Joanne (album)

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Joanne
Left profile picture of Lady Gaga wearing a wide pink hat, in front of a sky-blue background.
Studio album by Lady Gaga
Released October 21, 2016 (2016-10-21)
Recorded 2015–2016
Studio
  • Dragonfly, GenPop Laboratory, Green Oak, Gypsy Palace, Pink Duck, Shangri-La and Vox Recording Studios in and around Los Angeles
  • Diamond Mine Recording Co. and Electric Lady Studios in New York
  • The Farm, Zelig and 123 Studios in and around London
  • Sol Studios in Playas
Genre
Length 39:05
Label
Producer
Lady Gaga chronology
Cheek to Cheek
(2014)
Joanne
(2016)
Singles from Joanne
  1. "Perfect Illusion"
    Released: September 9, 2016
  2. "Million Reasons"
    Released: November 8, 2016
  3. "Joanne"
    Released: December 22, 2017

Joanne is the fifth studio album by American singer Lady Gaga. It was released on October 21, 2016, by Streamline and Interscope Records. The album's production was led by Gaga with Mark Ronson and BloodPop, alongside a variety of collaborators including Kevin Parker, Emile Haynie, Jeff Bhasker and Josh Homme. The music of Joanne features "stripped-down" soft rock and dance-pop styles which put emphasis on the singer's vocal abilities. Lyrically, the album delves on the theme of family and life's emotions, with the death of Gaga's aunt, Joanne Stefani Germanotta, having a deep influence on the record.

The album era marked a change in Gaga's visual appearance, embodying a country-oriented look, consisting of a pink, wide-brimmed hat and usage of pastel colors, evoking 1970s. The singer's experience working on American Horror Story influenced the creative process of Joanne, and Gaga hearkened back to an authentic and simplistic presentation. In order to promote the record, three singles were released, "Perfect Illusion", "Million Reasons" and "Joanne". "Perfect Illusion" was released as the album's lead single on September 9, 2016, reaching number one in France and Spain, while "Million Reasons" reached number four in the United States. "Joanne" was later released to radio in selected territories, as the album's third and final single. The supporting Joanne World Tour started on August 1, 2017 and ended on February 1, 2018.

Joanne received generally positive reviews from music critics. Commercially, it became Gaga's fourth album to reach number one in the United States. It topped the charts in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and the international charts of Japan and Korea, while reaching the top ten in over 15 territories, and accumulated certifications in some of the nations. Joanne was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards. Many articles noted the impact of the album in the musical endeavors of artists like Miley Cyrus, Kesha and Justin Timberlake, who all employed the stripped-down approach of Joanne, and the ushering of vocal talents to the forefront.

Background and development[edit]

Gaga's third studio album Artpop was released in November 2013 to mixed reviews.[1] It debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart, and has sold 2.5 million copies as of July 2014.[2][3] During the album era, Gaga split from longtime manager Troy Carter in late 2013,[4] and by June 2014, she and new manager Bobby Campbell joined Artist Nation, the artist management division of Live Nation Entertainment.[5] On her personal life front, Gaga confessed to being depressed about herself and her talents, and had decided to quit music altogether.[6] The ambivalent reception towards Artpop led Gaga's management to overhaul an image change for the singer. Along with a more subdued appearance in media, Gaga emphasized her vocal prowess. A tribute to The Sound of Music at the 87th Academy Awards, where she sang a medley of songs from the film, was critically lauded.[5][7] She and Tony Bennett also released Cheek to Cheek, an album of jazz duets, in September 2014 to generally favorable reviews.[8] It debuted atop the Billboard 200, becoming Gaga's third consecutive number-one album in the United States,[9] and won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.[10]

Additionally, Gaga starred in American Horror Story: Hotel (2015–2016), the fifth season of the American anthology television series American Horror Story, winning a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film.[11][12] While collecting her award, the singer confirmed that she would be releasing her fifth studio album later in 2016, and was working on the logistics and aspects like the looks she would portray for the record.[13][14] Throughout the majority of 2015 and 2016, Gaga teased the creative and recording processes of the album on her social media accounts. She was seen collaborating with longtime producer RedOne, as well as new collaborators like Giorgio Moroder, Mark Ronson and Nile Rodgers, among others.[15]

Writing and recording[edit]

Mark Ronson wearing black shades and with a headphone around his neck.
Mark Ronson (pictured) and Gaga served as the album's executive producers.

According to Gaga, she wanted "the fans to be surprised [with the album]... But I will just tell you that it's a wonderful, soul-searching experience. And it's very unlike [Artpop] in that way."[16] In an interview with Billboard, producer RedOne stated that the singer was mentally in a "cleaner" state of mind, hearkening back to her earlier days, which he felt was beneficial.[5] Gaga and Ronson serve as Joanne's executive producers.[17] The two had previously grown up within blocks of one another on New York's Upper East Side, and had collaborated on Wale's song "Chillin" (2009). They reunited in late 2015, when Gaga presented the song "Angel Down" to Ronson at a London studio. Later, the duo worked for six months in Rick Rubin's Shangri-La recording studio in Malibu, while Rubin was between projects. On Gaga and Ronson's first day at Shangri-La, they wrote the song "Joanne", and Ronson encouraged Gaga to write lyrics about "whatever was happening in her life or on her mind."[18]

Recording continued until the album's final mastering session.[18] Gaga was deeply involved with the technicalities of the music being recorded. "She loves just sitting at a piano and barking orders at a drummer and she has an incredible voice," Ronson said, adding that they first began with the music and then proceeded with the song.[19] The producer later said that the music recorded with Gaga was "some of my favorite music I've really ever worked on. It's incredible – I love it. I can't wait until you can hear it because the music speaks for itself."[20] Ronson also hinted the involvement of Kevin Parker, the frontman for the Australian psychedelic rock band Tame Impala, which BBC Music later confirmed to be true.[21]

Florence Welch is a featured vocalist on "Hey Girl".

