Chromatica: The Most Anticipated Album of the Year
Lady Gaga is back! One of the most anticipated albums of the year, Chromatica, was released on May 29th, 2020 with record producer BloodPop. The album’s release was originally scheduled for April 10th; however, Gaga decided to postpone its release due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. She also decided to cancel her album’s listening party in response to the death of George Floyd, and the protests that have swept the country the past couple of weeks. Gaga’s decision to release this album late was because she wanted to bring pleasure and beauty to help, as we endure this difficult fight. These actions have shown that Gaga is not just an artist, but an activist. Lady Gaga’s activism sets the perspective through which Chromatica can be analyzed.
In regards to the cancellation, Lady Gaga says in a recent interview, “As much as I want to listen to Chromatica together as a global group of kindness punks right now, our kindness is needed for the world today. I’m going to postpone our listening session right now and encourage you all to take this time to register to vote and raise your voice” (Bucksbaum 1). Gaga recognizes the importance of current political and social issues in relation to her fans. She also felt delaying the album would work well, because it touches on topics such as mental health, depression, loneliness, self-empowerment, freedom, and love. This coincides with today’s rise of mental health issues, due to COVID-19 and protests.
Chromatica is Lady Gaga’s first album since 2018, A Star Is Born. It is a return of the music genre electro-pop and disco roots that were used in her albums, The Fame and Born This Way. Chromatica proves that Gaga is returning to her roots in dance music that made her a superstar. Her past hits “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance” can be compared to her new songs “Rain on Me” and “Sour Candy”. Electro-pop is a music genre combining elements of electronic and pop genres. Chromatica is an attempt to recover sounds from her past. “Rain on me” is one of the songs on this album that does that. The sound, vocals, and lyrics of past hardships and the song known as a “celebration of tears” is a message to keep going. The incredible vocals, fun beat, energy, and guitars add to the intensity of the song. This return to electro-pop and mix of her lyrics shows Lady Gaga is living her truth. “Alice” is another song on the album that represents pop music. “Alice” is an imaginative song that makes you feel as though you were a part of Alice in Wonderland. It complements the themes of the album by imagining Gaga as “Alice” and escaping her reality through fantasy. This imaginative thought is expressed through elegance, a reason Gaga is a pop queen. This album uses sounds from EDM, disco, and funk, all which make it perfect for the dance floor.
Chromatica is a representation of Gaga’s salutary journey of self-healing. She has been very open about her struggles with depression in hope of inspiring others. She says she is on her journey to “finding personal freedom” (Rowley 1). As a teenager she was the victim to a sexual assault, and many failed relationships. She also struggled when her aunt died from lupus. Gaga describes her depression as angry, distrustful and sorrow. When I think of Gaga and her heartache, I think of my friend who also suffered from depression. I will never forget her saying in her darkest moments that Lady Gaga’s meaningful songs inspired her. In the song “Sour Candy”, Gaga begins the song describing herself as “angry” and “super psycho”, but later claims, “I might be messed up, but I know what’s up. You want a real taste, at least I’m not fake.” In this song, Gaga views herself as “sour candy” and acknowledges her mental health is not perfect, but it makes her a real person. This song is a portrayal of Gaga acknowledging that she suffers from depression and accepts it. In the book Depression: A Public Feeling by Ann Cvetkovich, she writes “Depression is a cultural and social phenomenon rather than a medical disease” (Cvetkovich 1). Cvetkovich believes that depression is brought on by trauma and gives advice about how to use your experiences to live a better life. Gaga’s trauma as a young adult was very disturbing. Cvetkovich believes that “hope, and even happiness, about how to live a better life by embracing rather than glossing over bad feelings” (Cvetkovich 3) is the answer. Gaga is an example of this. She has embraced her experiences and is not afraid to talk about it, because it makes her real. This album is the next battle in her crusade against depression and has been beneficial in her success.
After learning about Gaga’s past, I continue to hear the same deep and sad sounds about depression on her album Chromatica. They are a connection to the anger, pain, and defeat she has experienced. When comparing this to her past albums, this album has a lot more emotion and strong vocals. The high tempo, bass-driving, drums, and uplifting lyrics of this album offer an interesting relationship. Chromatica is an attempt to restore a sound she loved from her past, while remembering who she was before she became famous. “Free Woman” is an example of this. The chorus is “I’m not nothing without a steady hand, I’m not nothing unless I know I can, I’m still something if I don’t got a man, I’m a free woman, oh-oh.” “Free Woman” is a positive, happy examination of healing and moving forward. Gaga has this power.
The lyrics converge with the artist’s use of sound because they recover her feelings of depression and other mental health issues. In the single that was released early, “Stupid Love,” Gaga reemphasizes the message that you do not need to feel helpless or isolated while you are down emotionally. “Gotta quit this cryin/ Nobody’s gonna heal me if I don’t open the door/ Kinda hard to believe, gotta have faith in me.” These words are a reminder of how overwhelming depression can be. Depression causes feelings of helplessness and isolation. In another powerful song, “1000 Doves”, Lady Gaga’s powerful voice and emotions reflect in the lyrics. “I need you to listen to me, please don’t leave me” to “If you love me, then just set me free.” In this emotional song, Gaga uses her soaring voice and house beats as a cry for help. It is also a meaningful lesson that it is okay to open yourself up to love and be vulnerable in the hands of someone else.
Gaga is rated one of the best female pop singers of 2020. Her contemporary artists praise her new music by collaborating with her and singing with her in many of the songs on the album. On the hit “Sour Candy” she sings with the girl group Blackpink, whose lyrics and sounds are represented through Kpop, a genre of popular dance music from South Korea. The collaboration and different vocal styles of all the women add to the dimension in the song. The track that helped me understand the album the most was the collaboration of Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande in “Rain On Me.” Not only is it the most club worthy it contains the most lyrics about her depression. In the lyrics “At least I showed up, you showed me nothing at all.” This song is her way of letting it all out.
Chromatica has been called her best album since Born This Way. The songs are different, but all incorporate dance pop music. The added gift on this album is that the music has deep context, which adds to the emotional deepness of the album.
Chromatica is the groundwork for the next phase of Lady Gaga’s impressive career. By returning to her powerful electro-pop and dance pop musical style, Lady Gaga is living her truth. The uplifting nature of this album and the similarities to her original work is her way of letting it all out. The lyrics on this album empower her. The sounds of Lady Gaga’s dance music are a reminder that we are always capable to improve ourselves and our situations.
Ahlgrim, Callie, and Courteney Larocca. “Lady Gaga Returns with Triumphant, Electro-Pop Bangers, but ‘Chromatica’ Fails to Maintain Its High Notes.” Insider, Insider, 29 May 2020,www.insider.com/chromatica-lady-gaga-review-tracklist-breakdown-2020-5.
Bucksbaum, Sydney. “Lady Gaga Cancels ‘Chromatica’ Album Listening Party Following Protests over George Floyd’s Death.” EW.com, ew.com/music/lady-gaga-cancels-chromatica-album-listening-party/.
Cvetkovich, Ann. “Introduction.” Depression a Public Feeling, Duke University Press, 2012.
Rowley, Glenn. “Lady Gaga’s ‘Chromatica’: Best Lyrics.” Billboard, 29 May 2020, www.billboard.com/articles/columns/pop/9392999/lady-gaga-chromatica-best-lyrics.