Mysterious but candid, powerful but vulnerable: the complex potion that makes up Lady Gaga has bubbled over into the artist’s sixth studio album, Chromatica. Read all about how the Gaga saga has unfurled.
Fibromyalgia is a condition in which the body’s central nervous system drops the ball and refuses to participate in any number of those ways which make a human healthy: fatigue, disturbed sleep, altered memory and moods, musculoskeletal pain, and more are all symptoms of the debilitating disease. And what precisely triggers it? Doctors don’t 100% know, although it‘s agreed that the causes lie somewhere amongst enduring psychological or physical distress. Now imagine living with this while dealing with both clinical depression and PTSD as the glacé cherries on top.
This is the less-than-mint state in which Stanfani Germanotta found herself during the recording of Chromatica – the wildly anticipated fifth album from the New York City native otherwise known as Lady Gaga. Gaga has credited her producer BloodPop with bracing, supporting and encouraging her to keep pressing forward during their time in the studio. “He’d be like, ‘Come on, let’s go. We’re going to make music,'” she recently told Paper Magazine. “And I’d be maybe crying or venting about something that was happening in my life over some pain or depression I was feeling… I’d start out the day so down and I’d end up dancing, looking in the mirror, practicing my moves, singing along. Every day was an enlightening experience, but it had to happen every day.”
That part about dancing is particularly important, as it informed Gaga’s purest intentions for Chromatica‘s material. “I want to put out a record that forces people to rejoice even in their saddest moments,” she said. “I will do whatever it takes to make the world dance and smile.”
It is, of course, all a journey: Gaga made a concerted effort to attest she hasn’t reached some zenith of existence. “I’m not standing over here with a flag going, ‘I’m all healed, everything’s perfect,'” she said. “It’s not; it’s a fight all the time. I still work on myself constantly. I have bad days, I have good days. Yeah, I live in Chromatica, it took a minute to get here, but that doesn’t mean I don‘t remember what happened. So if you’re in pain and listening to this music, just know that I know what it’s like to be in pain. And I know what it’s like to also not let it ruin your life.”
“The symbol for Chromatica has a sine wave in it, which is the mathematical symbol for sound,” Gaga said in a recent interview with Zane Lowe, “and it’s from what all sound is made from… sound is what healed me in my life period, and it healed me again making this record, and that is really what Chromatica is all about. It’s about healing and it’s about bravery as well.”
The temporary cover artwork for Chromatica (see right) more clearly shows the stylised sine wave which also appears on the official album cover (see top).
“[Chromatica] seems to be about… all the different colours, and also music is made of a chromatic scale,” she further explained to Lowe. “So it’s all the colours, [and] all the sounds… we’re talking about inclusivity and life… A lot of what we see around us and what we’re experiencing is math, which is very much like music. And sound is math as well.” She added: “When I say ‘All the colours, all the people,’ I mean way more than we could possibly fathom.”
A chromatic scale on the piano uses every key – black and white – in order:
THE CHROMATICA CHRONOLOGY
How Gaga burst from her neo-burlesque, songwriter-to-the-stars cradle and sashayed through five albums to get her to Chromatica.
Gaga emerged from her chrysalis with the triple-punch of singles Just Dance, Poker Face and of course Paparazzi, all three of which hit #1 around the world. Full of electro, synth- and dance-pop bops, The Fame was considered variously as charming escapism or innovatively-delivered parody. All agreed, however, that it deserved its two Grammy Awards: Best Electronic/Dance Album, and Best Dance Recording for Poker Face. The Fame Monster is the album‘s follow-up, initially conceived as a reissue. At Gaga‘s second Grammy Awards it was nominated for six trophies, and won three.
Born This Way (2011)
Having announced the title of her sophomore album at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards while wearing the infamous ‘meat dress‘, Born This Way was already set up to be a spectacle. Gaga incorporated disco, house and metal into her dance-pop stylings on the record, and it‘s lead and titular single topped charts in 19 countries, bagging a Guinness World Record for fastest-selling singles on iTunes. Fun Fact: the hit single You and I features guitar work by Queen’s Brian May.
In her musical manifestation about interweaving art and music, Gaga injected EDM, techno, and R‘n‘B into her material. In an interview with The Guardian at the time, Gaga described metaphorically removing her wig and make-up and really looking at her true self: “I said: ‘OK, now you need to show them you can be brilliant without that.’ I knew that if I wanted to grow, if I really wanted to innovate from the inside, I had to do something that was almost impossible for me.”
Cheek To Cheek (with Tony Bennett) (2014)
Gaga met Tony Bennett after the former performed Nat King Cole’s Orange Colored Sky at a gala in New York City; he asked her to sing with him on his upcoming album. The two hit it off, and agreed to record an entire jazz album together. Cheek To Cheek wowed critics, who adored the musical chemistry between the unlikely pair; the collection of jazz standards debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, and won the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. Fun fact: The album was Gaga’s fourth, and Bennett’s 58th!
Turning her hand to soft-rock and country-inflected vibes, Gaga chose to collaborate with many different artist for her fifth album Joanne: Florence Welch, Beck, Father John Misty, Kevin Parker and Josh Homme were all involved in either signwriting or arrangements, while the artist herself shared production duties with Mark Ronson and BloodPop. Named for her Aunt who died at age 19, the album became another #1 debut for Gaga.
BONUS: A Star Is Born OST (2018)
Although technically not a studio album, how can we go past mentioning the cultural movement which was this soundtrack? Performed by both Gaga and Bradley Cooper – the stars of the film of the same name – A Star Is Born is most notable for its omnipresent, runaway hit Shallow, written by Gaga, Andrew Wyatt (Miike Snow), Mark Ronson, and Anthony Rossomando.