‘Chromatica’ review: Lady Gaga’s euphoric dance-pop return’s her best album in a decade

The album released Friday delivers on its energetic, empowering concept, making it Mother Monster’s catchiest and most cohesive body of work since 2011’s ‘Born This Way.’

SHARE ‘Chromatica’ review: Lady Gaga’s euphoric dance-pop return’s her best album in a decade
Lady Gaga’s new album’s a winner.

Lady Gaga’s new album’s a winner.

Getty Images

Twelve years ago, an unknown singer in a disco-ball bra told us it’s gonna be OK.

The artist was Lady Gaga, and the message came by way of her infectious debut single “Just Dance,” her first of four No. 1 songson the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Flash forward to 2020, and that blissfully carefree chorus couldn’t seem further from the truth.

We live in a dystopian hellscape. A deadly virus is forcing us inside, our president is tweeting threats of violence against protesters,and police are continuing to kill unarmed black men and women.

It hardly seems like an optimal, let alone appropriatetime to release an album full of sweaty dance-floor bangers. But after months of song and track list leaks, Gaga had no choice but to unleash “Chromatica” on the world this weekend — and we’re all much better for it.

“Chromatica” by Lady Gaga.

“Chromatica” by Lady Gaga.

Interscope

“Chromatica,” released Friday, is her first solo effortsince 2016’s “Joanne,” a well-intentioned but mostly forgettable foray into earnest country-pop. (The achingtitle track is an all-timer, but the less said about “Million Reasons” the better.)

In that nearly four-year span between albums, Gaga has managed to headline the Super Bowl halftime show, play dual Las Vegas residenciesand win an Oscar for her signature (that is, memeable) “A Star Is Born” duet “Shallow,” performed with Bradley Cooper.

But those were all red herrings for what she had in store on “Chromatica,” a Trojan horse of electro-pop earworms that, at 16 songs and 43 minutes,has virtually no fat.

Once again recruiting BloodPop for the bulk of co-writing and production duties— as well as European DJs Madeon, Axwell and Burns— Gaga delivers an album’s worth of four-to-the-floor anthems that are begging to be played at festivals and gay clubs whenever it is safe again to do so.

After a brief, dramatic overture— the first of three strings interludes— Gaga launches into the album’s hypnotic opener “Alice,” invoking Lewis Carroll as she robotically beckons, “Take me home / take meto Wonderland, Wonderland.”

From there, the should-be hits keep coming: “Free Woman,” a euphoric thumper about reclaiming your space; the grimy “911,” in which she gets frank about antipsychotic medication; and “Fun Tonight,” a propulsive breakup anthem nodding to her earlier work(“You love the paparazzi, love the fame”).

Like her popforebears Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Janet Jacksonand, more recently, Dua Lipa, on her throwback sophomore effort “Future Nostalgia,” Gaga’s “Chromatica” is indebted to ’90s house music, with its swirling synths (“Replay”) and woozy horn loops (“Enigma,” a soaringstandout).

Her sultry “Sour Candy,” with K-pop girl group Blackpink, is the best of the album’s three collaborations, which occasionally are hampered by frustratingly vague lyrics despite reliablevocal turns from Ariana Grande (“Rain on Me”) and Elton John (“Sine From Above”).

In lead-up interviews and music videos for “Chromatica,” Gaga has painted the album as its own utopian musical universe:a steampunksci-fi world in which oddballs and outcasts can dance and love as they please.

But unlike 2013’s “Artpop,” a misunderstood misfire with similarly lofty ambitions, “Chromatica” delivers on its energetic, empowering concept, making it Mother Monster’s catchiest and most cohesivebody of work since 2011’s hit-spawning”Born This Way.”

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