woman:

”Hair's back, no makeup, heirloom family jewelry or maybe something from her aunt, or her grandma's ring. She's got a Hanes cheap sweatshirt on from Duane Reade, rolled-up jeans, kid in one hand, Pinot Grigio in the other, two kids running around her, no man in her life... just crying her eyes out singing along to every word and going, 'I can't believe that I can relate to Lady Gaga’…But then, by the time I finished writing the record I realized that girl was me. And I was writing to myself as if this had never happened.”

Woaaaaah! Super deep! (I know).  Gaga went on in the same interview that she realized the woman she was imagining was also Joanne (!!!).

 

THE TEAM

Mark and Gaga back in the day

Mark and Gaga back in the day

Mark Ronson — Mark is one of the executive producers on Joanne.  You may know him from working with the late (and great) Amy Winehouse and his newly diamond-achieving “Uptown Funk” (seriously, even if you can’t stand this song, it’s the NINTH song in HISTORY to achieve this — unheard of).  So clearly Gaga is NOT messing around.  Mark is originally from the UK and his breadth of work helped bring this really unique edge to Joanne.  Gaga and Mark first met back in the day when he produced the Wale and Gaga collab, “Chillin’.”  TBT right?  Anyways, Gaga and Mark have a really special bond and I think that he really helped bring a lot of deeper and raw emotion and skill for this album.

Bloodpop — Formerly known as Blood Diamond, Bloodpop (I’m just gonna keep calling him Blood) is another executive producer on Joanne.  I first was introduced to Blood in high school when I became obsessed with Grimes, as the two are best friends and do a ton of stuff together.  I have even been blessed to meet Blood, not just once, but twice (!! -- see right) — first after Kanye at Made in America and then last year at Zinc in DTLA.  A week after I met him the second time, this lil song he produced for Justin Bieber dropped.  Boom.  Also, he and Grimes’s most famous track together is probably “Go,” which is one of my most favorite songs. Blood’s work was mainly dance and electronic; he’s really known for his synth work, so I was really interested to see how this would help craft Joanne.  I could not be more amazed, like with Mark, about the breadth of talent Blood has.  Just to go from “Go” to “Sorry” to some of the songs he did for Madonna on her last album to Joanne is mind blowing. 

 

 

 

 

Father John Misty — Indie rock sensation Father John Misty is also a producer on Joanne and sings some backup vocals on “Sinner’s Prayer.” (SIDE NOTE — He’s also from Maryland!!!)  I think that the pairing of FJM and Gaga is nuts but after hearing the songs he worked on, it all makes sense.  He added some incredible drum and guitar elements to those tracks.  FJM has had an incredible last couple of year and I think his solo work speaks a lot of his artistry and talent.  (Also, he plays the actual airhorn on the Diplo-produced/Diplo and Ezra Koenig writing collab “Hold Up” on Beyonce’s Lemonade.  I literally cannot make this up).

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin Parker — Kevin is the frontman of Tame Impala and worked on “Perfect Illusion” for Joanne.  Gaga calls Kevin the “brain child” of the song, as he was the one who came up with the concept of the perfect illusion.  In an interview, Mark noted that Kevin actual began a little bit of the song and brought it to Mark and Gaga, who then cut and sewed it with Blood and Kevin’s help. And here we are.

Josh Homme — Josh is the frontman of Queens of the Stone Age.  He has a little background in heavy metal music too (*queues “Heavy Metal Lover”), so his additions to Joanne helped to give it that extra kick it needed. The guitar parts he added on the track are insane and really help give it the song that raw, unique, easily recognizable sound.  He also added guitar for “John Wayne,” additionally giving it that nitty-gritty western sound.

Beck — You should probably know who Beck is, and if you don’t, please open a new tab and get educated.  “Go It Alone” is one of my top 10 favorite songs of all time.  Anyways,  Mark knew Beck and knew that Gaga just adored Beck, so Mark brought Beck in to work on Joanne, specifically on “Dancin’ in Circles.”  I love this lil quote from an interview Mark did with NME, which perfectly sums it up: “;For Gaga, it was like meeting her idol…Beck is pretty much her favorite influential artist of the past 20 years. She was a fan girl at first.’ The song morphed from an unplugged Beck song into what Ronson calls “classic Gaga, like ‘Alejandro’ and some of the stuff from Fame Monster.”

Hillary Lindsey — Hillary is probably the one person who contributed the Joanne I knew the least about.  Hillary is mainly known for her writing on songs for female country singers (think Faith Hill and Martina McBride — don't worry, I still hate country music).  Hillary worked on “Million Reasons,” “A-YO” and “Grigio Girls.” Gaga even brought Hillary out at the Nashville dive bar show and introduced the track” “We sat on a couch together, and we were going back and forth, guitar and piano, and we were going, ‘Why these men, you know?’ All these men — my dad, my boyfriend, all the men in my life — they gave me a million reasons [to leave], but I just need one good one to stick around but you’re giving me a million to walk away.”

