Should Lady Gaga's Next Album Be Stripped Down Following the Success of 'A Star Is Born'?

November 6, 2018

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By Mario McKellop

In early October, the world got to see the full range of Lady Gaga’s acting abilities in Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born remake. Gaga received rave reviews for her first leading performance as waitress/aspiring singer Ally. And the film itself has done incredibly well, grossing more than $259 million worldwide.

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The “Star is Born” soundtrack, which includes 15 songs by Gaga, has also been a big hit. The record, which features a stripped-down country, blues rock and pop sounds, received glowing reviews from the music press and debuted atop the Billboard US 200. Given the soundtrack’s incredible success, should Lady Gaga’s next album be a similarly stripped-down affair? Well, there are a few good reasons why it should be.

Gaga’s fan base is ready for her unplugged sound now

Gaga’s last studio album, 2016’s “Joanne,” was itself a pretty stripped down record by her standards. Though it featured a few EDM and rock-influenced bangers, the record featured much lighter production than her previous releases and a greater focus on vocals.

Moreover, tracks like “A-Yo,” “Sinner’s Prayer” and “Million Reasons” have a strong country vibe to them, even if they don’t sound like the kind of music that gets played on contemporary country radio. Sadly, while the album was critically acclaimed and had an obvious influence on recent albums put out by Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus and Kesha, it didn’t sell as well as Gaga’s earlier work.

While the shock of a new sound may have put listeners off “Joanne,” the recent success of the “Star is Born” suggests that fans are ready to embrace Gaga’s unplugged sound.

A return to dance-pop would be ill-advised

Although Lady Gaga would likely receive a lot of “return to form” buzz if her next studio album was a dance-pop record, it probably wouldn’t serve her well in the long term. Though underrated, Gaga’s 2013 album “Artpop” suggested that she had taken the gonzo outsider popstar thing about as far as it could go.

As evidenced by “Joanne” and the “Star is Born” soundtrack, Gaga’s muse is clearly directing her toward a largely production-lite and stripped down direction. If she goes against that impulse, she would be going head-to-head with an ascendant Charli XCX armed only with a half-hearted, trend-chasing record. Losing that fight wouldn’t do anything good for Gaga’s career.

Instead of fighting for space in a genre she no longer feels connected to, Gaga should follow her instincts and make a killer country/blues rock album that functions as her “Lemonade.”

Gaga’s idols follow the same path

Over the course of her career, Lady Gaga’s most enduring artistic influences have been David Bowie and Madonna. And one thing those two music legends had in common was a chameleonic approach to making music. As times change, so too do their music. And those changes are usually for the better. Instead of losing themselves in an ever-changing pop landscape, both performers adapted and ended up making some of the most vital music of the 20th and 21st centuries.

As she has in the past, Gaga should look to her central influences for inspiration. She should embrace her growing interest in country music and make the genre the focus of her next album. It’s easy to imagine her making some amazing songs with Chris Stapleton, the Dixie Chicks and Kacey Musgraves.

Afterward, she could think about making a grand return to dance-pop with SOPHIE, Sia and Robyn as featured guests. And then maybe a garage rock revival record with Jack White and Gordon Raphael as producers. The possibilities are endless if Gaga chooses to be everything instead of anything.