Lady Gaga’s fifth solo album, Joanne, was released this morning. The much-anticipated record is named for Gaga’s aunt who died at age 19 in 1974. Although they never met, the pop star feels a deep spiritual connection to Joanne. For one thing, they share a birth name: Joanne Stephani was transposed for Stephani Joanne. What’s more, Gaga’s family’s restaurant is named Joanne Trattoria.
Mother Monster has often said she believes herself to be the reincarnation of her aunt as the two share artistic passions. For this album, Lady Gaga deviated somewhat from her usual experimental, pop anthems and created a more personal, emotional set of songs.
Lady Gaga explained the different emotions — notably pain — that run through the album during an interview with Nik Carter and Lori Majewski of VOLUME’s morning show, Feedback.
Knowing that Joanne is an autobiographical album and that the singer-songwriter experienced major highs and lows in the past year, Carter asked, “Are you better in pain or celebration mode?”
“Oh gosh… you know, I really hate to say it, but I’m better in pain,” she replied, acknowledging that pain is one theme of the album. “I don’t think it’s thematically painful the whole way through ’cause it’s quite a fun album as well. The pain is in my voice.”
Gaga was close to tears herself when she divulged that her mother cried when she first heard songs from Joanne saying, “Your voice sounds different … I can just hear that you’re in some emotional pain.”
Pain as a theme in Gaga’s music is a huge deviation from her first album, The Fame, which was playful, full of pop-y dance beats that expressed the exuberance of youth and nightlife. This was Lady Gaga, the character, the fantasy, the larger-than-life fashionista, the celebrity who lived for the stage. Her second album, The Fame Monster, hinted at the “monsters” that accompany fame, but it’s only now, eight years later, the artist has completely changed her approach to fame.
“It’s an album about my life without fame,” she said about Joanne. “I think Perfect Illusion is the thing that comes closest … there being a perfect illusion of me that the public sees that I’m not really and truly … as one interpretation of the song, of course … Fame is something I had to erase from my body.”
The artist who has performed to sold-out crowds across the world still loves the spectacle and emotional power of a performance: “I love that about music, where you just watch and experience an artist and you’re just like, that’s impossible … you’re transported. But also, fame is so alienating.”
“It’s toxic for the creative process for me. I need human connection to write music,” she said, explaining that she can’t exist in the public as anyone but Lady Gaga, the pop star, which means many people don’t engage with her as they might engage with a non-celebrity.
“I don’t get asked very often really super-deep things about myself, and that is hard. And it’s scary,” she said. “You just feel like, ‘will I ever again talk to somebody and have them see me as a person?'”
Instead of fame, Joanne’s tracks touch on real, concrete topics: the struggle of being a female musician (Diamond Heart), depression and heartbreak (Million Reasons), female friendships (Hey Girl) and even the apathy that stems from social media (Angel Down).
“Making an album where I was able to just focus on being my father’s daughter, being a member of my family, being my friend’s friends … I was able to put myself back in a place where I am just a human being,” Lady Gaga explained. “I realized that all that emotional pain in my voice, all that trauma from my life, all the loss … those are the things that connect me to people. It’s actually not these images or social media or my fame at all. The thing that really makes me connected to my fans and the world is what I’ve been through as a human and I had to put that in this record.”
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