Many prominent musicians make guest appearances on Joanne. Gaga invited Father John Misty to play drums on the record, while Ronson invited Josh Homme to play guitar on the song "John Wayne", due to Homme's work for the band Queens of the Stone Age; in addition, Homme drummed and performed co-production. Ronson also invited Beck to collaborate on the album, resulting in the song "Dancin' in Circles". Gaga, a longtime fan of Beck's, was initially starstruck upon working with him. Gaga and Florence Welch developed the concept of their duet, "Hey Girl", during a meeting at New York's Electric Lady Studios.[18] According to Gaga, the song's theme demanded a female collaborator. She selected Welch, calling her "if not the best, one of the greatest vocalists in the world."[22][23]

Ronson crafted the album's organic sound by recruiting musicians he had previously worked with on projects for Rufus Wainwright and Amy Winehouse, but credited the producer BloodPop with "[bringing the album] into the modern era."[18] In the meantime, Gaga collaborated with Elton John; their sessions resulted in a song titled "Room in My Heart", that did not make the album's final cut.[15] In 2017, Gaga released her documentary film called Gaga: Five Foot Two, which included scenes shot during the recording sessions with the singer and Ronson.[24]

Release strategy[edit]

Gaga's manager Bobby Campbell confirmed that the album would not be released until the later half of 2016, with Elton John saying that it would not be released until 2017.[5][25] In September 2016, Gaga updated her official website announcing the advent of the new album era, with revealing the name of the lead single, "Perfect Illusion". On September 15, the singer appeared on Apple Radio's Beats 1 and revealed that the name of the album as Joanne and release date as October 21, 2016. She also confirmed that within the next 48 hours, the recording would be finished.[26] Gaga confessed that finally announcing the album name and release date was a bittersweet moment for her, acknowledging that "this isn't the end just the end of this moment. It's also the beginning of this moment."[27]

During the same interview, the singer confirmed that the album will not be an exclusive release under streaming services like Apple Music or Tidal, unlike recent releases. "I told my label that if they signed those contracts with Apple Music and Tidal, I'd leak all my own new music," she explained to host Zane Lowe. Gaga's stance was due to debate among the streaming service providers regarding exclusive streaming rights of artist's releases.[28] Prior to its release, the album faced a number of leaks. On Amazon.com, the album was listed for pre-order and the songs were to be available as and when released.[29] However, on Amazon's Echo speakers, fans found that if they instructed it to "Play Joanne by Lady Gaga", it previewed 30 second snippets of each track.[30] Amazon later disabled previews for the whole album.[31] Three days prior to the official release date of October 21, the album was mistakenly put up for sale in shops in Belgium, resulting in people posting it on the Internet.[32]

Title and packaging[edit]

Gaga's tattoo on her left biceps displays the date Joanne died, in between lines of a verse from a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke.

Gaga named the album after Joanne Stefani Germanotta, her father's sister. She died on December 18, 1974, at age 19, due to complications arising from lupus.[33] Gaga, whose middle name is Joanne (Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta), noticed that her aunt's death had a profound effect on her family[27] and her work. Her debut album, The Fame (2008), contained a poem titled For a Moment by Joanne in the album's booklet.[33]

Gaga credits Joanne for helping her overcome addiction problems, and dedicated The Fame Ball Tour to her. The singer tattoed the date Joanne's died on her left biceps, in between lines of a verse from a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. The singer's parents opened a restaurant called Joanne Trattoria in New York in 2012. Gaga has often noted that although she had never met Joanne, she was "one of the most important figures in my life".[33] So after she wrote the song "Joanne" with Ronson, they decided to name the album as the same, making it a tribute.[27]

Along with revealing the album title, Gaga also unveiled the cover artwork. It consists of the singer wearing a pink, wide-brimmed hat, with her left profile against a blue background.[34] The hat was designed by milliner Gladys Tamez who revealed that it was also another source of inspiration behind the overall direction of Joanne.[35] The milliner explained to The Daily Beast that the hats were inspired by English singer Marianne Faithfull. She added that "Gaga was the first to ever request this hat in pink, because it's her favorite color". Tamez named it as "Lady Joanne" and added that for the singer's preference she had to change the shapes, color and the ribbon on the hat. While designing the cover and the overall image for the era, Tamez and Gaga spoke of using more pastel colors, inspired by the 1970s.[36]

Dominique Redfearn from Billboard noted that the cover appeared simpler compared to the ones for Born This Way and Artpop.[34] Andrew Unterberger from the same publication described the cover art and the design as "thoughtfully composed", adding that it was indication of the music to be much more straightforward.[37] The album contains 11 songs on the standard version and 14 songs on the deluxe. The booklet included Gaga and her father's pictures, Joanne's driving license as well as her handwriting.[38] Gaga felt it was "nice to include family heirlooms that carry meaning to me still today... And a Polaroid of me and [Ronson] in the studio."[39]

Themes and influences[edit]

"Returning to your family and where you came from, and your history... this is what makes you strong. It's not looking out that's going to do that—it's looking in... Joanne is a progression for me. It was about going into the studio and forgetting that I was famous."

