I liked nine of the 14 songs on the deluxe version of Lady Gaga’s fifth studio album, Joanne well enough, and will listen to three or four of those with some regularity over the next few months. And you know what? Three or four is pretty good! Or, at least better than ARTPOP (the only song I still revisit is “G.U.Y.”) and Born This Way (which has “Edge of Glory” and “You and I”). So in that way, Joanne is a major success. But the album, out Friday, is a jarring experience, one that showcases what she does best (by stripping down her vocals) and worst (by trying to convince us she’s crafted something thematically significant.)
When an artist declares an album to be their “most personal” ever, you should hope for greatness and strap yourself in for a crash landing. Just last month, Solange Knowles pulled it off with her stunning (and stunningly personal) A Seat At the Table. But despite its loving dedication to Gaga’s late aunt, the only thing Joanne has taught me about herself is that she might secretly wish she were a country singer.