After the pared–down intimacies of the soundtrack from A Star is Born and 2016's Joanne, the reigning queen of dance pop makes an overdue return to the floor-filling dance-pop that made her famous in the first place, pleasing the girls and gays the world over. Although the record faced delays to due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it was finally released on May 29th (in the midst of protests stemming from the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police). Chromatica is pure camp and high theatrics—like the best of Gaga's work—only this time it's plastered in hot pink and doused in poppers.
Chromatica marks Lady Gaga's long-awaited return to dance pop, filling the void for exuberant, unabashedly escapist music that has been sorely missing from today's musical landscape. As evidenced by the collective frenzy around leak of lead single "Stupid Love" back in January, there is something to be said about pop music that doesn't take itself too seriously. Chromatica, for all its high concept, world–building campiness and vibrant, pyrotechnic theatrics, serves a surprisingly prescient cultural need in these strange times of 2020. With the ever–present threat of COVID-19 looming overhead, and Black Lives Matter protests manifesting around the world, Stefani Germanotta's latest record provides a much–needed escape from the stress of this year.
"In #Chromatica, no one thing is greater than another," Mother Monster tweeted near the end of May. Earth, among other things, has been canceled. The songs of this album, divided into three acts (and separated by three interludes) inspire us to dance and forget about the world for an hour or so. One doesn't turn to Lady Gaga for substance, after all. These neon colored bangers, bolstered by Gaga's full-throated voice, strobe across the dance floor, be that a living room or a club (soon enough), shaking the walls in their liberated calls of uninhibited joy.
If there is any flaw with Chromatica, executive produced by Lady Gaga and frequent collaborator Bloodpop, it lies in the sequencing. "Fun Tonight" sucks the energy out of "Free Woman," which directly precedes it in the track listing. And "Rain On Me (with Ariana Grande)," although it makes for an explosive first act, leaves the second half of the album lacking in the same firepower and energy that defined the first three songs of the album. However, of the songs on the latter half of the album, the features are the most notable, if for different reasons. "Sour Candy," features the enormously popular K–Pop girl group BLACKPINK, but oddly enough doesn't include Gaga herself until a minute into the song. "Sine from Above (with Elton John)," an ode to the shape of sound waves, conversely, is perhaps the wonkiest track on Chromatica, with Elton bellowing full–blooded to the sky as Gaga tempers his passion. A pleasantly unexpected drum and bass outro closes out the star–studded track.
"Enigma," named for Gaga's Las Vegas residency, presents itself as dance pop, but also has the pyrotechnics of classic rock. Gaga quite literally shouts the chorus, laying waste to any foes that stand before her. Also notable is "911," named after an anti-psychotic Gaga takes to ease her neuropathic pain, which struts along to Germanotta's vocoded voice. "Babylon," the record's thrilling finale, shows Gaga, equipped with a choir and a nearly unforgettable saxophone hook, ordering the audience, like gladiators in a ring, to "battle for your life," and "babble on." One can easily imagine the song on the next season of Drag Race. And, thus, with all the pomp and flair of her best releases, Mother Monster has finally returned to her rightfully earned throne as queen of the dance floor.