Lady Gaga
Chromatica


3.0
good

Review

by Simon K. STAFF
May 29th, 2020 | 181 replies


Release Date: 05/29/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A solid return to pop, but one that inevitably fails to overthrow her peers in the game.

Chromatica is like a fancy-looking bottle of non-vintage champagne that’s been forgotten about and left to sit in a stuffy room for a good number of years. Its ornate beauty is alluring, and it makes the discovery of this celebratory bubbly all the more auspicious when you realise you still have it; a sure-fire conversation piece for a party, as its ornamental qualities draw in the eyes of people walking past it. The moment arrives, however, when you go to crack open this glamourous drink only to discover that it has gone off as you taste it, leaving you and your friends gravely disheartened by the outcome. For Lady Gaga the bottle represents a memento to her older styles of music – voguish, bombastic and stylish. It looks amazing, but for the taster, despite the impeccable presentation of the extravagant bottle, the content found within lacks fizz and tastes a bit out of date.

In short, Chromatica is a perplexing proposition: on the one hand it will certainly appease fans of her dance-heavy roots; on the other, it’s a bump in the road for Gaga’s previously admirable creative incline. Indeed, in a really critical way, Chromatica is a massive misstep for Lady Gaga – highlighted that much more when you contrast it with her well-executed and mature folk-pop opus, Joanne. The songs presented here are certainly serviceable and competently composed bubble gum-pop tracks, and for that they’ll find success with a large portion of her fanbase, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that she’s trodden on this ground before, and to a much higher standard. The overt difference here is that Gaga’s customary style of writing is now coated in a superficial neo-‘80s, cyber-punk aesthetic – a look which, if observed cynically, is clearly attempting to capitalise on the perpetual obsession with ‘80s pop-culture. Thankfully, the prosaic thematic choice isn’t complete fluff, as it occasionally reveals its neo-retro-synth influences from time to time: the abrasive trills that lynch the verse and chug like a machine gun in “Stupid Love”, the pulsating groove in “911” which brings a cold and clinical feeling to the track, and the synthetic drum snaps in “Plastic Doll” – as well as the robotic spoken word passages that are dotted throughout the album – at least attempt to bring the concept being sold to us to life.

Of course, while these elements bring a level of rejuvenation to such familiar territory, there’s no denying she doesn’t go all the way with them, ultimately feeling like rudimentary afterthoughts – only appearing in bite-sized chunks in certain tracks – than being the main event ideas. As such, the flaunting of synth-wave is merely a distraction here. Chromatica’s bulk-sound mainly resides in ‘80s pop and ‘90s house and electronics, complete with all the juicy crescendos and drops. This combination serves as a mixed bag though. The production and instrumentals are definitely the strongest aspects of this album, bringing a really authentic ‘90s feeling to songs like “Free Woman”, “Fun Tonight” and “Sour Candy”, but where the instrumentals succeed in drawing you in, the enamel-eroding-sugar-hooks and infectious melodies don’t always land the same way. The album’s production is flawless, there’s no denying just how effective and satisfying it is to hear the dense layers in “Enigma”, “Replay”, or “Sine From Above”, but the problems begin to surface when the inconsistent vocals enter the fray. “Sine From Above” is the biggest offender of this: it’s one of the most epic numbers on the tracklist, delivering a cathartic chorus and a really well-done drum and bass breakdown at the end of the song, but Gaga’s nuanced melodies just aren’t up to snuff. Couple that with Elton John’s godawful contributions and you have a track which once displayed real potential being completely stained by fundamental, asinine errors.

Altogether though, Chromatica’s main flaw lies in its indecisiveness. Lady Gaga has a number of great ideas on this thing, but the problem is that she doesn’t know how to make them work with any pragmatic fluidity. There’s a lot of redeeming qualities to the tracks, but it’s a patchwork job more often than not – a result that will have you taking enjoyment from certain aspects of a song rather than enjoying the piece in its entirely. Adding insult to injury, the symphonic title-tracks fracture the cohesion further, feeling arbitrary and completely unnecessary, despite how great they sound. And that’s the biggest kicker here: everything is executed professionally, it all sounds great, and it’s obviously written by people who know what they’re doing, but the record lacks a consistent vision to make it all work synergistically. Like that fancy ol’ bottle of champagne, Chromatica looks amazing on the outside but when push comes to shove, the content found within its posh exterior lacks the fizz required to make it completely pop. It’s not a bad record by any means, but going back to this electro-pop sound with such a hackneyed mindset has harboured a regression I didn’t want to see from Ms. Germanotta, especially after making such headway with Joanne.

