A deep dive into what we know about 'Joanne,' out Oct. 21
No, LG5 is not an element on the periodic table; it’s what fans and, at times, Lady Gaga herself, have called the pop superstar’s upcoming fifth studio album, which has been shrouded in secrecy for well over a year. But in September, she revealed the collection’s name, Joanne, and release date, Oct. 21.
At first, little was known about the project, the follow-up to 2013’s EDM-heavy collection, Artpop, aside from the title of its lead single, “Perfect Illusion,” which Gaga announced in August.
Gaga’s fourth outing was met with mixed reviews upon its arrival, despite debuting atop the Billboard 200, selling over 2.5 million copies worldwide, and producing some of the biggest hits of the singer-songwriter’s career (“Applause” and “Do What U Want”). After releasing Artpop, Gaga went on to win a Grammy for her collaborative jazz album with Tony Bennett, 2014’s Cheek to Cheek. But she’s been relatively quiet on the pop front since then.
Ahead of a monumental comeback year, which included a Golden Globe-winning performance on FX’s American Horror Story, an Oscar nomination, and performances at both the Grammys and the Super Bowl, Gaga formally teased her return to pop music on Instagram back in August 2015, when she shared a photo of herself on the way to a recording studio with the caption “LG5 time.”
Here’s everything we know about whatever she’s been cooking up since then:
Joanne is finished, and it’s out Oct. 21
Over the years, Gaga’s fans have affectionately given her the nickname “Latey Gaga,” as the singer notoriously teases projects that drop well after their intended release or, sometimes, not at all (we’re still waiting on those tracks that were supposed to come out via the seemingly abandoned Artpop app). But now fans can rest assured, Joanne has an official release date, Oct. 21, and she told Beats 1’s Zane Lowe on Sept. 15 that the album would be finished “in the next 48 hours.”
On Sunday, Sep. 19, Gaga confirmed the album had finished mixing in a photo caption shared on Instagram.
“Summer camp is over. Album done,” she said, posting a photo of executive producer Mark Ronson fiddling with a guitar as she rested on a sofa beside him.
The first single, “Perfect Illusion,” previewed a new rock sound
Gaga revealed “Perfect Illusion,” her first single in nearly three years, on Sept. 8. Made with the unlikely team of Ronson, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, and Bloodpop, the track previewed a new rock sound for Joanne complete with backing guitars from Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme.
Speaking at the iHeartRadio Music Summit in New York City on Aug. 17, Gaga revealed the single is about “modern ecstasy” and that she and its producers “found a sweet, simple, ragey way” of expressing the feeling.
Gaga added: “I get this sick adrenaline rush every time I hear it.”
The album will include rock and country influences
Several tracks were reportedly leaked from the album in June, one of which fans have been calling “All Mine,” as it features heavy guitars, drums, and soaring vocals that appear to repeat the phrase over and over. There’s no word on whether the leak is real, but the aforementioned group of collaborators (especially Parker) and the fact that Gaga has been spotted entering recording studios with an acoustic guitar suggest the album could include rock-leaning sounds.
Fans who attended an album listening party in September told PopCrush the album sounded different from any other release throughout Gaga’s career.
“It was sorta if you took Dolly Parton, Lily Allen, Beck and Bruno Mars and threw them into a blender,” the unnamed fan said before deeming Joanne “very country rock pop-influenced” and “an incredibly emotional, personal album for her. Definitely one that shows growth as an artist and in confidence.”
Lindsey told EW the album draws on country and rock, though it can’t be defined as a country album “by any stretch of the imagination.” She continued: “It has some folk influences at times, maybe some acoustic guitar, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s country… I hope fans hear it for what it is: Lady Gaga speaking from the heart. She can show the world that she doesn’t need all the tricks. She can still grab you and have you in the palm of her hand.”
She shared a preview of “Just Another Day” on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show in early October. “Just another way to prove I love you when it’s hard today / I’ll lay back in my chair and find a way,” Gaga croons on the Joanne bonus track.
During her appearance on Seacrest’s show, Gaga commented on Joanne‘s sonic identity, telling the former American Idol host it’s still a pop record, though she tried to shift away from crafting conventional pop music.
