‘Joanne’ Review:Maybe ‘ArtPop’ Isn’t So Bad After All

One minute, twelve seconds. 

That’s about the time it took me to skim through Lady Gaga’s just released and much, much-anticipated new record Joanne before I said to myself…what the fuck is this? Johnny Cash she ain’t and around the campfire we’re not. (Except “Dancin in Circles” and the Hall & Oates-esque “Hey Girl” co-starring Florence Welch…you can stay). 

Now, as someone who understands, like, life and stuff, I have nothing like Whitney but the utmost respect for the personal tone of the record and the “Raw Americana” feel (hey…American Life? It just has to be said) that’s laced throughout, because if there’s one thing that Joanne does well, is that it certainly holds true to its themes…..even if those said themes makes you feel a little (okay, a lot) droopy while listening. 

But what’s truly puzzling here is that Ms. Germanotta  has been quoted during the promotion of this record (and on all of those Dive Bar Tour stops) that this is the “real her-stripped down, raw and rocked out. But wait, then what was The Fame and the rest of it about? Was your disco stick not worth the ride? Was that meat dress really not you? Was “Telephone” truly not from the heart? Sigh….who the fuck knows now? Thanks, Joanne

Let’s face it, prior to this album, our girl struggled a bit post-ArtPop, a fact that she came to terms with since she became besties with Tony Bennett for their Grammy snatching Cheek to Cheek compilation. This was also right around the same time she made Julie Andrews bow down before her after her take on classics from The Sound of Music at the 2015 Oscars made all of us, um, speechless. Fucking brilliant. So, why not use some of that brilliance and toss it on a fun, fresh dance record that will have you snatching all the wigs like you did when you first hit the scene eight years ago? Maybe she doesn’t want that anymore? It’s just all so confusing….which is something we don’t want when it comes to Gaga because we just want to fucking dance, bitch. 

Of course, now the real question arises… well will Joanne do over the next months?  Looking at how ‘Perfect Illusion” was perfectly disillusioned on the charts with a quick stop at number fifteen on the Billboard Hot 100, it seems as if this will be a touring album rather than a singles album (second single “A-Yo” doesn’t justify shit either), which means those fans (eek!) will have to come in droves for this one. 

While the critics seem to adore it, a critically loved record doesn’t always get you to stay in the limelight (right, Norah Jones?), because these days, it’s all about the fans…and it looks she might have lost one with this record…but looking from the fact that I needed my sunglasses to block all the Joanne shade on social media this morning, I may not be the only one. 

Now, I will always love me some Lady fucking Gaga….The Fame will always be that fire, I’m secretly obsessed with her Confessions of a Shopaholic track “Fashion,” I still do the “Bad Romance” moves at weddings and I’m just going to be a shady music kween and say that if you haven’t heard the track, “Reloaded” (or “Nothin’ on (But the Radio)” for that matter) you’re not a true fan. (See what she does to me?) But when it comes to Joanne, somebody call security because it was tryin’ to fight my headphones and it need to go. 

If you need me, I’ll be (sigh) listening to ArtPop while not trying to think about that upcoming Super Bowl performance (just a little “LoveGame”…please??) while waiting for Gaga’s Confessions on a Dance Floor return to form type of record….because it’s (already) time, we’re just waiting for her to realize that. 

Listen to Joanne below…if you want. 




Lady Gaga’s Best Ballads Ranked

Though Lady Gaga’s LG5 project was a much-hyped one only a month ago, it’s all but fallen by the wayside since first single “Perfect Illusion” dropped (and tanked) in September and left even the most rabid  fans (not to mention the general public — hello, No. 84 position on iTunes) wanting. Listeners clicked “Play” wanting a “Bad Romance” or “Just Dance,” and instead got the anxiety-inducing, runaway train that is “Perfect Illusion” — a serviceable song, sure, but too frenetic to warrant repeat listens. Unless frenetic’s your thing; then feel free to bask in your eye-twitchy neurosis and have at it.

But hold it; she’s not totally lost her mojo — really.

