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Lady Gagas Chromatica Is Here. Lets Discuss.

Sinead O’Connor

Lady Gagas Chromatica Is Here. Lets Discuss.

On “Chromatica,” Lady Gaga strives to bring introspection to the dance-pop that made her a star. But hallmarks like her audaciousness and sense of adventure …

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Is Here. Let's Discuss. – The New York Times

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Here’s the Lady. Where’s the Gaga?

On “Chromatica,” Lady Gaga strives to bring introspection to the dance-pop that made her a star. But hallmarks like her audaciousness and sense of adventure are in shorter supply.

Lady Gaga’s “Chromatica” is a return to the dance-pop that marked her earliest albums, with a twist.Credit…Theo Wargo/Getty Images

By , , and Lindsay Zoladz

May 29, 2020, 5:58 p.m. ET

CARYN GANZ Lady Gaga isn’t built to go halfway. She plays sweeping statements as virtuosically as her grand piano, and shameless statements as shamelessly as her keytar. This passion has brought her one of the most fervent fandoms in pop. It’s also set up tensions between Lady Gaga the performer and Stefani Germanotta the person, which Gaga has said grew to the point that they emotionally and physically sickened her over the last decade. Her sixth album, “Chromatica,” , is an attempt to reclaim a sound she loved from her past while retaining the humanity that was stripped from her as she was objectified and jettisoned to the realm of the hyperfamous.

in 2016 and her detour into the world of in 2018. It has some sparkling vocal moments. It reminds us how easily Lady Gaga, 34, can coax the world onto the dance floor. But it feels overwhelmingly safe — a low bar to clear when you’ve released two of the greatest pop albums of the century (“The Fame Monster” and “Born This Way”) and one of the most audacious, enjoyable hot messes ever (“Artpop”). We were promised jetpacks; we got parachutes.

, and the excess and boldness hark back to “Born This Way.” But on that album, the music and the images united under an umbrella of fearless ambition. “Artpop” was similarly daring. The songs on “Chromatica,” however, rarely brush up against that kind of uninhibited gutsiness.

and are near the top of this guy’s list. “Artpop” is a weird album that knows it’s weird and yet manages to exceed its self-consciousness. It sounds fantastic and it hangs together as a project — even some of the bloat works. But you feel like whatever she wanted to be on that album, she was — Bowie, Madonna, David Byrne, Grace Jones.

The lyrics on “Chromatica” often proclaim some need or insecurity, but then go on to armor-plate them with BloodPop’s E.D.M. beats. It’s as if Gaga has exchanged the bravado she picked up from Madonna — and ran with — for something closer to . Yet to me, it tends to sound like a plan rather than an irresistible impulse. She’s not the only one heading back to the dance floor this year; Dua Lipa made the same move. But for Lipa it’s a lark; for Gaga it means lifting up a heavy mantle.

, a winning turn in “A Star Is Born,” and a deserved best original song Oscar for the new karaoke standard

together. Putting John to such ill use here only underscores how in searching for depth, Gaga has actually flattened many of her appealing dimensions on “Chromatica.”

and Both are expensive-sounding attempts at statement pop (about the world, about the self) that are also hollow because they neither reveal much that’s artistically compelling nor make much of a statement. Isn’t “Chromatica” another of this sort of album, a compass pointing in too many directions? Jon, you’re right about the Dua Lipa album, too. Lightness is the enormous source of its bliss. Lady Gaga has shattered too much cultural glass to go barefoot like that. (And Lindsay, speaking of Perry, this question about what “Chromatica” is: a state of high emotional vividness perhaps; or maybe a fancy way of saying “Prism.”)

a very earnest plea to listen to the album in order, “from beginning to end.” (Somewhere in the beyond, Jackson Maine grunted in assent.) And, Caryn, while I agree that her first two albums are as close to unskippable as pop records get, I think this emphasis on The Album sometimes sets her up for harsher criticism than she deserves.

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