RedOne — Maybe you’ve been out at the club or in your car and you’ve heard the opening chords of “Just Dance” followed by: “REEEEDONEEEE…KONVICT….GAAAAAGAAAAAA!!!!” Ya, okay, so that’s RedOne.  RedOne has literally been with Gaga since the beginning — the first song they worked on together was “Boys Boys Boys.”  Addtitionally, he’s worked on the following Gaga songs: "Just Dance,” “LoveGame,” "Poker Face,” "Money Honey,” "Boys Boys Boys,” "Paper Gangsta,” "Bad Romance,” “Alejandro,” “Monster,” "So Happy I Could Die,” “Fashion,” “Judas,” “Hair,” "Highway Unicorn (Road to Love),” “Scheiße,” “007 On You,” and “Gypsy” — and this doesn’t even include all the features she’s done with him.  Anyways, RedOne worked on “Angel Down” for Joanne, which is probably everyone’s favorite track.  The song is friggin’ INTENSE and POWERFUL and so different from any other song RedOne and Gaga have done together.  I think the song is incredible, and their relationship is one of the most important in music.

 

 

 

Florence + The Machine — Florence Welch is hands down one of my favorite artists.  I keep saying that if 16 year old me had only knew that a Gaga and Florence would have a collab, I don’t even know what would have happened.  Florence and Gaga sing back and forth to each other on “Hey Girl,” where they talk about empowering and supporting each other and other women.  Truly incredible.  Florence is one of the most amazing artists and performers, ever.  I think it’s also really important to note that this is the only real vocal feature on the album.  The future is female!!!

 

 

 

DIVE BAR & POTENTIAL TOURS

The first time I saw Gaga was September 7, 2010 on the Monster Ball tour.  I was going through a tough stage, and this woman (with the help of the show) single-handedly changed my life.  I cannot even try to exaggerate this. Not. One. Bit.  Anyways, I spent the whole night sobbing and left a new person.  I’ll spare you all the details, but just know, that there is a good reason I live and die for her.

Monster Ball 2010, Monster Ball 2011, Jingle Ball LA 2011, Artrave 2014, Cheek to Cheek Tour 2015

Monster Ball 2010, Monster Ball 2011, Jingle Ball LA 2011, Artrave 2014, Cheek to Cheek Tour 2015

Gaga is an artist in every sense of the word.  She believes in the importance of live performances and touring (you’ll never even catch her lip-syncing, ever…unlike some other pop “singers” you may now).  She is hands-on in every part of her career and touring and live shows are not an exception.  Gaga was even bankrupt until late 2010/early 2011 because she put every dollar she had made into her live show (YES KWEEN!).  Needless to say, her shows are just next level.

I’m interested to see what this (as we’re calling it) Joanne Roundup Tour (it’s not called that, officially, do not quote us on that…unless it ends up to be real) is going to look like.  Gaga has done two dive bar shows, sponsored by Bud Light — one in Nashville a few weeks ago and one in LA just last night.  I was initially put back by this, but after watching the Nashville show and listening to the album, I totally get it.  I listen to the album and imagine myself in a hole-in-the-wall bar in the middle of nowhere that I just happened to stumble in upon and you can see me in my new boots (#JoanneVibes) dancing and kicking with my best guy friends (basically, I’m Gaga with her boys from Joanne production team), Bud Light in hand.  

The ArtRave

The ArtRave

I think that this tour will (hopefully) still be arena, but it will definitely will be more stripped, as in comparison to the Artrave (see right).  I think that Gaga will probably perform the whole album, along with some of the more popular tracks from previous albums (think “Bad Romance,” “Just Dance,” etc.) and some deep cuts (I mean, who didn’t DIE at her poppin’ in a bit of “Cake Like Lady Gaga” during Artrave???).  She’ll definitely still do it in the same style as other shows.  By this I mean, the show will be cut into certain sections with specific costumes, imagery and stage production elements, with different interludes between (I still am here for those Monster Ball interludes (below), ESPECIALLY the “Manifesto of Little Monsters” (below, left)).  I think it’s too early to determine what the costumes will look like, but I can guarantee we will see some of this croptop just barely passing the boobs and lil shorts (I really hope she does the metallic ones!).  

I usually have bad luck when it comes to Gaga shows (like when my Born This Way Ball show got cancelled nine days before the show on the day of my best friend’s funeral or when my Artrave date got swaped and I had to go to Philly to see the show or when I spent $$$ on VIP tickets only to realize I bought the wrong package), SO I can only hope that I have better luck this time around!!