—Lady Gaga on the album's influences[40]

Family is an underlying theme on Joanne, with Gaga explaining that the album "goes through all of [life]'s emotions".[41] While crafting the album, Gaga envisioned a girl in the middle of the country, who would understand the lyrics that the singer had written, and also find a human connection. In order to achieve that Gaga decided to encompass a varied assortment of genres, including "[crossing] between country and funk, pop, dance, rock, electronic music, folk", as confirmed in an interview with E!. The tragic early demise of Joanne Germanotta added to the emotional quotient of the songs, as well as the lyrical content. Along with loss, other emotional feelings like heartbreak, identity, frustration, desire and nostalgia also influenced the album. The singer further clarified that with Joanne she wanted to go "out into the world and bringing with me its deepest stories that I have of my life and turning them into songs that I hope will touch people in a deep and meaningful way about their own lives and their own stories."[42]

The singer's experience working on American Horror Story influenced the creative process of Joanne, with Gaga mentioning: "I have returned to something I've believed in so much, which is the art of darkness."[43] Being on the show also affected her vocals, in which she explained the she would "listen" more to the music and then write. She added that Joanne will talk less about her painful time during the Artpop era and would have more clarity; "Now I'm thinking more about what it is I want to say and what I want to leave on Earth. It's less an expression of all my pain," she concluded.[15] The album became an outlet for the singer to relieve herself of the "pain and anguish" she felt from the constant expectation from her, in terms of musical deliverance.[44]

Other influences came from the men in Gaga's life, from her father Joe Germanotta and ex-fiancé Taylor Kinney. She cited that using her "rebellious spirit" she wanted to understand all the different relationships that she had gone through, saying that Joanne was not a "sad album. It's an album that is very revealing of me as a woman".[45] According to Kevin Fallon from The Daily Beast, "The act of being Lady Gaga had drowned out the brilliant music, and the importance of Lady Gaga had somehow muddied the simple pleasure of being her fan: It was her authenticity, in all of its strangeness and lofty artistic pursuit, that spoke to us. That seemed to have gone missing." He felt that with Joanne, Gaga was able to eliminate that redundancy and presented herself as an "evolved performer", who could lay down bare emotions in the songs, rather than mask it in electronic music beats.[46]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Gaga in a characteristic Joanne pink hat, singing "A-Yo" on the Joanne World Tour. The track has touches of country music, and is reminiscent of the music played in dive bars.

Since Gaga did not want to restrict the music on Joanne to any particular genre, the album veers from dance-rock to introspective country music. The singer professed a fascination with country music and all aspects of it which in turn influenced the music of the album.[47] In terms of production and composition, Joanne continued the "stripped-down" approach to music Gaga had undertaken following the Artpop, giving emphasis on her vocals and the songwriting.[46] During an interview with Rolling Stone Gaga added that the tracks consisted off "stories about my family, my sister, my father and his sister. My mom's family. My relationships with men, my failures".[41]

Joe Lynch from Billboard described Joanne as a "a stylistically eclectic of collection of swaggering rock, introspective ballads and soulful, danceable grooves".[48] It opens with the track "Diamond Heart" which sets the tone for the album. Hearkening to her earlier works, the autobiographical song talks about Gaga's time as a go-go dancer in New York. "Diamond Heart" varies from a moody vibe in the verses, to a drum-oriented pre-chorus, finally into a rock-EDM chorus, with Homme playing guitar.[49] The second track "A-Yo" has touches of country music, and is reminiscent of the music played in dive bars, with double hand claps and brass-accentuated beats.[50] Lyrically it is a metaphor for having sex with someone, and the country music, achieved through the repetition of the same two chords, is complimented by BloodPop's background shouting vocals and synth addition.[49] As the title track starts, the general tempo drops. Accompanied by just an acoustic guitar and minimal percussion, Gaga sings about her late aunt Joanne, with "heartfelt" lyrics.[50]

The next track, electronic "John Wayne", is lyrically more tongue-in-cheek, with Gaga including cowboy references in the lyrics which go as follows: "I just love a cowboy, I know it's bad, but I'm, like, can I just hang off the back of your horse and can you go a little faster?".[50] Gaga's vocals are accompanied by Homme's guitar and the track alludes to her previous relationships, with comparisons to actor John Wayne.[48][51] The Beck-composed track "Dancin' in Circles" is a pop song, consisting of a dance beat, a spoken word middle 8 section and, lyrics which talks about having a good time by oneself.[50] It was described by Nicholas Mojica from International Business Times as an "ode to masturbation", with influences of reggae and ska, hearkening back to Gaga's own "Alejandro", as well as the music of Gwen Stefani.[49][51] The lyrics find Gaga fantasising about a past lover while dancing alone to herself late at night, the latter alluding to masturbation.[48][51]

