Monday, September 13, 2021

Lady Gaga’s ‘Dawn of Chromatica’ Should Have Been Called ‘Chromatic Aberrations’

Lady Gaga and friends have produced an excellent remix album but given it a meh title. It’s called ‘Dawn of Chromatica’, making it sound like a Terminator and Planet of the Apes crossover. Aberrations, on the other hand, perfectly sums up the genre diversity demonstrated by this kaleidoscopic remix record.

The 16 tracks of this remix album amount to just shy of 50 minutes, compared to the 43 minutes of the original, and despite having shed the three short titular string instrumental interludes. 

Two back-to-back remixes of ‘Babylon’ close the new album, bringing its total number of tracks to 14. This 6-minute double finale leans into the original’s homage to Madonna’s ‘Vogue’, mutated through Gaga’s eclectic trans-Atlantic accent. The staccato setting of “Strut it out / Walk a mile” calls back to DJ Yirvin’s sampled voice earlier on the album. 

This is a strikingly cohesive record.


We start with a Timbaland-sounding remix of ‘Alice’, courtesy of Berlin-based DJ LSDXOXO. The track ends with a tantalizing drop in tempo that could have been placed merely to amp up the fizz on COUCOU CHLOE’s subsequent take on ‘Stupid Love’, which it does.


‘Rain On Me’, the stand-out house track on ‘Chromatica’, is now remixed by Arca into an actual rainstorm in three acts. Ariana Grande’s voice is brought forward, and Gaga’s is softened. DJ Yirvin’s sexual Hokey Cokey grinds in with “Mételo, sácalo” repeating faster and faster over the sublimated trauma of the chorus: “I’d rather be dry / but at least I’m alive”. The second verse and the pre-chorus articulate the sad but hopeful themes of this personal pop song, and then we enter an increasingly fractured and ethereal musical section. The voices of Grande and Gaga become fractionated and electronically spliced over a rumbling soundscape of far-away thunder drums and sparkling facets of soft crystal mist. Arca pops back in during the outro to remind everyone to “Mover el culo” as the song flickers to a close. It’s a good‘un.


Rina Sawayama and Clarence Clarity slap the held ball of ‘Free Woman’ out of Yazz and Black Box’s locked hands, fuzzing it high into the bleachers, where Justin Timberlake and Daft Punk spend four happy minutes refusing to give it back. Pabbllo Vittar then ups the tempo of belter ballad ‘Fun Tonight’, and takes it off to a hyper-pop place.


‘911’ alternates between the shattered liquid sounds of ‘Rain On Me’ and high-energy trance house grooves. The hard disco drum machine and opening vocal echo effects on the original version of ‘Plastic Doll’ would have fitted in this remix album. Ashnikko’s rap rhythms and melodic dialogue with Gaga take the song in two new directions at once. ‘Sour Candy’ is transformed more subtly. BLACKPINK’s vocals are pre- and post-reverbed for a hypnotic house vibe, and Shygirl provides a brilliant pre-chorus.


Next, Doss restructures ‘Enigma’, sampling and stretching and inserting some fat bass breaks. Dorian Electra gives ‘Replay’ an impressive multi-genre metal and dance fusion makeover. The grunge aesthetic turns industrial on ‘Sine From Above’, which also retains Elton John’s vocals. Obviously. Now, are you ready for the techno ending?


‘1000 Doves’ sprinkles some Jean-Michel Jarre synths over a pounding sixteenth-note bassline and an unwavering backbeat. Gaga’s vocals are warped into wispy waves that seem to echo around a strange cavern where we only experience the lyrical intent of the song through its shadows.


The self-referential call-backs and multi-genre dance textures of this album, as well as its diverse complement of contributors, make this a vibrant and fascinating hyper-pop reimagining of ‘Chromatica’ that easily stands alone as an album in its own right.


John Weston


Image: Lady Gaga ‘Dawn of Chromatica’ Official Album Cover

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