Chromatic Chaos Theory
Do you know that feeling that you get in the pit of your stomach and burning in your abdomen when you feel something so greatly and deeply? Lady Gaga’s Chromatica does just that. Not a song, not just three.
The whole album.
To have something so compelling and almost everything in it be a possible single and number-one hit is so rare these days. So very very rare. When I listen to albums now I can pick out about two to three songs that really garner that attention and replay value.
It is a lyrical, melodic, technical triumph from not only a chart-topping perspective; being only one of two women this year to have a number-one album on the charts, but everything.
As someone who has listened to every album she’s done, this by far is the most EDM-centric yet with gorgeous orchestral pieces throughout binding the album into a cohesive colorful cross-section of-the-time yet timeless tone.
Chromatica could just be run as one massive single and when you look at it structurally in terms of general EDM formula, each orchestrated break is in fact a breakdown that runs into another movement continuing the cycle.
Now onto the tracks that make this album the absolute monster mother unleashed onto an eagerly awaiting fanbase and garnered herself even more with the quality of work put out in this elegantly celestial work.
‘Alice’ is a track you wish you could go through Wonderland to blasting at ungodly levels with a handful of fresh-picked mushrooms from the garden after having tea with The Mad Hatter.
Alice is one of those songs you can play and play and play again. It never gets boring, never repetitive, there’s something new every time I hear it both lyrically and melodically.
The song really exudes its brilliance in the chorus and falsetto ringing of, “My name, isn’t Alice.” The chord progression hits perfectly as only Axwell could do with such a rush of euphoria. It’s one of my favourite songs off the album and one that I unapologetically sing along to with my screen door open.
It holds a place in your memory every time the album name is mentioned. The song can leave you, but you never leave Wonderland.
‘Sour Candy’ stands out to me for the reason that not only did Gaga include the super K-pop group Blackpink onto a major American-centric studio album, but also had the track sung by them in Korean.
I think this is not only a brilliant move to introduce America to the world of K-pop, but respect the fact that the group is well and capable enough to make a smash hit work in Korean for American audiences. Gaga isn’t afraid to let others be themselves and let anyone try to dictate that something should be made palatable for English speaking audiences. Much like how Parasite is something that shouldn’t be touched for over-dub or remake to make it more “palatable.”
The proof is in the proverbial pudding with ‘Sour Candy’ in that it blends two worlds to make a brilliant hit. It also shows that more instances like this need to happen within music culture here so that we widen our scope of listening but also our tolerance and acceptance of other things we may not be familiar with.
I adore this move and applaud the chance taken with this track and Blackpink’s energy they bring to the track. It wouldn’t be the same without them and that’s a cold hard fact.
‘Replay’ is one of my favorites off the album. Hands down top three. Not only does it have a beautiful intro that you could keep pressing repeat for but a sublime deep house disco throwback melody followed by lyrics that cling like a cat to the gown of a ballroom diva in NYC in 1980. I really wish this came out in the time of Paradise Garage or a rework that only uses analogue to remake this for a Paradise Garage spin. I think this would’ve killed back then just as it does now.
There’s a brilliance with the juxtaposition of lyrics to the melody. The song is about emotional trauma from a situation and the fact the trauma follows her everywhere. While the beat itself is like a daydream of a flashmob scene in La La Land the lyrics fight more like a nightmare of your past hunting you down.
There’s an undeniable classy, saucy, sinful momentum in the heart of this track. I adore that. I think that’s what the old tracks of days past that still get spun today have as elements. They tell a story and sometimes it’s not always pretty but if the lyrics don’t get you first the beast of a beat will.
‘Sine From Above’
‘Sine From Above’ another Axwell produced track rings like a hymn. For this album’s tone, I’d say it’s one of the slower less “mainstream” tracks. Granted it’s still a heavy hitter all around. It’s not like this track holds anything back though. It’s got something to offer in a different breath that this album needs to break things up a bit.
Of course, the main factor that this track brings is the featured artist that is none other than Sir Elton John. His voice is undeniably resonant as always, bringing in that warm tone we all know and love. I really think that it works in beautiful contrast with Gaga’s more varied vocal tone. His voice seems to soothe like an omniscient narrator ringing down in a warm, comforting tone.
Where this track really took me by surprise was the last thirty seconds. It broke into a liquid drum and bass dream that honestly I would have loved to hear a variation in production mix of this song just for that.
‘Babylon’ is another track that I would’ve loved to hear in a Paradise Garage remix version that brings in just analogue to remix. This song has that undeniable pop diva disco, gonna destroy you with just a look feeling.
Babylon is a stunning end to an even more sublime album. It’s like the reprisal at the end of live narrative where everything just comes together and everyone feels this overwhelming sense of catharsis.
If the series POSE was set in recent years or even now given the episode tone, I could see this track opening or closing a sequence in a heartbeat followed by Billy Porter declaring in such crisp electrified letters, “Category is—Babylon.” Fade to black.
‘Chromatica I, II, III’
Why am I including every orchestral break? Because every break continues into the next track so evenly that I think this really brings Gaga’s musical theory knowledge and classical training to light. It also shows how well versed the producers were in collaboration and knowledge of how to make elements seamlessly weave together for this spectacular garment that is Chromatica.
Each breakdown is in itself a key element to the album wholeness as they represent the breaks I had mentioned above in my introduction.
The Feel of Original Gaga with The Lens of A New
Chromatica has the feeling of the old Fame Monster and Born This Way Gaga with the new eyes of someone who has gone through a lot, been told how to make music and how to look then basically gave the finger to that. Then found her way to be even more genuine than previous on such a platform and recognition that most people lose themselves completely in. I don’t think there weren’t moments of that, but I think she took them and knew what to do with them, which I feel is included in the majority of the birth of this album as a concept and wholeness.
Chromatic speaks to a generation of people feeling lost, unloved, and undervalued much like Born This Way did. That album helped me through my own journey as an LGBT person and I cannot begin to describe the value it has for me. As well as Gaga being such a beacon of hope when I needed it so desperately when I was closeted for more than twenty years hearing everything but anything good about people in my community and media representation was either completely wrong or non-existent.
Chromatica is the same generation’s Born This Way but trades the leather jacket with studs for a power-suit with studs and air of confidence that won’t let anyone tear you down because you’re finally finding yourself.
And don’t you dare let anyone tell you you aren’t valued, loved, and can do anything because the rest is well, just gossip–gossip.