ALBUM REVIEW: Lady Gaga, Dawn of Chromatica
The “remix album” is a format that is doomed to fail from the start. The formula is: take a successful project, pluck it of all the stems, let a producer/artist fuck with them, then boom! Remix album. The problem with this is that by its very nature, it is less significant than the actual album. Daft Club is the perfect example, it is a headache to listen to all the way through and it comes nowhere close to being as good as Discovery or even Human After All in any respect. Even last year's Club Future Nostalgia, a spin on Dua Lipa’s highly successful sophomore record, is a little too bloated and filled with unnecessary parts. Even though it did drag, the album stood out amongst other albums of the same type, and that’s because it stuck to a real concept. Everyone knows the original Future Nostalgia is heavily inspired by the disco and pop of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, but what the remix album did well was that it added artists who made that music (Missy Elliot, Jamiroquai, Madonna) onto the project itself. On top of that, underground vet The Blessed Madonna was the guiding force, bringing each song into the next with ease.
That brings us to Dawn of Chromatica, a new project that is a mix of Lady Gaga’s Chromatica. It doesn’t have a “theme” per say, or even an overarching producer in the way that Dua Lipa had. Instead, we get a roster of artists that AntiArt has been praising nonstop. You can call it hyperpop if you want, but that really only applies to a select few people on the bill. This review will be a bit different than our other ones, since we aren’t focusing on content as much as we are the new sound and guests on each track. So let’s take it from the top. LSDXOXO kicks the project off with a very early ‘00s Timbaland-style take on the standout Chromatica track “Alice”. I do wish LSDXOXO went a little freakier with it considering how wild “The Devil” was, but I’ll take what I can get. COUCOU Chloe is a French house artist who certainly makes “Stupid Love” better, which is not a difficult task because the original is so lame. I really like the dark industrial house approach Chloe takes, it’s very danceable but still has some more rough details like sirens and fuzz. “Rain On Me”, Gaga’s duet with Ariana Grande, is turned into a triplet with the addition of La Reina, Arca. “Time” from KiCK i is mashed up onto the beat in various sections, with Arca also taking it off the rails like she does at her live shows. It’s not the grand artistic statement I was looking for, but it still goes pretty hard.
“Free Woman” with Rina Sawayama and Clarence Clarity mimics the sounds that the duo cooked up on SAWAYAMA, especially on the more arena rock tracks. This one feels really grand and poppy, with lots of echoed, soaring vocals and less hyperpop-y electronic sound. It’s definitely one of the better standard remixes in the bunch, although some other collaborators went a little crazier towards the end and it paid off big time (will get to that in a moment). Maybe it’s a matter of taste, but I really am off-put by the hokey Latin beat mixed with Gaga’s vocals on that Pabllo Vittar song. “911 - Charli XCX & A.G. Cook Remix” is the much better hyperpop-adjacent track. A.G. really does wonders with this beat, creating this insanely infectious house groove for Gaga’s chorus “My biggest enemy is me/Pop a 911”. Charli also does her thing, it’s great to hear her on a track of this style after flopping dramatically with “Good Ones”. Y’all know how we feel about Ashnikko, let’s just keep it moving. “Sour Candy” remixed by Shygirl and Mura Masa is a major disappointment. I don’t know why Gaga felt the need to nerf all of her hypersexual guests, but it greatly hurts the record. Shygirl does her very best on this one, but not even my favorite current female artist could do much with this boring beat and subject matter.
“Enigma - Doss Remix” is the complete opposite. I expected it to be cool but I think it may be the best song on the record. The executive producer on this album should’ve gotten more interesting producers like Doss, or 100 gecs, or even umru to come through and remix tracks without vocal guests. This song FUCKS, dear lord. Doss understands the ‘80s stadium rock appeal of Gaga better than Gaga herself, blasting out the choral vocals to the max before delving into some classic deep house. This track is club ready and I’d be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t at least like it. Ok, actually I misspoke. THIS is the best song on the album, “Replay” with Dorian Electra is a feat of human willpower. The producers keep Gaga's voice intact and use the power those vocals hold to transition between all these disparate genres. It goes from radio pop to that classic Dorian rock sound to hard house for the build ups. Dorian gives the best performance on the entire record, really popping off the track without having to get explicit with it. “Sine From Above” is another massive highlight, which was surprising considering I didn’t really dig the original. From top to bottom, this song takes no consideration of Gaga’s audience, and that’s a good thing. Elton John gets his vocals fucked around in the goofiest possible ways, with all these MIDI instruments and clown horn sound effects playing in the background without a wink of sarcasm. This has got to be the most stacked roster of artists on one track, and that becomes especially clear at the very end. The self-proclaimed 200 BPM cowboy himself, Lil Texas, throws everything to the side and just goes full-on hardstyle with it. BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM, fuck ya.
The record lands pretty safely with three solid remixes. “1000 Doves - Planningtorock Remix” is another big highlight for me. I love how cold and runway-ready this track is, with its driving synth grooves and house-kicks. It’s just so peppy and enjoyable, really picking up steam in the second half with this cute little electronic solo. Two remixes of “Babylon” show up, and they’re both pretty good in my opinion, although I prefer the Bloodpop and Tchami mix. It just goes a little harder and uses Gaga’s vocals more effectively in my opinion. While this album has a fair amount of standout tracks, I don’t know if I can call it “Standout” as a whole because of its nature as a remix album. What I will say is that I enjoy it more than the original. People who are fans of Gaga, hyperpop and other “out there” pop artists will probably think this is a masterpiece, and I definitely can’t blame them. Enjoyability of this record will greatly depend on where you fall in the Venn Diagram. For me, features like LSDXOXO, Dorian Electra and Lil Texas are who I came for. Outside of that, I am not really all that interested.