With the phenomenal success of ‘A Star Is Born’, Lady Gaga is everywhere right now. 2018 saw her capture the world’s hearts as an actress and now, in 2019, all eyes turn towards her upcoming fifth solo studio album.
Gaga’s fifth record has been hotly tipped for release this year, with a now deleted Instagram story from Polydor Records’ France Instagram story seeming to all but confirm that news.
As fans get excited for Lady Gaga 5.0, everything points to this year being the artist’s most important yet. Right now, it’s fair to say that many view Gaga as the most esteemed and respected artist in the game. Her portrayal of Ally in ‘A Star Is Born’ was breathtaking, the accompanying soundtrack has racked up hundreds of millions of streams and this month’s Golden Globe is the first of what is set to be many awards.
She’s also spoken up about sexual assault, most lately denouncing her own hit ‘Do What U Want’ for its R. Kelly feature, been a fierce fighter for LGBTQ rights and stayed heart-warmingly humble in every interview across the planet over the past 12 months. Whatever Lady Gaga releases musically this year, the world is waiting to hear. Not only that, but they are waiting to understand her process and the artistry behind the record too.
That has not always been the case. ‘A Star Is Born’, her performance of the American National Anthem and THAT Superbowl show have all played a huge role in earning Gaga the respect she now has. Those events have all happened over the last two years – Gaga warranted that respect a decade ago.
The Fame, The Fame Monster and Born This Way are heavy-hitting pop albums with singles of the highest calibre. It’s those records that put Lady Gaga on the map as a pop superstar and she ruled over the industry. Her brand was weird, charismatic pop hits. Pushing the boundary as much as she could but remaining consumable in the masses.
Once that platform was established, Gaga began to switch things up and push her sound in a new direction. She was crafting a new era of pop music years ahead of time. That’s taking nothing away from those first two records, which have a place in fans’ hearts like no other. But when Artpop was released in 2013, Gaga took full control of the reigns.
Artpop was a fizzling world of madness, sonically nuts but still laced with passion and struggles. ‘Aura’ is a middle finger up to to the media’s false portrayal of Gaga, ‘Venus’ references Greek mythology and astrology, ‘G.U.Y’ is a reference to third-wave feminism… every track carries Gaga’s creative voice like never before. Yet the shrill electropop on the record, the sound you hear everywhere today, was too much of a step away from the radio-friendly pop box that critics were not comfortable with Gaga leaving.
Rolling Stone branded it a “bizarre album of squelchy disco […] preferring concepts to choruses” whilst NME couldn’t get past the sound, “Where exactly is the art?”. Reviews like those didn’t stop Artpop reaching Number 1 but did lead to widespread rumours of a $25 million loss, which Gaga later labelled as false. There was a refusal to accept that Lady Gaga could have something real to say in a manner that wasn’t just another radio hit. Fans loved it, and if Artpop was released in 2019, it would be the biggest selling album of the year.
When Joanne came in 2016, it was another reinvention. If you didn’t get what Gaga had to say in Artpop, the production was now stripped back and it was the singer’s vocals which took centre stage. Raw grief, loss and heartbreak are all plain to hear in a record whose simple sound was a breath of fresh air.
But, again, Gaga was still out of that upbeat, consumable pop box and critics were hesitant. “Joanne stumbles a bit, and will be received with bafflement by everyone other than Little Monsters”, The Guardian wrote, whilst for DIY Joanne “doesn’t quite nail the artistic frankness she’s aiming for”.
What makes Joanne so beautiful is that it isn’t, actually, hard to get. It’s the artist’s most easily relatable record to date for music fans, it just wasn’t the noughties Gaga that critics refused to let go.
Fast forward two years and, finally, there’s a completely new way of seeing Gaga. The tables have turned over the past 12 months thanks to all she has done – music fans and critics alike are waiting with baited breath to dive into Gaga’s next body of work.
It’s an open-minded attitude (one that Gaga has always preached herself) that will be afforded to the fifth record. That respect means a platform like never before, whatever she releases people will take time to comprehend. Confirmed to be working with futuristic Scottish producer SOPHIE, that’s a good thing too. SOPHIE’s brand of experimental pop is widely seen as the future of pop music.
They are a producer who has worked on projects hacking away at the edge of pop music such as Charli XCX’s ‘Vroom, Vroom’ and ‘No Angel’, Cashmere Cat’s ‘9’ and ‘Love Incredible’, as well as their own Grammy-nomiated Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides.
SOPHIE’s boundary breaking production, Gaga’s artistic genius and the world’s readiness to finally take her seriously are all the ingredients to shatter what you know about pop music in 2019. This year is Gaga’s.
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