According to Mark Savage from BBC Music, "Perfect Illusion" is a disco-rock song, which is composed around a building chord sequence, which he felt leads to a "compelling sense of urgency". The singer's vocals are kept raw and untreated on the song, eschewing autotune.[52] The composition consists of "pulsing verses" and a guitar-and-vocal breakdown before the final chorus, with Gaga singing the main title multiple times. Around the two minute mark, there is a key change for the final chorus.[53] In "Million Reasons" Gaga talks about love which does not last, with the singer uttering the title in several variations on the verses.[50] The composition consists of simple country-oriented piano and guitar instrumentation. During the song's chorus, Gaga sings, "You're giving me a million reasons to let you go / You're giving me a million reasons to quit the show".[54] According to Tom Rasmussen from Vice, "Million Reasons" has the most country music influence among all the songs from Joanne.[49]

"Sinner's Prayer" consists of instrumentation from bells and whistles,[50] and is a simulacrum of country music, along with R&B and pop.[49] The Father John Misty assisted track finds Gaga being vulnerable, wanting her man to love her as she is.[50][55] Lyrics like "Her love for him ain't cheap, But it breaks just like a knockoff piece from Fulton Street" references the similar named street in Manhattan, New York, where cheap trinkets are available.[48] For the ninth track "Come to Mama", Gaga sings in an affected voice while elongating her vowel enunciation. The 1970s-inspired composition has a big chorus, highlighted by a brass section and bouncy drum rhythm, talking about accepting one another.[50][55] The song has biblical references with Gaga alluding to both the Old and New Testament. The lyric about "a forty-day flood" alludes to Noah while "stop throwin' stones at your sisters and your brothers" is taken from one of Jesus' aphorisms, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."[48]

In "Hey Girl", BloodPop and Ronson added a downtempo funk production with Gaga and Welch's vocals taking prominence; the lyrics being an "ode to friendship".[51] The eleventh track, "Angel Down", was inspired by the death of Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead by George Zimmerman in 2012. Gaga sings lyrics like "Shots were fired on the street, by the church where we used to meet" in this torch song.[50][49]

Promotion[edit]

According to Chris Willman from Billboard, the promotional "blitz" for Joanne "felt like something from a bygone era" due to the traditional route taken by Gaga and her team, in place of surprise album launches. During her interview with The Howard Stern Show Gaga clarified that she wanted to promote Joanne in the "old-school style" and the events leading up to the release were described by Willman as "the most culturally ubiquitous rollout since Taylor Swift's 1989 two years ago".[56] Billboard also theorized that after the perceived commercial disappointment with Artpop, Gaga's management wanted to make sure for a comeback with Joanne. Adding to it, there was the musical and stylistic change that Gaga underwent with the release, which, without promotion, would have confused her core audience and fans. Willman concluded by saying that the promo will be able "to provide a pre-Super Bowl primer to Middle America — that somewhere between the meat dress and the Tony Bennett collaboration, Gaga has settled into a middle path."[56]

Performances[edit]

Promotional activities for Joanne began with the announcement of "Perfect Illusion" as the lead single from the album. Gaga performed it live for the first time at Moth Club in London, on September 10, 2016.[57] She featured "Perfect Illusion" in a trailer for American Horror Story: Roanoke, adding to the anonymous nature around the theme of the season.[58] Gaga released a number of commercials for Apple Music featuring the track, went to give interviews with Good Morning America and The New York Times, and appeared at Manhattan's Best Buy shop to purchase Joanne for unsuspecting customers.[56]

Gaga onstage singing while being standing atop a group of dancers, all wearing black ensembles.
Gaga during the performance of "John Wayne" during her 2017 Coachella set

The singer performed "A-Yo" and "Million Reasons" on Saturday Night Live on October 22, 2016, assisted by Ronson and Lindsey respectively.[59] Paste's Chris White called her an "incredible performer and vocalist" based on the performances.[60] On October 25, 2016, Gaga appeared on The Late Late Show with James Corden in his Carpool Karaoke segment, where she sang her previous singles, along with "Perfect Illusion" and "Million Reasons".[61] Later she sang "A-Yo" on the main stage of The Late Late Show.[62] Following week after the performance, Gaga headed over to Japan to promote Joanne.[63] She performed a piano version of "Perfect Illusion" on Sukkiri, "Joanne" on News Zero and a combination of "Million Reasons", "Perfect Illusion" and "A-Yo" on SMAP×SMAP.[64][65][66] Gaga sang "Million Reasons" at the American Music Awards of 2016 and the Ali Forney LGBT community centre.[67][68] Album tracks "Come to Mama" and "Angel Down" was performed at presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's final campaign stop in Raleigh, North Carolina.[69]

Gaga traveled to Paris where she performed "Million Reasons", "A-Yo" and "John Wayne" at the 2016 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.[70] Cole Delbyck from The Huffington Post felt that the Joanne tracks were not suitable for the show.[71] In the United Kingdom, Gaga began her promotion of Joanne with a surprise gig at London's Shepherd's Bush Westfield shopping center,[72] and later performed "Million Reasons" on the semi-final of the 13th season of The X Factor.[73] After two days, she performed the track at the 2016 Royal Variety Performance, attended by Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and on Alan Carr's Happy Hour.[74][75]

