With Lady Gaga’s Chromatica Ball tour coming to an end this month, fans say goodbye to one of her most stunning musical eras to date. Chromatica crafted a deeply conceptual musical world about space, love, and fear, drenched in hot pink fashion and cyberpunk visuals. To celebrate its close, let’s look back on the raw pop magic of Chromatica.
‘Stupid Love’ officially released in the sunny early months of 2020, before we knew what a curveball that stressful pandemic year would throw us. The bright single artwork, inspired by 90s street graffiti and PC music, alongside the song’s nostalgic house-influenced sound, made it clear we were officially entering a thrilling new Gaga era. Notably, ‘Stupid Love’ also marked Gaga’s first time working with iconic songwriter Max Martin, as well as her frequent collaborative team Tchami and Bloodpop.
The ‘Stupid Love’ music video dragged us into a high-concept space realm named Chromatica. Gaga danced with warrior faction ‘The Kindness Punks’, all dressed in bold colours and twinkling Y2K fits on the fictional planet’s desert sands. We’d later discover the planet Chromatica housed many different battling groups, who could only come together through the power of music — an apt metaphor for the album’s central theme of expressing pain through art to overcome struggle. After the more stripped-back aesthetics of 2015’s Joanne, the ‘Stupid Love’ music video promised a return to form for Gaga. “Nobody’s gonna heal me if I don’t open the door”, she sang, setting the stage for what would be her most personal musical endeavour yet.
The album drop
After pandemic release delays, promotional complications, and a wave of infamous pink Chromatica Oreos, Chromatica finally released to rave reviews on May 29th, 2020. It’s Gaga’s most sonically tight and lyrically earnest record to date. With a relentlessly upbeat dancefloor sound, explosively colourful aesthetic, and gorgeous vocals, it quickly became a fan favourite.
Chromatica proved to be an album with far more to it than meets the eye. Underneath its carefully crafted dance-pop exterior, every song delved deep into Gaga’s psyche, exploring her well-documented struggles with fame and mental health. Gaga is an incredibly strong woman, having previously opened up about suffering physical injuries, addiction, fibromyalgia, sexual assault and identity crises during her time in the public eye. But Chromatica finally saw her accepting the darkness, to find the light on the other side.
Album opener ‘Alice’ takes on fantastical Wonderland imagery to introduce us to Chromatica’s fictional world, where each track represents a mental obstacle Gaga must overcome. Club bangers ‘Replay’ and ‘911’ offer deceptively bright soundtracks to Gaga’s honest declaration that monsters “torture” her mind, representing the complex women beneath the glittery exterior of celebrity life.
Elsewhere, Gaga reasserts her femininity and dominance on ‘Free Woman’ and ‘Sour Candy’. She reminds us we’ll never truly understand her genius with one of the album’s earliest written tracks, ‘Enigma’, almost smirking as she announces she simply transforms to be “anything you want”. Later, over pulsing disco beats, Gaga admits her need for support on ‘1000 Doves’, the closest thing to a ballad this record has to offer. But it all concludes with the camp anthem ‘Babylon’, a promise that Gaga will never stop serving pop perfection, despite her personal battles. It’s a fitting statement for the woman that swore when all else failed, we could ‘Just Dance’ through it, all the way back in 2008.
Lady Gaga has always been an intensely collaborative artist, but Chromatica revealed some of her best shared performances to date. She famously teamed up with Ariana Grande on hit single ‘Rain on Me’. The pair took to the VMAs stage that year in dramatic masked get-ups to dance it out through the storm. Debuting at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, ‘Rain on Me’ made history as Gaga’s fifth and Grande’s fourth number-one single in the US.
Chromatica also houses Gaga’s second collaboration with long-time friend Elton John, ‘Sine From Above’. It’s a fluttering, angelic duet diving into the duo’s relationships with religion, and its impact on their songwriting. But the team-ups don’t stop there. ‘Sour Candy’ sees Gaga working with K-pop icons Blackpink on a sassy house track, warning listeners to expect the unexpected with this unstoppable group. Whilst Chromatica looks more deeply at Gaga’s individual life than any of her other records, it also shows she’s unafraid to share the spotlight with artists she truly loves.
Dawn of Chromatica
Many early iterations of songs on Chromatica took on a more experimental hyperpop sound than the final product, thanks to the influence of initial producers like Sophie and Skrillex. In ode to the album’s original direction, Gaga opted to re-release Chromatica in September 2021 as Dawn of Chromatica, a remix album featuring new versions of each song, worked on by a star-studded cast of upcoming artists. Charli XCX, Arca, A. G Cook, Rina Sawayama, Dorian Electra and many more exciting names grabbed Gaga’s sixth album with both hands, and the result was incredible pop chaos.
Dawn of Chromatica highlights include Ashnikko’s fierce rap version of ‘Plastic Doll’, drag queen Pablo Vittar’s bubblegum rendition of ‘Fun Tonight’, and the original HausLabs version of ‘Babylon’. Plus, it certainly doesn’t hurt that this version of the album came with fresh cover art, where Gaga lies on an acid-green background, captured in the claws of a trippy, bright pink monster!
The Chromatica Ball
After years focusing on her acting career and jazzier material, Lady Gaga truly returned to her superstar character with the 2022 Chromatica Ball tour. Through twenty summer shows across Asia, Europe and North America, Gaga showed she still absolutely owns the stage.
In front of a striking set inspired by brutalist architecture, Gaga belted out an assortment of her biggest hits and personal favourites, dolled up in high fashion garments and slicked-back bleach blonde hair. Fans in the crowd wearing equally dramatic outfits were shocked by plumes of fire bursting into the air each night, as documented in countless TikToks. They screamed when she opened with classics like ‘Bad Romance’ and ‘Poker Face’, and cried when she swept them up into ballads like ‘The Edge of Glory’. Through it all, Gaga performed some of the most exciting choreography of her career.
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Gentler piano segments stripped Gaga’s instrumentation down and showcased her ever-impressive vocal ability. She spoke candidly to fans each night, often taking the opportunity to advocate for her political beliefs, such as speaking out against Roe VS. Wade and American politicians walking back LGBT+ rights. Ever the activist, Lady Gaga is still making sure we know we were ‘Born This Way’, no matter what the world throws at us.
As one of her most empowering stage tours, the Chromatica Ball will live on in fan’s minds for years to come. And with rumours bubbling about an official concert film on its way, it will likely be hard to forget! Even as this era comes to a close, we can look forward to a sleuth of new Gaga content to come. Because if there’s one performer who can truly call herself unstoppable, it’s the one and only Lady Gaga.