Review: Lady Gaga's Soft-Rock Character Is A Dive Bar Queen Named Joanne

'Joanne' is Lady Gaga's best album in five years, since the disco-light manifesto that was Born This Way. In her seek to master all pop display - hit singles, scandalous TV stunts, The Sound of Music medleys at award events - Gaga's been too restive to unbend for albums; Or maybe after she hit it so avant-garde of the park with Born This Way, she calculated album-making was a trick she'd already done.

Her Tony Bennett duet was a crafty dynamic of Hail Mary after her red-hot yet practically song-free flop Art pop. But Born This Way was the one instant she hit the long form glory of album producer like Kanye, Beyoncé or Taylor.

With Joanne, Gaga resets with music that feeling stripped-down, moderated, humble and other attributes that you wouldn't usually associate with her. It's an hidebound Nineties soft-rock compilation, heavy on guitar: Meet Lilith Gaga, who goes for both the incense-and-patchouli beatnik aura of Sarah McLachlan and the cowgirl gleam of Shania Twain. And for anyone out there who might bear a torch for Paula Cole, there's "John Wayne," where Gaga marvels where all the cowboys have gone.

"Perfect Illusion" is Joanne's rare example of the worst dispositions of Gaga's music, which both Born This Way and ARTPOP served condensed that every song was released as a dense musical brick. Joanne, on the contrary, gives Gaga's voice room to respire. She's never voiced out more matter of fact than on the arpeggiated style folk of album's title, a sonnet to her father's sister whom she was named after-there's an instance toward the beginning of "Joanne" in which her voice dithers and turns dry on at the end of the word "you," like a leaf that just started to die.

Likewise, intimate things register throughout-particularly on the Hillary Lindsey-co-penned country elegy "Million Reasons"-though her strapping, impressive accordingly, is often more evocative of Broadway show boating than the sort of singer and songwriter intimacy that Gaga aims.

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