Gaga was the headliner of the Super Bowl LI halftime show, where besides her biggest hits, she performed "Million Reasons" on the piano.[76] She was also a main headliner at the 2017 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The setlist included "John Wayne", A-Yo", and "Million Reasons" from the album.[77] Benjamin Lee from The Guardian praised her performance, although he noted that the tracks from Joanne were met with "a surprising disinterest" compared to her older hits.[78] In 2018, Gaga performed "Joanne" and "Million Reasons" on the piano at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards, where she was joined on stage by Mark Ronson, who played on a guitar.[79] Writing for E! News, Vanessa Jackson called the performance "powerful and heartbreaking".[80]

Tour[edit]

Gaga announced the Dive Bar Tour, sponsored by Bud Light. The 3-date tour, which visited dive bars in the United States, had dates on October 5, 20 and 27. All performances were live streamed on Bud Light's Facebook page, as well as Gaga's.[81][82][83] In a statement, Gaga said: "My first performances were in dive bars in New York City and around the country, so working with Bud Light to go back to my roots to perform songs from my new album Joanne is such an exciting way to connect with my fans and share this music with them for the first time", and added that the venues would accentuate the "raw Americana vibe" of her then-upcoming album.[84] During the tour, Gaga premiered "A-Yo" and "Million Reasons", the latter being also released for streaming on Gaga's Vevo channel.[85]

On February 5, 2017, Gaga announced that she would embark on the Joanne World Tour in support of the album. It began on August 1, 2017 and ended on February 1, 2018.[86] Gaga postponed the European leg of the tour due to severe pain caused by fibromyalgia and was forced to cancel the last 10 shows.[87] The concert was deemed "more minimalist" in comparison to the singer's previous tours, but received praise for the visuals, Gaga's singing abilities and her connection with the audience.[88] The tour ultimately grossed $95 million from 842,000 tickets sold.[89]

Singles[edit]

Gaga performing "Million Reasons", the album's second single, on the Joanne World Tour, atop a piano

"Perfect Illusion" was released as the album's first single on September 9, 2016.[90] The track received mixed to positive reviews from music critics, with many of them complimenting its catchiness, the key change in the song and Gaga's vocal delivery,[91][92] while others deemed it a disappointing choice as a lead single compared to the singer’s previous releases.[93] The song debuted at number one in France[94] while reaching a peak of number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100.[95]

This was later followed by the release of two promotional singles—"Million Reasons" on October 6[96] and "A-Yo" on October 18, 2016.[97] "A-Yo" was initially chosen as the second single of the album, but "Million Reasons" proved to be more successful commercially, and went on to be released as a single.[98] The song debuted at number 76 on the Billboard Hot 100, initially peaking at number 54. However, after Gaga's Super Bowl performance, it re-entered the chart at number four becoming her fourteenth top-ten in the nation. The placement was aided by the song reaching number one on the Digital Songs Chart with sales of 149,000 copies, 7.6 million US streams and 15 million in radio airplay.[99] Most critics reacted positively towards the song, highlighting its simple nature and the lyrics,[100] and it was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[101]

For further promotion, both singles were accompanied by music videos, with the clip for "Million Reasons" being a continuation of "Perfect Illusion".[102] The loose narrative set in the two clips was later continued in a video for "John Wayne",[103] and "Joanne".[104] The latter was released as the third single of the album in Italy on December 22, 2017, with a piano version of the song released as a digital download worldwide on January 26, 2018.[105][106]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?6.6/10[107]
Metacritic67/100[108]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[109]
The A.V. ClubB[110]
Chicago Tribune2/4 stars[111]
The Daily Telegraph4/5 stars[112]
The Guardian3/5 stars[113]
The Independent3/5 stars[114]
NME4/5[115]
Pitchfork6.9/10[116]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[117]
Slant Magazine3/5 stars[118]

Joanne received a weighted score of 67 out of 100 from review aggregate website Metacritic, indicating "generally favorable reviews", based on 27 reviews from music critics.[108] British music journalist Neil McCormick gave the album a four-out-of-five-star rating, in his review published in The Daily Telegraph and complimented the old-fashioned songs present on the album.[112] Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic gave it a three-and-a-half-out-of-five rating. In the positive review he wrote that unlike Gaga's previous endeavors, where she appeared as a "high-wire act", Joanne was more "earth-bound" and is a "record made by an artist determined to execute only the stunts she knows how to pull off... Gaga's feet remain firmly planted in dance-pop even when she brings in a number of collaborators".[109] The same rating was given by Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield, who described the release as an "old-school Nineties soft rock album, heavy on the acoustic guitar". He complimented the understated production by Ronson and the other producers.[117]

Writing for The A.V. Club, Annie Zaleski commended the "genre fluidity" of Joanne. Rating it B, Zaleski noted that songs like "Diamond Heart", "John Wayne", "Sinner's Prayer" and "Hey Girl" are the best tracks from the album and highlighted Gaga's vocal prowess.[110] In a three-out-of-five-star review for Slant Magazine, Sal Cinquemani criticized the album for its oversung ballads and lack of strong hooks, but deemed it to be more consistent and focused than Artpop.[118] Maeve McDermott from USA Today complimented Gaga for "expanding her artistic vision and toying with different genres [on the album], while still recording the customary pop tracks listeners have come to expect".[119] Andy Gill gave the album three out of five stars in a review for The Independent. Gill commended the album's rock-leaning tracks, and Homme's work on "A-Yo" and "John Wayne" as highlights, but called "Perfect Illusion" dull.[114]

