It’s tough to pin down Lady Gaga. Over less than a decade she has made chart-topping dance-pop but also jazz standards with Tony Bennett. She performed a tribute to David Bowie at the Grammys and “The Sound of Music” at the Oscars. She has worn meat dresses and bizarre headdresses, won a Golden Globe for playing a vampire in “American Horror Story: Hotel” and earned an Oscar nomination for the song “‘Til It Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground.” So the fact that her latest album “Joanne,” released October 21, is so “old fashioned” is perhaps her biggest musical departure to date.
But will it bring her back to music super-stardom? After a string of successes, her last solo album “Artpop” (2013) was a relative disappointment critically and commercially. The reviews for “Joanne” indicate a step up from that effort, but there’s still some ambivalence about her latest creative direction. It has scored a generally positive 64 on MetaCritic, but that’s a few points shy of the scores she received for “The Fame,” “The Fame Monster” and “Born This Way.”
Check out some of the reviews below, and join our posters in discussing “Joanne” in our music forum.
Neil McCormick (The Telegraph): “With big songs and big production, ‘Joanne’ certainly sounds like the business. Yet while its modernity is expressed by mixing and matching genres or adding digital zing to familiar tropes, for all its bravura exuberance and pop slickness it is old fashioned to its core … Lady Gaga, it turns out, is an old-fashioned rock and roll showgirl at heart.”
Caroline Sullivan (The Guardian): “‘Joanne’ is Gaga with the look-at-me layer peeled away. For the first time, she’s made an album using not much more than the resources that predate her stardom: the big, clear voice and life-as-she-sees-it honesty. The razzle-dazzle in her hasn’t entirely dissipated – more of which below – but it takes second place to her desire to be seen as just Stefani Germanotta for a while.”
Stephen Thomas Erlewine (AllMusic): “Executive producer Mark Ronson helps polish ‘Joanne’ so it flows easily, which is its appeal but also its Achilles Heel. Where previous Gaga albums were high-wire acts, ‘Joanne’ is decidedly earth-bound, a record made by an artist determined to execute only the stunts she knows how to pull off.”
Sal Cinquemani (Slant) “With Gaga’s newly stripped-down image and rootsy musical palette, ‘Joanne’ would have made for a more logical evolutionary follow-up to 2011’s rock-tinged ‘Born This Way.’ But while she may have eschewed the outlandish costumes for now, Gaga has merely replaced them with a different kind of pretense.”