Lady Gaga once seemed so untouchable, perched on skyscraping heels while spinning dirty innuendos into chart-topping gold. But like the fame she has so gloriously glorified, she’s also fickle—sometimes to a fault. Now, she simply wants to be our slightly wild drinking buddy eager to cause a scene at the dive bar in her Bud Light crop top and ratty cut-offs. Or at least this is the scrappy image she’s conceived for her fourth solo album, Joanne.
Since her arrival, Gaga has been constantly, exhaustedly calculating her next move. On Joanne, she speeds up that process, attempting reinvention with nearly every song. It makes for a scattered album with little focus: Even the title, named after her late aunt who died young of lupus, makes no sense in the context of, say, the reggae-tinged self-pleasuring ode “Dancin’ in Circles.”
But it also makes for one of pop’s more exciting releases of 2016. And that’s partially due to her choice of collaborators: She pushes for indie cred by enlisting Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker for “Perfect Illusion,” a move that becomes somewhat overshadowed by Mark Ronson’s disco-fied production and the chorus’ likeness to Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach.” Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme is more successful at pulling that rock-bred rawness out of her on the Springsteen-soaring, Pat Benatar-nodding anthem “Diamond Heart.”
But when Gaga ditches the ’80s glamour, she makes an even better case as a convincing Spaghetti western seductress alongside hippie-eccentric Father John Misty on “Sinner’s Prayer”; a slinky soul sister to Florence Welch on “Hey Girl”; and even a country crossover star, making the gorgeous ballad “Joanne” her “Jolene” and giving Taylor one more thing to shake off with the honky-tonkin’ “A-Yo,” co-penned by Nashville hitmaker Hillary Lindsey. Forget that dive bar girl— with all that (and more), Gaga suddenly seems untouchable again.
For this playlist we attempt to trace the influences and collaborators behind Joanne, which deserves way more than one listen to fully unpack.