Lady Gaga’s ‘Joanne’: Review Revue

Lady Gaga‘s latest album, Joanne, just dropped but it feels like the pop world’s been dissecting it for months. On the one hand, you could argue it’s the most important release of her career, since it shows how she re-positions herself after the disappointment of ARTPOP and the string of huge successes outside of pop music. On the other hand, you could argue it’s an inessential moment in her career because it doesn’t actually change that much: She’s making the music she wants to make, which is how she has always operated; she already has the Super Bowl Halftime Show locked down; and she has a core fan base that will secure her a No. 1 debut regardless of the circumstances. But either way, Joanne is unlike any of the Gaga albums that came before it, and that means the reactions will be unpredictable as well.

On our staff, we’re split and still figuring out where we stand on the LP, and our review was split right down the middle as well with a 2.5/5 write-up that concluded “it seems she’s still more content to stand in front of a curtain on stage than to let listeners behind that curtain.”

Likewise, reviews across the web run the gamut. So head below to see our roundup of all the best Joanne takes.

:: The NYT review that drew Gaga’s ire was tough but it was no hit job. Jon Caramanica wrote, “Most frustrating, it careens from high-intensity to low, from one aesthetic to another, with lyrics that begin at trite and move somewhere quite dimmer…Often on this album, she sings with a stern, terse vibrato that codes seriousness from a distance but feels more like a simulacrum of feeling than the real thing.” But he did point out “for all this album’s flaws, it has several strong moments.”

:: Mic’s review argued “as much as she’s billed the album as an earnest experiment in baring her soul, it somehow feels like one of her most inauthentic offerings. She seems far less comfortable trying to be herself than she has playing one of her many characters from her past,” adding that much of it sounds “full-throated and half-hearted.”

:: Celebuzz falls on the other end of the spectrum, raving “Joanne is Lady Gaga’s best album to date and it’s the album that anyone that has paid attention to her career, beyond the club hits and meat dresses, should have been expecting.”

:: USA Today was impressed, comparing it to ANTI and writing “The album gambles that listeners care as much about Gaga the artist as Gaga the spectacle. And her gamble pays off, in the most sonically varied, emotionally honest album of her career.”

:: All Music scored it a 3/5, writing, “Where previous Gaga albums were high-wire acts, Joanne is decidedly earth-bound, a record made by an artist determined to execute only the stunts she knows how to pull off.”

:: Vulture concluded, “As a case study in incongruities — pop-country versus EDM, brash theatricality versus quiet introspection — Joanne is fascinating, if occasionally frustrating… but so fun when it gels that we should all get over ourselves and let it happen.”

:: NPR’s thoughtful take said it’s “as theatrical as anything Gaga has ever done” and summed the album up thusly: “This is Gaga without the bells and whistles, wearing a mask that looks like her own face. She means what she is saying…Maybe our skeptical era isn’t the time for such attempts. But Gaga’s still putting herself on the line, and trying.”

:: The Guardian handed out 3 stars out of 5, saying “she’s done the groundwork for future albums that might show her with true transparency. Joanne stumbles a bit, and will be received with bafflement by everyone other than hardcore Little Monsters, but you can’t help admiring her boldness.”