ALL ABOARD: WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF CHROMATICA
Text by Charlie Long
MAY 29TH 2020
The most anticipated record in recent pop history has finally arrived. On an adventurous, experimental Sci-Fi infused musical journey, Lady Gaga invites us inside her mind as we get to explore the emotional experiences she has gone through over the last few years as well as her new found freedom as an established woman in music. Buckle up your seat belts and enjoy the ride and welcome to the world of 'CHROMATICA'.
It was in 2008 when Lady Gaga broke onto the scene as an enigmatic whirlwind of creativity, birthing chart-topping pop excellence such as 'Just Dance' and 'Paparazzi' with the mergence of visual art and revolutionary fashion. She was a woman who wasn't afraid to speak her mind or rise up for justice, standing atop of the industry as a beacon of hope for many of us who felt we didn't 'fit in'. With historical records such as 'Born This Way' and 'Artpop', Gaga secured herself as a force to be reckoned with within music as an artist who wasn't afraid to push the boundaries or take the 'pop-sound' in places that it hadn't yet been before. From 2016, Gaga released more personal records such as 'Joanne' and made her big screen debut in the legendary, 'A Star is Born' but it's safe to say the 'Little Monsters' (Gaga's fans) have been desperate for Gaga to return to her pop boundary-bending beginnings - and alas, on 'CHROMATICA' she has blessed us with exactly that.
‘CHROMATICA’ is arguably one of Gaga’s most experimental works to date, venturing into the realms of mod-pop vocal production and utilising voice modification to create a fresh, EDM inspired futuristic record that welcomes us into the mind of pop’s biggest star right now. Whilst it is fair to say fans were expecting a sequel to the off-the-wall sounds of her earlier work ‘ARTPOP’ based on the epic visuals we have been blessed with this era, the sound is a lot more ‘radio friendly’ dance-pop, yet still in cooperating the innovative new wave sounds she has explored throughout the album.
The album opens up with the first of the 3 ‘Chromatica’ interludes, a fitting, royal-esque string orchestral piece that eases the listener into the album, fuelling up a sense of excitement and apprehension as you await the first main track. It is clear, after listening to the body of work the whole way through, these interludes are used to breakdown the journey Gaga wants to take you on throughout the record, showing the different sides of her emotional and musical experiences.
‘Alice’ is the first main track on the album, taking us straight back to Gaga’s roots, in a dance/house influenced pop explosion, playing the perfect fire starter on the record. Showing off her dreamy higher register, experimenting with vocal modification and doing it all over a 90’s-esque house beat makes this song an immaculately eruptive beginning for ‘CHROMATICA’. ‘Alice’ is then followed by the two-internet breaking leading singles ‘Stupid Love’ and ‘Rain On Me’ before drifting into the 4th track ‘Free Woman’.
"Whilst Gaga has many uplifting anthems with similar themes, this record almost feels as though Gaga is expressing her growth and maturity as both a woman and an artist, looking retrospectively on how she has evolved and found security in adulthood"
‘Free Woman’ is another pop/house mergence, with motivational lyrics exploring the singer/songwriter’s relationship with herself and her new-found freedom - ‘I say that I want it want it (be free) don’t fight it fight it’ – looking at how, as a woman, she feels free in herself and free to go after whatever she wants. Gaga describes this track as genderless, purposefully gendering it as 'women can be synonymous with any creative force'. Whilst Gaga has many uplifting anthems with similar themes, this record almost feels as though Gaga is expressing her growth and maturity as both a woman and an artist, looking retrospectively on how she has evolved and found security in adulthood.
The album then slows down as we reach the final track before the second interlude, ‘Fun Tonight’. Gaga caresses a soft-pop mid-tempo beat, singing of a toxic relationship and having to leave it in order to enjoy life whilst also self-referencing her own debut album ‘The Fame’ which could elude to the relationship in question or even, after listening to the self-reflective ‘Free Woman’ speak of a relationship with self. ‘You love the ‘Paparazzi’, you love ‘The Fame’ she sings before launching into a dramatic vocal chorus.
‘Chromatica II’ eases us out of ‘Fun Tonight’ to relish in the emotions and feelings Gaga discussed in the first third of the album before throwing us back into undeniably one of the best tracks on the entire record – ‘911’. This track feels the most ‘Gaga’, with its heavy EDM and Mod-Pop influences that echo the sounds of her earlier works. The following track, ‘Plastic Doll’ continues in its predecessors vain, carrying the same electronic sound and inspiration. ‘Plastic Doll’ is Gaga taking back control from the feelings explored on Fun Tonight’ – ‘Don’t Play with me/It just Hurts me/I’m Not Your Plastic Doll’ – she sings, fighting back at those who have hurt her in the past.
