On the eve of the release of her long-awaited fifth solo album, Joanne, Lady Gaga previewed a gaggle of new tracks from the studio set during her second Dive Bar Tour stop in New York City.
Taking the stage alongside Mark Ronson at an undisclosed bar in Manhattan, which she revealed she’d been playing shows at since she was 15 years old, the pop icon powered through Joanne‘s opening track, “Diamond Heart,” before launching into the album’s title tune, which she dedicated to her father, Joe Germanotta. She said the song was inspired by her late aunt, who died in 1974 of Lupus-related causes after suffering emotional trauma as the result of a sexual assault.
“This tragedy stayed with my family for a very long time. I come from a long heritage of very hard working, blue collar, Italian-Americans,” she said. “My family came over from Italy, through Ellis Island… [Mark and I] wrote this song not only in her honor but in the honor of so many people who’ve lost ones that they love or maybe their pending loss. So terrifying. You just never want to say goodbye.”
The singer-songwriter also performed the bonus track “Grigio Girls” with its co-writer, Hillary Lindsey. She dedicated the song to her friend, Sonja, who’s currently battling stage four cancer.
“She’s in such good spirits and she’s so beautiful,” Gaga said to her friend, who looked on from the audience. “I wrote this with Hillary Lindsey… we were writing it because we were laying around one night and all the girls had gotten together, but Sonja wasn’t there because sometimes we needed to get together without her so we could cry. We didn’t want her to see us cry… we formed this pact with each other when we needed to get together… and cry it out.”
Gaga took to the piano to perform another song with Ronson on guitar, “Just Another Day,” the only track on Joanne Gaga wrote by herself. Jazz musician Brian Newman, who worked with Gaga on Cheek to Cheek‘s arrangements, played trumpet during the song.
“I wrote this song looking out over Central Park from my apartment, [where now] I can see my old house where I grew up with my family, and it just so happens that Mark and I went to the same school at one point… I went to preschool at Mark’s school… also, I lived two blocks away from one of his best friends, John Lennon, and I used to walk by the ‘Imagine’ memorial probably three times a week and just sit there… and I’d catch Yoko, sometimes, with a really wide-brimmed hat on, walking in Central Park, and she would bring flowers, I think, every day. There was this homeless guy, I think he’s still there, and he would decorate the memorial with the flowers that she brought. It’s so beautiful. I don’t know why but, even though Mark and I didn’t know each other then, when we were writing this record I would imagine us as kids kicking it around in the city.”
The Super Bowl LI Halftime Show headliner previously played three new tunes from Joanne during the tour’s kickoff in Nashville on Oct. 5, giving fans a first taste of album cuts “Sinner’s Prayer,” promotional singles “A-YO” and “Million Reasons,” and a live version of the LP’s lead single, “Perfect Illusion.”
On Thursday, during an interview with Beats 1‘s Zane Lowe, Gaga revealed she wrote “Angel Down,” which appears in two forms (a final mix and a work tape) on Joanne, in response to the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
“[There is an] epidemic of young African Americans being murdered in this country. I was overwhelmed by the fact that people just stood around and didn’t do anything about it, and that the justice system continues to, over and over again, not seek justice for these families,” she said. “[I have] my ear to the ground of my fans, young African American women and boys who are terrified… they tell me they drive in their cars, and when they hear a siren there’s a paranoia that runs through their body, that they freeze up that they can’t think. This is a tremendous anxiety. This is something I care about. This is something that has to stop, something we all need to heal from.”
Joanne is out Friday, Oct. 21. Watch the full New York City Dive Bar Tour set in the video below.