The Guardian's Caroline Sullivan considered Joanne to be a "brave move" for Gaga and rated it three-out-of-five-star review. She explained that "Gaga's huge voice adds a self-protective veneer, as does the presence of the other musicians, but at least she's done the groundwork for future albums that might show her with true transparency."[113] Digital Spy's Lewis Corner wrote: "Joanne is clearly Gaga's most personal album, popping aside the synthetic personas for something more honest and, well, human. Mother Monster may be retired for now, but Lady Gaga's sheer musical brilliance still shines through."[120] For Evan Sawdey of PopMatters, the album—with its "flaws and all"—was a correct musical step for Gaga, which he believed would make "fans and observers once again rethink what they know about the daring diva".[121] Similarly, Amanda Petrusich of Pitchfork remarked how Gaga explored an alternative path musically, diverging away from "visual provocations" that permeated most of her career.[116]

Mikael Wood from the Los Angeles Times felt that most songs on the album "lacked strong stories" and were "mere stylistic exercises" on Gaga's part.[122] Rich Juzwiak, who reviewed Joanne for Spin did not find the musical evolution that Gaga presented on the album as authentic.[123] Rating the album two-out-of-four stars, journalist Greg Kot wrote in Chicago Tribune that "[Gaga] sounds like she's just trying too hard" with Joanne. He also criticized the social commentary-filled lyrics on songs like "Come to Mama" and "Angel Down".[111] Jon Caramanica from The New York Times noted that the album's elemental sound did not come as a surprise and felt that it was not "daring or radical — it's logical, a rejoinder to her past and also to the candy-striped pop that surrounds her."[124]

Commercial performance[edit]

Gaga performing the title track on the Joanne World Tour. Joanne became her fourth album to debut atop the Billboard 200 chart.

In the United States, Joanne debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 170,000 copies in its first week, and 201,000 total album-equivalent units according to Nielsen SoundScan. It became Gaga's fourth album to top the chart following Born This Way (2011), Artpop (2013), and Cheek to Cheek (2014). The album also was 2016's second highest debut for a female album in the nation after Beyoncé's Lemonade opened with 485,000 copies. As a result, Gaga became the first woman to have four US number one albums in the 2010s.[125] The album-equivalent units for Joanne consisted of 135,000 song sales and 26 million streams along with the traditional 170,000 album sales.[126] The debut of Joanne prompted Gaga to rise to number-one on Billboard Artist 100, which measures artist activity across the publication's most influential charts.[127] The album sales dropped by 70% to 61,000 units in the second week, consequently it fell to number five on the Billboard 200.[128] Following Gaga's halftime show performance, Joanne rose 66–2 on the Billboard 200, selling 48,000 copies and 74,000 album-equivalent units.[129] It has sold 616,000 units as of February 2018 in the United States and was certified Platinum in October 2017 by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling over a million equivalent units in the country.[130][131]

Joanne debuted at number two on the Canadian Albums Chart with 17,500 album-equivalent units, behind Leonard Cohen's You Want It Darker. According to the Canadian SoundScan, the album had the third highest on-demand streams in the country.[132] On November 4, 2016, the album was certified gold by Music Canada for shipments of 40,000 copies in the country.[133] Like the United States, the Super Bowl performance also had an impact in Canada, where Joanne vaulted from 54–2 on the album chart, with a total of 524% gain in album-equivalent units.[134]

In the United Kingdom, Joanne debuted at number three on the UK Albums Chart, with first week sales of 26,694 copies, behind Elvis Presley's posthumous release, The Wonder of You, and Michael Bublé's Nobody but Me.[135] On the UK Album Downloads Chart, Joanne entered the chart at number one. It also reached number two on the Official Albums Streaming Chart, and number five on the Official Physical Albums Chart.[136][137][138] The following week, it exited the top-ten, dropping to number 14, with sales of 9,602 units.[139] As of January 2018, the album has sold 130,000 copies in the nation, and has been certified Gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).[140][141] Following the Super Bowl performance, the record rose from number 88 to number 11 on the chart with sales increasing to 5,289 copies.[142] Joanne debuted at number three on the Irish Albums Chart.[143] The album had a less than expected debut in France, where it entered the album chart at number nine, with sales of just over 8,000 copies. Pure Charts website theorized that the moderate performance of the lead single, "Perfect Illusion", and the absence of Gaga in the media during the album release week contributed to the low debut.[144] By the year end, they deemed Joanne as one of the commercially disappointing albums in France, achieving total sales of 12,000 copies.[145]

Joanne debuted at number two on both the Australian Albums Chart and New Zealand Albums Chart.[146][147] The Australian Recording Industry Association said that Joanne was Gaga's second consecutive solo album to debut at number two on the chart following Artpop.[148] In Japan, Joanne debuted at number 10 on the Oricon Albums Chart with first week sales of 8,026 copies.[149] According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), Joanne was the 22nd best-selling album of 2016, selling one million copies that year.[150]

Recognition and impact[edit]