Also, Joe and I have predicted she will play Coachella.  Don't @ us if she doesn't. If she does, you heard it here first.

 

Jonanne Tracklist:

Here are all the tracks on Joanne, along with the people who worked on each:

  1. Diamond Heart (feat. Josh Homme, Mark Ronson, and Bloodpop)
  2. A-Yo (feat. Mark Ronson, Bloodpop, and Hillary Lindsey)
  3. Joanne (feat. Mark Ronson and Bloodpop)
  4. John Wayne (feat. Josh Homme, Mark Ronson, and Bloodpop)
  5. Dancin’ In Circles (feat. Beck, Mark Ronson, and Bloodpop)
  6. Perfect Illusion (feat. Josh Homme, Kevin Parker, Mark Ronson, and Bloodpop)
  7. Million Reasons (feat. Mark Ronson, Bloodpop, and Hillary Lindsey)
  8. Sinner’s Prayer (feat. Father John Misty, Mark Ronson, and Bloodpop)
  9. Come To Mama (feat. Father John Misty, Mark Ronson, and Bloodpop)
  10. Hey Girl (feat. Florence and the Machine, Mark Ronson, and Bloodpop)
  11. Angel Down (feat. RedOne, Mark Ronson, and Bloodpop)
    BONUS TRACKS:
  12. Grigio Girls (Deluxe Edition Track) (feat. Mark Ronson, Bloodpop, and Hillary Lindsey)
  13. Just Another Day (Deluxe Edition Track)
  14. Angel Down (Work Tape) (Deluxe Edition Track)

To get a deeper look into each song, I called upon my good friend, Joe Regan, to join me on a podcast-esque rundown.  Give a (not so quick) listen to hear our take on Joanne and each of the songs:

 (Disclaimer: We're deliquents and listened early; I have zero regrets)

 

WHY GAGA

It’s really no surprise to anyone at this point how much I love Gaga and how much she has impacted my life.  When I’m happy and excited, Gaga is always there for me.  When I’m feeling upset and like my world is falling apart, Gaga is always there for me.

Her work, directly and indirectly related to music, have shaped the person I am today, and I do not know where I would be today without her.  My mom called me a “human rights activist” last weekend (lmao I know) and I think most of this comes from Gaga.  I just love the woman!

I remember my first Monster Ball.  I spent almost two years of school being bullied and chasing girls I considered friends who would rather have nothing to do with me.  I kept imagine what the ~future~ would hold.  I kept telling myself that everything would be much better when I went to college.  I would find people who actually cared about me and didn't make me feel like I needed to change anything about me to get them to like me.  I always say that you should never stop believing in your personal brand, and Gaga is so much apart of mine.  That said, I knew that my love for and obsession with her (along with other people and interests) were special to me.  I couldn't just drop them when I wanted to, and I could only surpress those emotions so much.  I was worried about fitting in and being the "coolest" or most "popular" I could be to avoid getting yet another death threat in a classroom or written on my Facebook wall.  I just remember Gaga finishing the first section of the Monster Ball and then saying that tonight, we all weren't the freaks -- the freaks were OUTSIDE...and she locked the "fucking doors!!"

There is no feeling like an actual personal epiphany.  I saw the light! She was the guidance and hero I needed.  I carry her words and actions with me, always motivating me to be the best version of myself and to help anyone who felt as I once did.  These speeches still stick with me.  I was literally driving home today and listening to another speech from the Monster Ball (below) and sobbed the entire time -- six whole years after the first time I heard it.  

The speech that forever changed my life!!!

I wish I could just tell Gaga thank you for all she has done for me and so many around the world.  There is no one who has been able to have that kind of positive effect on the world.

I think that Joanne is one of her strongest works.  While my favorite will always be The Fame Monster, I still love and appreciate the other albums — Joanne included.  Gaga has grown and developed since she dropped out of NYU when she was 19 (remember, the same age the Aunt Joanne died).  I am not here for people saying that Joanne’s sound isn’t good or that they like the “old” Gaga better.  She has changed from era to era, and she’s also 30.  Do you really think she’s gonna sing more Cherry Cherry Boom Boom and about riding disco sticks right now? Probably not.  We have to take each era for what it is.  Just like we all change, Gaga is too.  I mean, we’re all definitely doing the same exact things we were ten years ago, right?

I’m incredibly proud and amazed by Mother Monster.  I wish her the best of success on this album, and I can’t wait for the Joanne Roundup!!

 

OTHER GOOD READS

Here are some links for further reading:

 

Matcha HAd me...drinking bud lights, planning my outfits for the roundup and crying.