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Lady Gaga’s Chromatica is a return to her dance music roots

Does Lady Gaga’s new album Chromatica live up to the great expectations?

Chromatica has been a really long time in the making. Fans have been begging, pleading for dance music from Lady Gaga for years. Now, not only is Gaga making dance music again, she’s having fun with it. She’s being a little weird. She’s not worrying about coming off as “artistic” or “avant-garde” she just went with it — and it worked.

When “Stupid Love” first came out — leaked ahead of schedule — it was clear Gaga was going the upbeat route. It sounded most like something from her album Born This Way, which was a good sign. Then when “Rain On Me” came out next, it exploded. It didn’t leak ahead of schedule, so fans got to experience it as it was released. It was uplifting and catchy, and Gaga and Ariana’s newfound friendship on social media made it that much better.

Before Chromatica even hit streaming platforms, there was one major difference from her previous releases: The tracks seemed quite short. But in the context of the album as a whole, it works. It keeps you craving more and wanting to hit that replay button over and over again, much like Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia.

The album flows seamlessly from start to finish, split into three sections with “Chromatica” interludes, part I, II and III. They each sound grandiose and bring in different orchestral arrangements that are heavy on the strings, a contrast with the large EDM productions they transition into, especially “Chromatica II” into “911.”

The lead up to the release may have been rocky, but “Free Woman” is proof that you can’t always trust a leak. The song made its way online months ago, and fans were smitten with the ’90s house influences, but as it turns out, that was only a demo! The final version sounds completely different. The vocals are still equally as big, but the production feels more complete and polished. They reined in the ad libs, which did add some fun to the track, but in the end, it still hits just as hard as the original.

Another noticeable absence is any sign of producer (and frequent Charli XCX collaborator) Sophie. Some fans have speculated that there are other songs to come, a possible deluxe edition with new songs down the road or different versions of album cuts, but who knows. It’s disappointing though, especially with the heavier dance influence on the album. Sophie could’ve made a huge impact with a Kim Petras-level bop, or gone full industrial like some of her solo productions.

One big shocker was the lack of anything that resembles a ballad. Gaga has always found a way to sneak a piano ditty or at least some kind of mid-tempo offering into her projects, but not Chromatica. If anything, that helps make it more cohesive. The album flows from track to track, not breaking that club atmosphere the entire time.

The Elton John collaboration “Sine From Above” could have easily been the album’s mood killer. Surely, this would have been a perfect opportunity for the two Academy Award winners to showcase their vocals and piano skills — nope! Instead, it was the most surprising, complex EDM track on the album. It transitions from the interlude “Chromatica III” and then it slowly builds until the beat drop bursts in. Even more unexpected is the breakneck electronic drum solo that the song closes with.

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“Unexpected” may be the best way to describe Chromatica. The early singles were good, but could have been considered generic dance pop, whereas the rest of the album is far from cut-and-paste. Gaga is bringing in influences from a number of genres, with house music, trance, disco, pop, and classical. In the past, sometimes Gaga tried to do too much, but this time around, she streamlined the songs and made a cohesive collection of music, proving that she still has that pop star prowess in her that we all fell in love with when she released songs like “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance.”

I had my doubts about Gaga’s “comeback” to dance music. Joanne was such a huge departure from her normal sound, and then her turn in A Star is Born, while it showcased her immense talent, didn’t leave me hopeful she’d ever return to weird club bops. But she did.

Will this be an album with mass, mainstream appeal? It’s hard to tell, especially since mainstream audiences have moved away from EDM-heavy productions in recent years. But will Chromatica be blasting out of gay club speakers (when they’re open again), mixed into DJ sets, and beloved by her widespread fanbase? Without a doubt.

Next: Gaga and Ari’s ‘Rain on Me’ is a cathartic bop

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