It was a trick she last pulled to Madonna’s dismay when Born This Way took inspiration from Express Yourself almost a decade ago. We’ve no problem with artists referencing their heroes and to us it’s a cheeky signal that Gaga knows she’s back doing the best work of her career.
The success of April’s chart topping sophomore release by Dua Lipa was proof that a locked down world needed something to remind it of the fun it could be having and Chromatica is in the same vein.
As much should have been clear by the release of 1st single Stupid Love which boasts more hooks than a cloakroom but has its feet firmly on the dancefloor.
Chromatica starts off like a Pet Shop Boys concert with an orchestra playing pop music (always an amazing thing: see the Trevor Horn-produced Lexicon of Love by ABC, My Life Story and this Wonder Woman 84 trailer).
The word ‘chromatic’ will be familiar to pianists (I asked my piano-playing husband) and refers to a modification of the normal scale by the use of accidentals.
It’s the clunkiest thing about this album and is used here to describe the concept of an alternative world. On opening track Alice there are different voices urging ‘take me home’ and ‘take me to wonderland’. And it’s the rabbit-hole to wonderland we’re guessing that the following 14 tracks (including two Chromatica-referenced string instrumentals) represent.
As we write Ariana Grande duet Rain On Me is Gaga’s 6th UK number one and we’ve already explained why it’s worth a listen.
We’ll highlight three more album tracks before we finish and the first two, which follow each other on the album, give a sense of the lyrical sadness about the break up of a relationship but also the defiance that makes the dancefloor the obvious place for these feelings to be played out.
On Fun Tonight Gaga explains: ‘You loved the paparazzi, loved the fame’ and rather than referencing previous triumphs she continues: ‘Even though you know it causes me pain’ before launching into a chorus of: ‘I’m not having Fun Tonight.’
The uplifting house of Free Woman precedes it and we learn: ‘This is my dancefloor I fought for’ and: ‘I’m still something if I don’t got a man, I’m a Free Woman.’
But it’s the Elton John duet towards the album’s close that is perhaps the most surprising. It’s uptempo, has a drum’n’bass breakdown and Elton sounds like he’s having a ball.
The line: ‘When I was young, I felt immortal’ strikes a chord and rounds out an album that thrusts Gaga back where she belongs: on the dancefloor, at the top of the charts and reminding exactly what made her so special in the first place. And we haven’t even mentioned the Oscar nomination …