Mama Monster, gratefully, graced us with a more digestible song prior to her Joanne album release this Friday, what very much feels like an attempt to reassure fans that she’s not releasing an album of try-hard, synthy alt-rock. “Million Reasons,” a stripped-down, twangy ballad, is Gaga at her least theatrical — which, to be honest, is still pretty theatrical — and most coherent. On it, she croons about a dark love she so desperately clings to, wailing in a chorus that’s surely one of her best, serving up some country heartbreak that takes us back and drops a few tears on our guitars like T-Swift.

When I bow down to pray
Try to make the worst seem better
Lord show me the way
Cut through all this worn-out leather
I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away
But baby I just need one good one to stay

So, yeah. It’s pretty good. And certainly, as far as her ballads go, an improvement upon the whiny “Dope” from ARTPOP. If anyone even remembers it. (Bless your loyalty if you do.)

In the spirit of the release of “Million Reasons” and her kinda-sorta return to form for her ballads, below are five of her most sterling ballad creations — ranked.

1) “The Edge of Glory.” Yes, it’s debatable whether this anthem qualifies as a ballad, but given that it’s about Gags’ dead grandfather and is a power-ballad-esque hat-tip to life’s free fall into death, it fits pretty snugly in the category. Defined by its excellent smooth jazz influences and an all-the-feels solo by the late Clarence Clemens, this is lightning in a bottle as far as disco power ballads go. It’s an effort she came very close to recapturing with ARTPOP‘s “Gypsy,” but still fell just short. Five years later, this is still the Gaga ballad to beat, and we’re still dancing on our fire escapes.

2) Speechless.” About the fear of dying (particularly the fear of her father dying), “Speechless” is some of her best songwriting — not just constructing the song well, but delivering each line with the suspense and pause that makes each moment worth savoring. But, in truth, what makes this such a standout is her top-notch performance of it in a live setting. See: Her fiery (literally) performance at the American Music Awards in 2010. It might be most significant as the first true showcase of what she’s capable of with ballads.

3) “Million Reasons.” A twist of expectations for Gaga, what’s refreshing about “Million Reasons” is how straightforward it is. Its songwriting is clever, if gimmicky, and doesn’t fall into the common Gaga-ballad trap of trying to insert too many flourishes — vocal or otherwise. It’s a Gaga ballad that has legs when stripped of all the glossy synth production so typically added to her work, which is a testament to the song’s strength on its own. It’s also a much stronger foray into country for her than that regrettable “Born This Way (Country Road Version)” production. You could almost imagine shedding a tear to it over a shot of whisky at a bar in Nashville — not an easy accomplishment, for a pop star known for cranking out electro-pop club hits.

4) “Gypsy.” The buildup of “Gypsy” provides a satisfying listening experience that’s a perfect storm of production fusions (folksy but undeniably electronic) and lyrical switch-ups toward the end. In a sense, consider it a precursor to the country sound of “Million Reasons” but a followup to the power-ballad Europop anthem “Edge of Glory.” It’s a happy medium between the two. Its sound is also probably a product of her friendship with Elton John — and that’s very much OK.

5) “You and I.” Let’s be honest: This one will probably be the stomp-and-clap anthem she pulls out for her Super Bowl performance in February, and for good reason: It’s one of her best, most upbeat ballads. And perhaps what makes it a standout is its less depressing subject matter, in the same vein as “Gypsy.” Give me that optimistic ballad that I love, queen.

Cover photo courtesy of 


Groove of the Weekend/JoJo/”Honest”

Yesterday, our beloved JoJo released Mad Love, her first album in nearly a decade since The High Road (and that annoying record label drama) mercifully stepped into our headphones in 2006. 

Packed with pain (“Music”…sigh) pulse (“Like This”) and plenty of that Ms. Levesque sass that we’ve come to grow and love as of late (“Fuck Apologies,” indeed) from the “Leave” songstress, make no mistake that with this album, JoJo is back

But since it’s the weekend, we’re going to wait until next week to dive completely into JoJo’s heartfelt new set, but for now, her somber, yet shimmering new track, “Honest” is guaranteed to turn your Saturday all sorts of up in just the right way. 

Just listen and welcome your girl back..because that she most certainly is. 

This month’s grooves sound like…

Cover photo courtesy of