Monday, 24 October 2016

'Joanne' by Lady Gaga - THE BIG REVIEW in the ESPspotlight on MusicMonday

So here's something I never thought that I'd be doing...

Up there with dying my hair green and professing love for Elvis Presley; I never thought that I would be reviewing a Lady Gaga album...the things we do to grow, eh? Joanne is apparently the singer's fifth studio album (huh, thought there would've been more - kudos on the success). I checked out the deluxe version (natch), and found...well, pretty much what I expected from a Lady Gaga album.

Don't get me wrong, no disrespect to the Lady, I thought that she was pants until I saw her perform live once at the piano, and she blew my mind with her performance. And let's not forget her recent defence of alleged sexually abused star Kesha - for that, she will always have my respect; but if I suddenly professed to be her greatest fan, I think we all know that I would be lying through my pearly whites. That said - let's get into this thing...

The set opens with Diamond Heart, a rock song about a young, gogo dancing female who appears to use her body to survive after being raped. The story isn't pretty, juxtaposingly, it's quite gritty in fact, as she talks of no longer being a good girl, after finding out that they get nowhere. A fast-paced opener it is, and if you played it loud - which I did not - I'm sure that it would make you sit up and pay attention. The grit in Gaga's voice matches the sentiment of the song perfectly. A-YO - definitely a future single - is a funky rock track that talks about not being able to contain the desire to get a lucky guy going, before testing out the mirror on his ceiling. It's actually quite catchy, and you can hear the potential hit in the making.

The title track Joanne is a folksy guitar plea to choose life at the brink of death. A somewhat strange song for an album lead, it's a letter to a loved one to let them know how much they are needed and will be missed. Now John Wayne, hmmm, what can I say about this...It took me several listens, and I must say, that I'm still not sure that I really got the essence of this Pop-Rock song? I'm going to try to grab it before it floats over my head one more time...

So essentially, a couple are on the road and he's her 'John', but he's not really what she's looking for, she craves a strong man that she just hasn't come across yet, so she ditches him and tries some other literal 'Johns' ie. customers, on for size; but none match up to the ideal that she's looking for in her mind, and so she carries on her search, into the sunset? Have a listen someone please, and do tell me - does that about sum it up? Who knows; the one thing that I can tell you, is that this is another potential single, and I see a pretty decent video following to boot. The production is also pretty good, with a strong guitar hook taking the lead throughout.

Dancin' In Circles is the Pop equivalent of RnB singer Tweet's massive hit Ooops (Oh My), in my humble opinion. Singing about 'touching herself', pretending she is her object of  interest, this isn't something that we haven't heard before, but because of the mainstream name, I can see it becoming a lot bigger than its predecessor. To give the track its dues, it does have a catchy beat, and the production on it is nice and tidy - on a good day, it would almost be my cup of tea (but not today). Lead single Perfect Illusion caused intense chart heat when it was released in early September. The 'little monsters' went cray for the Pop song lamenting over being fooled into thinking that she was in love, when in reality it was...well, what it says on the tin. Again, catchy; easy to see why it was selected for the lead single.

Million Reasons is the next track to take the charts by storm, currently sitting comfortably at number 34 in this, its first week of entry. A nice change of pace, it's a big ballad, end of the road, break up song, pining over the million reasons to leave a relationship, whilst not really wanting to; instead wanting to be given one to stay. The piano backing, strings and guitar are a nice touch after all the Pop Rock we've been inundated with up to this point. Sinner's Prayer feels like something straight out of a Western. I honestly cannot decide whether this is a make believe moment, or just one of the padded bar lunacy-like type I attributed her with before I knew she had talent. Gaga is the Sinner and she wants to unburden her conscience to one person only; her travelling companion, who doesn't realise that he's travelling with a tramp (her words), and has hedged all his bets on her, unlike her little sister, who is the marrying kind that he's looking for. Her word in general isn't worth much, but her Sinner's Prayer? Well that's good as gold...

Come To Mama is a Gaga-esque equivalent to We Are The World. It's a plea to 'love one another, and stop telling each other how to live'. She begs that we stop pigeon-holing each other to a Folksy-Country beat, and that sisters and brothers should return to the times when we all loved one another; after all - it's not that long since we all lived in a jungle...she says. Featuring Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine); Hey Girl is surprisingly listenable! An ode to friends that you can rely on, the song talks about knowing you can rely on each other to pull your hair back when you're upchucking, and get you home when you're not in fit state to do the job yourself. Soulful, with an almost RnB tinge; it's the most palatable song of the album so far, by a mile!

Angel Down is another decent offering. A balladic political reference to those losing their lives on the streets due to indifference and a general lack of respect for human life. It's hard to dispute a socially conscious, sensible Gaga (when she's not implying that we're Tarzan and Jane). Grigio Girls is a salute for those who have graduated from Lambrini. Celebrating the option of drinking your cares away, it's an ode to getting drunk with your mates when times get tough. Honky tonk Just Another Day is a love song with a difference. She sings of being the emotional woman that he knows, but that doesn't negate how much she loves him on this, Just Another Day.

Album closer Angel Down (Work Tape) is a more acoustic version of the earlier song, that actually works better than the original, because her voice is gritty, and the emotion conveyed sells the song much better than on the polished original. This is the Gaga that made me sit up and take notice on that awards show. She emanates a pain in the single verse that also further emphasises the narrative and makes the song a winner.

I reiterate, I'm not going to pretend to suddenly be Gaga's biggest fan; but Joanne has a few rare moments that demand you respect her as an artist, and after listening to them a few times over - I finally do.

Joanne is available from all independent retailers now.

Thanks for reading folks - this was a tough one to write! Let me know if you share or dispute my thoughts, but don't forget to explain why! YOUR stage is below.

Until the next...