The Chromatica press tour would have you believe this is Lady Gaga’s return to form. Complete with her signature bubble-gum pink wig and otherworldly costume designs, the album’s cover promotes a reversion to the shallow, mesmerizing, dance-club music that launched Gaga’s career more than a decade ago. It’s the type of portrayal befitting an artist of Gaga’s cultural stature. But perhaps not most accurate of her most recent artistic decisions.
It’s no secret that even though Gaga’s dance music often emits perfect beats and a sense of infectious joy, an ever-growing list of demons lurks underneath. She has spoken about the pain of mental disorder and sexual assault. Her previous album, Joanne, used stripped acoustic bravado to catalog loss and depression. Her movie A Star is Born chronicled one artist discovering success only to watch another’s career trickle away amid addiction and despair. As each of these creative pieces mingled with autobiography, Gaga’s display of human fragility became more pronounced.
Chromatica is the pure manifestation of escape from that fragility. And it is found on the dance floor. (Chromatica itself refers to Gaga’s extraterrestrial planet containing marathon-long dance numbers shared between factions at war.) It’s on Chromatica where she grapples with the journey that paved the way for her transcendent status and worldwide influence.
In a recent interview with Zane Lowe, Gaga described the album as “the beginning of my journey to healing.” She goes on to say that she thinks people in need of healing find it through happiness … and dance. Lots of dance. Her latest musical approach, while streamlined and brisk, is rather retro in style. In line with any Gaga production, the memorable moments are founded on an incomparable strangeness. And with Gaga, that strangeness is often inseparable from profane descriptions of relationships and empty hedonism.