Joanne was placed in a number of year-end lists by publications. Billboard ranked it as the 32nd best album of 2016, adding that the "kitchen-sink pop album" had an "instant-classic breakup ballad" in "Million Reasons", which enabled Gaga to reclaim "her sweet spot with Joanne".[151] Digital Spy's Lewis Corner placed the record at number nine, believing that "simplicity" was the key of the album's success.[152] Joanne was NME magazine's 20th best album of the year, with the publication highlighting how it hearkened back to the stripped-down sound employed by Gaga in her early years as an artist.[153] For Rolling Stone, the album was the seventh best release of 2016, with a writer from the magazine feeling that "Gaga's soft-rock transformation takes the pop star into a new direction without losing her flair for the dramatic and penchant for the kitschy."[154] The album was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards, while "Million Reasons" was nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance.[155] The latter was also one of the award winning songs at the BMI Awards.[156]

Refer to caption.
Refer to caption.
Joanne's impact was evident in the albums of artists such as Miley Cyrus (left) and Kesha (right)

Many journalistic articles noticed the minimalist musical endeavor taken by Gaga in Joanne, in the work of other artists.[157] Andrew Unterberger from Billboard theorized that singer Miley Cyrus' fourth studio album, Younger Now (2017), "sounded familiar upon first reading", because "it's not all that different from the rhetoric espoused by another left-of-center pop star [Gaga] preceding her own voyage back to the middle" and that "Cyrus' new music is taking her down a similar path". According to the article, Gaga—when she realized that the "high-conceptuality" of her previous work led to diminished "commercial returns"—had chosen a "straightforward pop-rock album" like Joanne and her Super Bowl performance "to remind people at all points on the political and social spectrum why she was once a pop star without peer".[158] Speaking of Cyrus' new direction Melissa Engelman from Odyssey noted that she was "taking a cue from [Gaga] as a way to kick off her career apart from Hannah Montana."[159]

While reviewing Kesha's third studio album, Rainbow (2017), Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic noted the usage of analogue instruments in lieu of electrical ones, like the songs in Joanne. Kesha also tamed down her image like Gaga, but kept her individualistic personality.[160] In his Vanity Fair article, Josh Duboff wrote that singer Justin Timberlake's countryfied musical endeavors with his Man of the Woods album era recalled Joanne. He also noted that "other pop stars—Miley Cyrus and Kesha among them—have recently pivoted from a more pop-focused sound to something rootsier."[161] Hugh McIntyre from Forbes similarly found singer Harry Styles' debut single, "Sign of the Times" (2017), incorporating glam rock in its composition.[157]

Singer Noah Cyrus acknowledged the impact of the album in an interview with V, saying that she has "been stuck on Joanne. Gaga has just killed it and this year, with that album".[162] As Brittany Spanos from Rolling Stone observed, Joanne served as Cyrus' "muse" while songwriting for her debut album NC-17, incorporating the country-themed musicality from Gaga's endeavor.[163] Gary Trust an article for Billboard, titled "Is Lady Gaga Bringing Back 'The Vocalist Era'?", noticed how with the release of "Million Reasons" Gaga had brought her vocal talents to the forefront. He interviewed radio programmers who theorized that releasing the song was part of a bigger musical picture and believed that the musical scene was "entering a new era of traditional ballads and big vocals".[164]

Track listing[edit]

Standard edition[165]
No.TitleWriter(s)ProducersLength
1."Diamond Heart"3:30
2."A-Yo"
  • Ronson
  • BloodPop
  • Gaga
3:28
3."Joanne"
  • Germanotta
  • Ronson
  • Ronson
  • Gaga
  • BloodPop
3:17
4."John Wayne"
  • Germanotta
  • Ronson
  • Tucker
  • Homme
  • Ronson
  • BloodPop
  • Gaga
2:54
5."Dancin' in Circles"
  • Ronson
  • Gaga
  • BloodPop
3:27
6."Perfect Illusion"
  • Ronson
  • Parker
  • Gaga
  • BloodPop
3:02
7."Million Reasons"
  • Germanotta
  • Lindsey
  • Ronson
  • Ronson
  • Gaga
  • BloodPop
3:25
8."Sinner's Prayer"
  • Ronson
  • Gaga
  • BloodPop
3:43
9."Come to Mama"
  • Ronson
  • Haynie
  • Gaga
  • BloodPop
4:15
10."Hey Girl" (featuring Florence Welch)
  • Germanotta
  • Welch
  • Ronson
  • Ronson
  • Gaga
  • BloodPop
4:15
11."Angel Down"
  • Ronson
  • Gaga
  • BloodPop
3:49
Total length:39:05

Notes

  • ^[a]  – co-producer

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Joanne liner notes.[17]

Music[edit]