FORMAT//EDITIONS:

CD//DIGITAL//VINYL//CASSETTE//BUNDLE

PACKAGING:

N/A

SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES:

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ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE:

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user ratings (138)
3.1
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
May 29th 2020


5119 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Really good review! Curious to hear this. All three songs she released prior went from meh to okay to nice after repeated listens, but yeah, nowhere near her best stuff

Digging: The Sisters of Mercy - Floodland

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 29th 2020


34908 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Good review. I was only ever into her earlier stuff when it was all meaningless fun, but I might check this out of curiosity.

Digging: Bob Dylan - Rough and Rowdy Ways

tyman128
May 29th 2020


2045 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great review! This was an alright album, just kinda flowed along for me with only a few standout songs.

"Lady Gaga has a number of great ideas on this thing, but the problem is that she doesn’t know how to make them work with any pragmatic fluidity" pretty much sums up my opinion on the album

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
May 29th 2020


16432 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks a lot guys. Yeah, it’s a decent album, but I wish she’d pursued evolving her sound from Joanne

LightAndGlass
May 29th 2020


126 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think it's a 3.0 for me now but it has the potential to hit a 4.0 if it grows on me like her other albums have.



I think the songs are too short and it leads to them having vary little variance within each track, especially because they're house-influenced. It's missing some of the creativity she's shown in the past and is especially missing the huge choruses she used to have - there are too many repeated short phrases as choruses here for me.



I do think Alice and 911 (the transition from Chromatica II is too good) are incredible songs though and will go into my immediate Gaga playlist.



I like the experimentation with different sounds but her darker, gothic era with The Fame Monster and Born This Way were perfect and I wish she'd lean more in that direction again. The production does help make Chromatica sound really damn good, even if half the songs themselves don't live up to their potential.

mvdu
May 29th 2020


846 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I think it could grow to a 3.5 but for now I am keeping it at 3 for many of the reasons you mentioned. It does make me feel good, and she set out to do that. I will return listen to it. It just could have been more exciting.

Asdfp277
May 29th 2020


22613 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

which songs are the best? wanna get into some before giving this a full listen

Sinternet
May 29th 2020


22509 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

on first listen the tracks worth saving are Alice, Rain on Me, 911, Replay and Sine from Above



While I don't think any part of this is bad it's just so strange to hear her be so lifeless and devoid of personality now. Her first album was massive and larger-than-life and now she barely brings anything to the table, like she's lost all passion for it. The 90's soul-house instrumentals are fun if a bit overdone towards the end, the album flows really well but maybe that's due to it's uniformity. I just want her to sound like she enjoys singing again.

Digging: Jessie Ware - What's Your Pleasure?

Sinternet
May 29th 2020


22509 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

oh well at least it's still not as disappointing as born this way was

gryndstone
May 29th 2020


1612 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Sine From Above is PEAK cheesy gaga



gryndstone
May 29th 2020


1612 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

If anything I was hoping for an albums worth of Sine From Above's. Fame Monster/Born This Way really was her peak. that's okay still love her

Asdfp277
May 29th 2020


22613 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

not feeling sine from above :[[ not a fan of elton john's voice

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
May 29th 2020


16432 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Sine from above would have been incredible if it wasn’t for Elton John and some bogging lyrics

Asdfp277
May 29th 2020


22613 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

the songs are so short they all feel like previews

gryndstone
May 29th 2020


1612 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

thats literally the only reason sine from above is a highlight for me. it sounds like a complete song

gryndstone
May 29th 2020


1612 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

also it has a drum n bass outro for zero reason

Lord(e)Po)))ts
May 29th 2020


55665 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

That's the best part of the whole album





Should be like 8 minutes long tho

Digging: 8 doogymoto - Minimalistico

Lord(e)Po)))ts
May 29th 2020


55665 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"Thanks a lot guys. Yeah, it’s a decent album, but I wish she’d pursued evolving her sound from Joanne"



LOL dude even people that actually think lady gaga makes good music think joanne is a piece of shit.

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
May 29th 2020


16432 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Next to fame monster, Joanne is her best work — come at me

Lord(e)Po)))ts
May 29th 2020


55665 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

That's the most heterosexual thing I've ever heard



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