Review: Joanne by Lady Gaga

Joanne by Lady GagaShould we have seen this coming? After her last album, Artpop, failed to light up the pop world like its predecessors, and after she went about exploring more, um, conventional styles – duets with Tony Bennett, a stint on American Horror Story – Lady Gaga decides to walk back on the, well, gaga. Joanne is, more or less, a stripped back affair: gone are her excesses, and with the help of several big names – Mark Ronson co-producing; collaborations with Florence Welch, Beck and Kevin Parker – decides to explore, again, more conventional styles. It’s still a relatively wild mix: country and jazz rub elbows with arguably half-hearted dance; it doesn’t always work, especially sequence-wise. You also get this creeping feeling that Joanne is playing it safe, even if it’s nice to hear Lady Gaga’s vocals relatively unadorned. But perhaps that is the point: the next step for a pop star constantly pushing the boundaries is to defy expectations and pull back. Does it work? Depends on what you’re looking for, really. I think it’s a laudable affair, but it’s still short of memorable territory like her earlier stuff. You know, when she felt genuinely groundbreaking. [NB]3/5

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