  • Victor Axelrod – piano (track 8), synthesizer (track 10)
  • Jeff Bhasker – synthesizers (track 1)
  • BloodPop – synthesizer (tracks 4–6, 8, 12), keyboards (tracks 3, 7, 11), organ (track 2), bass (track 6), drums (track 11)
  • Thomas Brenneck – guitars (tracks 2, 8, 10)
  • Jack Byrne – guitar (track 10)
  • J. Gastelum Cochemea – tenor saxophone (track 2)
  • Dave Guy – trumpet (track 2)
  • Este Haim – percussion (track 2)
  • Emile Haynie – drums, additional synths (track 9)
  • Matt Helders – drums (track 1)
  • Ian Hendrickson-Smith – baritone saxophone (track 2)
  • Josh Homme – guitar (tracks 1–2, 4, 6), drums (track 4), slide guitar (track 8)
  • James King – baritone, tenor and alto saxes (track 9)
  • Brent Kolatalo – drums (track 9)
  • Steve Kortyka – saxophone (track 13)
  • Lady Gaga – vocals (all tracks), piano (tracks 7, 9–11, 13–14), percussion (tracks 2–3), backing vocals (track 9)
  • Don Lawrence – vocal instruction
  • Sean Lennon – slide guitar (track 8)
  • Ken Lewis – drums (track 9)
  • Hillary Lindsey – additional vocals (tracks 7, 12), guitar (track 7), background vocals (track 8)
  • Kelsey Lu – cello (track 10)
  • Leon Michels – keyboards, Mellotron (track 8)
  • Tom Moth – harp (track 10)
  • Nicholas Movshon – bass (tracks 8, 10)
  • Brian Newman – trumpet (tracks 2, 13)
  • Kevin Parker – drums, guitar, synthesizer (track 6)
  • RedOne – guitar (track 14)
  • Mark Ronson – bass (tracks 1–4, 7, 9, 12–13), guitar (tracks 2–7, 9, 12–13), keyboards (tracks 3, 13), Mellotron strings (tracks 3, 11), electric piano (track 1), synthesizer (track 6)
  • Anthony Rossomando – guitar (track 12)
  • Harper Simon – guitar (track 3)
  • Homer Steinweiss – drums (tracks 8, 10, 13)
  • Josh Tillman – drums (track 1)
  • Florence Welch – vocals (track 10)

Production[edit]

  • Ben Baptie – mixing (tracks 11, 13)
  • Jeff Bhasker – co-production (track 1)
  • Joshua Blair – recording (tracks 1–13)
  • BloodPop – production (tracks 1–12), rhythm track (tracks 1–7, 12), rhythm programming (tracks 8, 10), string programming (track 7), synthesizer programming (track 9)
  • Brandon Bost – mixing assistance (tracks 1, 3–4, 7–10, 12), recording (track 7)
  • Johnnie Burik – recording assistance (track 3)
  • Christopher Cerullo – recording assistance (track 10)
  • Chris Claypool – recording assistance (track 10)
  • David "Squirrel" Covell – recording assistance (tracks 1–10, 12), recording (track 11)
  • Tom Coyne – mastering (all tracks)
  • Matthew Cullen – recording (track 8)
  • Riccardo Damian – recording (tracks 1, 13)
  • Abby Echiverri – recording assistance (track 8)
  • Tom Elmhirst – mixing (tracks 1, 3–4, 7–10, 12)
  • Serban Ghenea – mixing (tracks 2, 5–6)
  • John Hanes – mix engineering (tracks 2, 5–6)
  • Michael Harris – recording assistance (track 10)
  • Emile Haynie – production (track 9)
  • Josh Homme – co-production (track 1)
  • T.I. Jakke – mixing (track 14)
  • Jens Jungkerth – recording (tracks 8, 10)
  • Brent Kolatalo – recording (track 9)
  • Lady Gaga – production (all tracks)
  • Ken Lewis – recording (track 9)
  • Barry McCready – recording assistance (tracks 2, 4–7, 9, 11–13), recording (track 13)
  • Ed McEntee – recording assistance (track 8)
  • Randy Merrill – mastering (all tracks)
  • Trevor Muzzy – recording (track 14)
  • Kevin Parker – production (track 6)
  • Charley Pollard – recording assistance (track 4)
  • RedOne – production, mixing, programming (track 14)
  • Benjamin Rice – recording (tracks 2, 12)
  • Mark Ronson – production (tracks 1–13)
  • Dave Russell – recording (track 3)
  • Brett "123" Shaw – recording (track 10)
  • Justin Smith – recording (tracks 1, 3, 8), recording assistance (tracks 2, 4, 6, 11)
  • Joe Visciano – mixing assistance (tracks 1, 3–4, 7–10, 12), recording (track 7)
  • Alekes Von Korff – recording (track 14)

Management[edit]

  • Bobby Campbell – management
  • Lisa Einhorn-Gilder – production coordination
  • Ashley Gutierrez – assistance to Lady Gaga
  • John Janick – A&R
  • Lady Gaga – executive production
  • Mark Ronson – executive production
  • Sandra Amador – styling
  • Frederic Aspiras – hair
  • Andrea Gelardin – creative direction, photography
  • Ruth Hogben – creative direction, photography
  • Lady Gaga – creative direction, photography
  • Brandon Maxwell – creative direction, fashion direction
  • Brian Roettinger – graphic design
  • Collier Schorr – photography
  • Sarah Tanno – makeup
  • Florence Welch – photography
  • An Yen – graphic design

Charts[edit]

Certification and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[133] Gold 40,000^
France 20,000[214]
Italy (FIMI)[215] Gold 25,000*
Mexico (AMPROFON)[216] Gold 30,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[140] Gold 130,000[141]
United States (RIAA)[131] Platinum 616,000[130]
Summaries
Worldwide (IFPI) N/A 1,000,000[150]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]

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External links[edit]