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Thanks to HBO's new hit show Westworld and Lady Gaga's latest album Joanne, we'll all be sporting cowboy boots and fringe in no time.  I consider myself a casual Lady Gaga fan; I typically enjoy what she puts out there, but I don't go out of my way to hear it again.  However, Joanne has been out for about a month now, and it's an album I keep coming back to.

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Purchase 'Joanne' by Lady Gaga here.

The story behind this album is powerful.  Gaga attributes her recovery from substance addiction to Joanne, her late aunt, for whom the album is dedicated to and named for.  She feels more present in this album.  It's less about what crazy thing she'll do next and more about her voice and feelings.  This is her healing album where she forgives herself and others.  Gaga told Rolling Stone that the album is ‘stories about my family, my sister, my father and his sister.  My mom's family.  My relationships with men, my failures,’  and this rawness is what first drew me to Joanne.  The lyrics are very personal, which makes the album as a whole relatable.  This is something that had always been a problem for me regarding Gaga's music; I like music that I can connect to and I like feeling a bond with the artist.  The singer's more pop pieces, especially in her earlier work, don't give me that same human experience.

‘Perfect Illusion’ was our first taste of Joanne.  Within my own community, post undergrad millennials, the first single had mixed reviews.  Many thought it was too repetitive and not her best work.  It reminds me, personally, of pop-centric Gaga, and I understand why it was released first.  It's the song more likely to appeal to the masses with its disco-pop groove.  My first thought was that it was about her ex-fiance, Taylor Kinney, but she denied that claim in a radio interview with US Weekly.  It's a song most people can relate to and I think it's more for anyone who's ever been in that dream-heavy head trip of a relationship that, looking back, wasn't as great as you thought.

Joanne’s common themes include self-identity, reflection, and heartbreak, but also unity, self-love, and empowerment.  Joanne is the new Lady Gaga 'era' but no one could have expected something closer to a country album than dance tracks.

They’re beautiful ballads about issues in America such as police brutality and sexual assault.

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The songs that make me come back, make me come back for the whole album.  The first track ‘Diamond Heart’ has a certain self pride in the most Americana way possible, and ‘John Wayne’ is so dirty and wrong that it’s right.  Like any album, it's likely you won't like every track.  This is no exception.  There are  a couple of songs that feel more like fillers, such as ‘Come to Mama’ and ‘Grigio Girls,’ but like I said, they don't ruin the integrity of the album.  Especially with ‘Angel Down’, the song for Trayvon Martin that gives me the same chills as "Till it Happens to You," the song written for the The Hunting Ground (2015), a documentary about rape on college campuses.  They’re both such deep and beautiful ballads about real issues in America, and I’m glad Gaga is using her stardom to talk about police brutality and sexual assault.

It's these songs from Joanne that made me remember things that I’ve put behind me.  Deep things I tucked away about myself and the people in my life, past and present, that lead to my own reflections.  I love how music, or any other good piece of art, can do that.  And each time I listen to Joanne, Gaga’s lyrics certainly do that for me.

 

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