To listen to the leak or not to listen to the leak, that is the question that many Little Monsters face as Joanne, the newest album from Lady Gaga, spreads online in advance of Friday’s official release. Amongst fans, there’s the age-old mantra that “good” monsters will wait always for the final product, but when a new Gaga album leaks — and it always does, as it did yesterday — voracious fans can seldom help themselves. After copies of Joanne were sold early in Belgium at Mediamarkt, the album quickly circulated on social media, snatching weaves as it spread four days before its proper street date.
For those fans who want to hold off on listening to Joanne before its official release but still crave some hints about the much-anticipated #LG5, here are our track-by-track first impressions of the standard edition of Joanne.
Track 1 — “Diamond Heart”: Gaga sets the autographic tone of the album with this feisty pop opener. “One, five, 10, lay a million on me before the end of the song” she commands, referencing her days of go-go dancing in dingy New York City dives before rise to pop stardom.
Track 2 — “A-YO”: This country-funk whammer-jammer, called “MANiCURE part 2” by some because of its similarities to the ARTPOP tune, plays like an all-American Superbowl halftime bop waiting to happen. Now confirmed as the second single for the album, you can stream a live version of the song here.
Track 3 — “Joanne”: Referencing Gaga’s late aunt, who passed away at 19 from Lupus, the album’s title track glimmers with acoustic guitar and doleful vocals, dimming the otherwise party-perfect atmosphere of the album. That being said, it would be odd (and rather rude) if Gaga named her fifth album after her beloved family member and didn’t include any sort of tribute.
Track 4 — “John Wayne”: Nothing screams Americana like bad-boy cowboys, rough riders and crushing empty beer cans under your heels. Gaga swirls these classic themes together in this rock stomper about a chaotic relationship “headed for a dead end” and an overall endorsement of bad behavior.
Track 5 — “Dancin’ In Circles”: What’s a good Gaga album without a song about masturbation? The not-so-subtle ode to self-abuse clangs and jangles in Gaga’s true pop form, courtesy of quirky production by Beck. Her seductive whispers and offers to “funk downtown” secure this track as the naughty niche of the album.
Track 6 — “Perfect Illusion”: The lead single from Joanne brings the same thunder it did when it debuted just over a month ago, banging as a modern disco rager with more simplicity than fans and critics expected. As the album’s core, the track holds together the mishmash of country, rock, and pop on Joanne with well-executed minimalism.
Track 7 — “Million Reasons”: While this country ballad becomes a tad repetitive, (a tad repetitive, a tad repetitive), it builds at a steady ‘n’ sturdy pace that bursts on the final chorus when Gaga asks her lover to be her “one reason to stay,” even when she has a million to leave him in the dust kicked up by her cowgirl boots.
Track 8 — “Sinner’s Prayer”: This bass-thumping stew is as country as the album gets, paying homage to the ye-olde country of the Johnny Cash era, featuring dark-folk king himself Father John Misty on the guitar. “I came down the mountain, dragging our love affair,” she drawls like a true Southerner. Experimenting in twang may be a new venture for Gaga, but playing the part of a coquette sure isn’t.
Track 9 — “Come To Mama”: This tune comes off as a tad corny, even for a starlet who has preached self-love and kindness a million times over, but the horn section and feel-good swing of the verses save it from sounding hopelessly campy.
Track 10 — “Hey Girl”: The sole vocal collab on the album, “Hey Girl” combines the swoonsome vocals of Florence Welch with Gaga’s coos for an soulful feminist slow-burn about women lifting each other up. Although, we must admit, the drums in the beginning of the track sound eerily similar those of St. Vincent’s “Prince Johnny”.
Track 11 — “Angel Down”: A twinkling and sparse swan song, “Angel Down” ends the album on a solemn but overwhelmingly robust note, flaunting the resilient vocals that Gaga has honed in her eight years of fame. This isn’t the adolescent girl swinging in the bars of “Diamond Heart” anymore — Gaga’s transformed into full-fledged visionary with the pipes to back it all up.