Glam rock enigma Lady Gaga unveiled her fifth studio album on Friday, a country music turn more suited for the dive bars than the dance clubs.
Roughly five years after Born This Way‘s release, and Gaga’s operatic vocals are sure to be a permanent fixture in dance clubs across the country. With Joanne, we see a more toned-down, “adult” version of the 30-year old Manhattan-born singer that will feel foreign to her more casual listeners. True Little Monsters have grown familiar with Joanne from Lady Gaga’s “Dive Bar Tour” this year. Gone are the meat dresses, pink hair, and frog jackets. Instead, audiences get a more intimate, “country music” version of Lady Gaga, complete with pink cowboy hat and long, blonde hair.
But to call Joanne a country album may be a misnomer; Gaga’s pop country is still light years away from Garth Brooks or Faith Hill or even the Dixie Chicks. In Joanne, Lady Gaga sings about both John Wayne and Trayvon Martin. The album features collaborations with the likes of Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine, Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, Beck, and Father John Misty.
Lady Gaga is no stranger to reinvention or artistic experiments, but not every iteration of Gaga is as well-adored. This is Lady Gaga’s first full album release since 2013’s Artpop after all, an album that was panned by critics and was her most experimental work to date. Joanne has sparked a warmer—though still mixed—critical reception.
The Guardian called Joanne “a brave move.”
“Joanne stumbles a bit, and will be received with bafflement by everyone other than hardcore Little Monsters, but you can’t help admiring her boldness. “
Writes Daily Beast:
“The act of being Lady Gaga had drowned out the brilliant music, and the importance of Lady Gaga had somehow muddied the simple pleasure of being her fan: It was her authenticity, in all of its strangeness and lofty artistic pursuit, that spoke to us.
That seemed to have gone missing.
Joanne, with standout tracks like “Million Reasons,” “Diamond Heart,” and title song “Joanne,” is a bit of an overcorrection to a few years of that trajectory.”