“I don’t know if people forget this about me, or if it’s just the way I am, but I’m never aiming to make a pop record that is of the status quo of what’s happening in music,” she said, “My aim is to always be different and to push things further. Not necessarily forward or backwards, but just push them in a new direction and it alway has a positive message behind it.”
Elton John and Breedlove are totally into the album so far
The perks of being pals with Lady Gaga include getting to hear her new music before anyone else.
“I’ve heard two or three songs from her new record, which she’s making with Mark Ronson, and it’s absolutely brilliant,” Elton John told Beats 1 during an interview in June. “So you’re gonna be really happy when you hear that later in the year or early next year.”
In a previous interview, John also indicated he’d worked on a few songs that could appear on the album. “I’m writing with Gaga tomorrow, she’s doing a new record,” he told host Zane Lowe. “I’ve heard two songs which are killer, they’re just great songs, it’s like back to the early stuff of hers: ‘Yoü and I’ and the Bruce Springsteen ‘Bad Romance’… I want her to make a simple, fabulous, great song record. Maybe like Tapestry, but her version of Tapestry. I’ve heard two of the songs. They’re not complex arrangements, but they’re great songs. It’s all about the song.”
New York City-based artist Breedlove also chatted about Gaga’s next album during an interview with POPULOVE. When asked what his favorite Gaga song is, he responded: “You haven’t heard it yet, and I’m sworn to secrecy.”
Joanne was partially inspired by Gaga’s time on American Horror Story
During a 2015 interview, Gaga told EW appearing in season 5 of FX’s American Horror Story has reawakened the “art of darkness” within her, and she plans to channel that energy into her new music. “It will inform me from this day forward, everyday more and more,” Gaga said of the show’s impact on her sonic output.
The album marks a “new chapter” in Gaga’s story, according to manager Bobby Campbell
After the release of Artpop, Gaga parted ways with her manager, Troy Carter, in late 2013, citing an overwhelming schedule and greed as the reason behind the split. She later teamed with Bobby Campbell, who told Billboard he wanted to reinvent Gaga’s image ahead of her new album.
“You’ve seen the articles. She was ‘eccentric,’ ‘too artsy.’ People were judging her unfairly, so I wanted to press the reset button and remind them that whatever their perceptions, she’s an incredibly talented musician, performer and songwriter,” he said. “I think it’s clear that new music will be on the horizon. How soon? We don’t know. But next year, I think we’ll show a new chapter of her as an artist and as a musician.”
The album likely reflects a “dark” or “imperfect” side of Gaga
While she made a name for herself with club-ready singles like “Just Dance” and “Poker Face,” Gaga’s rise to the empirical phase of her career occurred with the release of 2009’s The Fame Monster, which featured dark, edgy pop tunes like “Bad Romance,” “Alejandro,” and “Dance In the Dark.” During a 2015 interview with The Inquirer, Gaga said, while making her new album, she’d discovered a new side of herself that’s darker than what fans might expect from her.
“I am finding a million new things about myself, what I want and who I want to be but most importantly, I have actually found a place to put so much pain and anguish that I have nowhere to put. You can put it in your music but that’s not always what people want from me in my music… They want a sweet, delightful, ‘Just Dance’ kind of girl or they want ‘Bad Romance’ and that’s fine,” she told the publication. “I am happy to give people that but maybe with my song ‘Dope’ or some of the things I did on Artpop, you saw a kind of dark side, wrapped up in colors. But maybe that was not always what people want to see. They want to see the perfection… it’s the imperfection that is the win.”
Joanne was named after Gaga’s late aunt
Gaga revealed the inspiration behind the album name during her Beats 1 interview and told Zane Lowe, “When Mark and I wrote it, the decision to name the album that was in tribute to my father’s sister who died when she was 19.” She continued, “He was younger than her. She was very sick with lupus. The death of her in his family and life left a scar that never healed. As I returned to my home life and spending time with my friends and family and getting out of the mainstream limelight for a minute, the experiences of our family and our challenges that make us who we are. It’s everything about Joanne, which also happens to be my middle name (i was named after her) it’s all the toughness of the pain of losing her that made us all strong and made us who we are. She is the woman of my past who is becoming and helping me bring more of my honest woman self into the future.”
This story has been updated throughout, as more information about Lady Gaga’s Joanne becomes available.