My parents and I happened upon Lady Gaga after The Fame (2008) and The Fame Monster (2009) were released. While my parents turned ‘LoveGame’ off the first time they heard it in the car, they have definitely converted at some point over the last decade. When Artpop came out in 2013, my father was the first of us to hear it and raved about it.
Lady Gaga’s sixth album (if – like she does – we count The Fame Monster as a separate album rather than a re-release of The Fame), Chromatica, was released on Friday after considerable uncertainty. It was scheduled for release earlier this year, but when Europe and the US started to impose restrictions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, she announced that the release would be pushed back. This was disappointing, given that Dua Lipa had not long before decided to release her album early for precisely the reasons that Lady Gaga was deciding to delay it.
Then, a couple of weeks before the album was actually released, Lady Gaga started promoting it again on social media. The single ‘Stupid Love’ had been out for a while, according to the original schedule, but now ‘Rain on Me’ with Ariana Grande was released, and just before the album’s release, ‘Sour Candy’ with Blackpink was also revealed.
It should come as no surprise that I think that Chromatica is Lady Gaga’s best album yet. Perhaps I’ve been influenced by the initial disappointment and renewal of hype in the midst of the lockdown. But Lady Gaga has referred to it as a dance album that she wanted to make in response to having earned her dancefloor – and that unapologetic self-assurance comes across in all of the songs on the album. That’s not to say they aren’t varied, with ‘Sine from Above’ with Elton John being slower and quieter and the lead singles that I’ve already mentioned being loud and fast and punchy. One of my favourite songs from the album is ‘Alice’, a combination of the two.
So, how would I rank Lady Gaga’s other albums if I think Chromatica is the best?
#2 – Artpop (2013)
Given that I like the loud punchiness of Chromatica, it should be no surprise that I rank Artpop so highly. It’s still got the weirdness of tone and theme of Lady Gaga’s earlier albums, but with the stirrings of what I could term the ‘unapologeticness’ of Chromatica. My only issue with this album doesn’t concern the music itself – of which ‘Applause’, ‘Venus’, and ‘Manicure’ are my favourites – so much as the fact that it includes a collaboration with R Kelly. Lady Gaga later apologised and removed the collab from new sales of the album when the allegations against him became public – understandable given the precise content of the song, but less so given that there had been less-than-subtle suspicions about him for almost twenty years before Artpop was made.
#3 – The Fame Monster (2009)
The Fame Monster is the album which I find the most similar to the self-assurance of Chromatica and Artpop, and actually I prefer a few of the songs over those in the original The Fame album. I particularly like ‘Bad Romance’ (surprise surprise, who doesn’t?), ‘Telephone’, ‘Monster’, and ‘Dance in the Dark’.
#4 – The Fame (2008)
The next album in my ranking is Lady Gaga’s debut album because it is loud and fun, and also more varied than the albums higher on it in the ranking. I enjoy all of the faster, louder songs, such as ‘The Fame’ and ‘Poker Face’, but also especially the ones that are a bit weird compared to what we’re perhaps used to with mainstream pop music, including ‘Starstruck’ and ‘LoveGame’.
#5 – Born This Way (2011)
I found this album to be a bit disappointing when it came out. It’s grown on me over the years, but I found many of the songs to be too similar to stand out from each other except for the first four (‘Marry the Night’, ‘Born This Way’, ‘Government Hooker’, and ‘Judas’). I also don’t like the more rock-oriented sound as much as I do Lady Gaga’s usual dance/pop style.
#6 – Joanne (2016)
My least favourite of Lady Gaga’s albums is ironically her most personal one, which was inspired by her late aunt. This isn’t because I think that it’s bad – far from it, it’s more varied than Born This Way – but rather because this is the album with the slowest, saddest songs on it. While this album best showcases Lady Gaga’s musical and vocal versatility, which is certainly brilliant in itself, the sound of this album is that bit too far removed from my preferences, though I still enjoy songs that more closely resemble her usual work (‘Perfect Illusion’ and ‘Diamond Heart’).
I would definitely recommend giving any of Lady Gaga’s albums a listen, and if your musical tastes are different to mine then you may find that you enjoy Born This Way or Joanne more than I do. And, given that all of Lady Gaga’s albums so far have been huge hits, that wouldn’t surprise me.