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Lady Gaga’s ‘Joanne’ genre bends to experimental country

Lady Gaga has released five studio albums since her major label debut in 2008.

Ever since she entered the music industry, her counterculture lyrics and eclectic musical taste have been the staple of her brand. Her new album, “Joanne,” explores a combination of different genres that are foreign to many of Gaga’s most faithful fans.

On first listen, the immediate impression of the album is, frankly, underwhelming.

The first song, “Diamond Heart,” wasn’t the most captivating example of Gaga’s new country-pop fusion, but it does a solid job of setting the tone for the rest of the album.

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lady gaga Joanne
Lady Gaga announces ‘Joanne,’ the iconic artist’s transition from her traditional pop sound to a genre-bending take on country. (Photo courtesy of Lady Gaga’s Twitter)

The second track, “A-YO,” displays the first signs of a more polished version of the hybrid genre.

As the album starts to take form, co-executive producer Mark Ronson’s contribution becomes more evident. Gaga and Ronson first collaborated on Wale’s 2009 song “Chillin,” but the chemistry on this album comes off as if they have been working together for decades.

The album reaches peaks, in spurts, where the material seems timeless.

Gaga has a unique knack for lulling the listener into a false sense of comfort and then shifting the song into a new key. Her ability to utilize the vibrato in her voice is comparable to Christina Aguilera.

At its lowest points, the album fails to maintain interest, as Gaga resorts to shock value in the song, “Dancin’ in Circles.”

The true highlight of the album is a four-song stretch that begins with “Sinner’s Prayer.”

The excellence that Ronson and Gaga display is truly mind-blowing. During this stretch, the album experiences its most thought provoking moments lyrically, conceptually and musically.

“Hey Girl” covers themes of female empowerment lyrically while the synthesizer, played by Victor Axelrod, provides a soundscape that is ethereal.

Just when it seems the Ronson-Gaga duo can do no wrong, the album misses an opportunity of a fifth great song in a row with “Pinot Grigio.”

Although the song covers the important topic of Gaga’s reaction to her friend being diagnosed with cancer, the musical composition of the song was way off the mark and failed to reflect the emotion of the vocal performance.

Gaga’s latest effort still manages to be more than a solid body of work although there are a more than a few missteps.

Whether this a temporary step in a new direction or the foundation of a new genre is yet to be known.

However, if Gaga decides to build on this new sound, and completely works the kinks out, she might be able to set a trend that could change the sound of Top 40 radio.

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