We then finally arrive at the most highly anticipated track from the album, other than Gaga’s collaboration with Ariana Grande, ‘Sour Candy’ with K-Pop mega-band, BLACKPINK. When this collaboration was announced, it sent Twitter into meltdown with fan bases from all over the world breaking the internet in excitement. It’s safe to say the song didn’t disappoint. The BLACKPINK duet is another ’90s house inspired track produced by legendary producer Bloodpop, who had earlier shared the first few seconds of the song on Instagram, sending fans into a frenzy. The song is a house infused dance record that stands as a definitive highlight on the album as it explores a new sound for both Gaga and the BLACKPINK girls.
‘Enigma’, named after Gaga’s highly praised Vegas residency, follows and is quintessential Gaga. Showing off her impressive voice with aggressive and powerful belts over a simple, but effective dance beat, it is a feel-good record that will undoubtedly play soundtrack to many of our quarantines when we are wanting a song to lift our moods. The final track on the second part of the album is, ‘Replay’, which is another, feel good dance record where Gaga almost explores the idea of insanity and having negative thoughts on replay in one’s mind.
The second part of the album that followed the 2nd interlude was filled with high-tempo, feel good EDM and house leaven tracks speaking on turning negatives into a positive – from ‘Plastic Doll’ and taking back control to ‘Replay’ and owning mental health issues and using them to fuel creativity – it is clear Gaga is utilising the interludes to take a listener on her emotional journey through the creative process of the making of this album. Beginning with the more emotionally charged tracks such as ‘Rain On Me’ and ‘Fun Tonight’ and having little control over your emotions to blossoming into full emotional control and freedom in the second part.
As we approach the final section of the album, we reach the last 3 tracks, the first of which being Gaga’s collaboration with Elton John - ‘Sine from Above’. The track has elements from euro-pop, EDM and dance as well as 80’s influences throughout the chorus, with heavy synths, aggressive vocals and the use of artificial acoustics – the record is definitely both Gaga and John wanting to make a point. On Spotify Gaga writes – “This song is a revelation I had during the making of this album – it’s how I survive, how I survive through music.”
“This song is a revelation I had during the making of this album – it’s how I survive, how I survive through music.”
“I wrote this song as a cry for help” Gaga writes as we reach ‘1000 Doves’ “It acknowledges that we can’t do everything by ourselves and sometimes we need help and that’s okay.” The house permeated record exudes a sense of reflection and self-affirmation, whilst also holding onto those feelings of loneliness and longing. As the final emotionally charged track on the album, it shows Gaga’s final stage of dealing with pain and growing into adulthood – being able to accept help from others.
As the closing track to the 16-piece masterpiece, ‘Babylon’ delivers us with a climactic dance track, with a sound reminiscent to Madonna’s “Vogue”, it makes the perfect ending to the emotive, ardent odyssey Gaga has taken us on. “When we’ve completed a task or defeated a challenge, the end is never the end, this is a new journey and in CHROMATICA I will dance my way through my pain”.
It appears as if the final 3 tracks on this unique body of work are used to close the sentimental wayfaring and speaking on the last stage of emotional development and maturity – healing. Chromatica I is the evoking notion of lack of emotional control – ‘Stupid Love’, “Rain On Me’ and ‘Fun Tonight’ delve into the chaotic histrionics of pain and the feeling of being uncontrollable. Chromatica II delivers us to a place of taking back that control – ‘911’, ‘Plastic Doll’ and ‘Enigma’ are at their very core, Gaga owning every last aspect of herself, from her traumas to her addictions to her struggles with identity and using them to fuel her fire and creative drive. Lastly, we then arrive at Chromatica III where we get to experience the last stage of emotional maturation where one is self-reflective, understands that they don’t have to go through things alone and that negativity doesn’t have to define your future.
Looking at the album as a full body of work, it is understandable why it has been created as an ode to sci-fi and fantasy with Gaga conceiving ‘CHROMATICA’ as not only an album but a whole new visual world. The record is a journey in all its entirety as we are peregrinated through a poignant healing process and given the opportunity to have an insight into the trauma’s that come with loss, addiction and identity struggles. In the genderless, emotionally expressive world of CHROMATICA, Gaga has left nothing off limits and it is a pleasure to be able to reflect, dance and enjoy the ride.
EXPERIENCE CHROMATICA HERE -