A lot of people are praising Gaga for her "stripped back", "raw" efforts on Joanne.
But that stripping back feels as calculated as any spaceship entrance or meat dress the star has come up with previously, because when you start your career with an outrageous image and crazy stunts like Gaga did, the "stripped-back" version is pretty much inevitable.
And the problem is Joanne is, at times, so stripped-back the production ends up sounding low-fi and demo-esque and the vocals can bypass "raw" and head straight for "out of control".
The obvious example of this is the album's debut single, Perfect Illusion, in which Gaga belts the choruses almost relentlessly and loses control veering into a screech.
That said, it's not all bad.
The change in production and a distancing from certain repetitive formats puts Gaga's vocal talent to the fore and when it's good it's really good, particularly when it's not overshadowed by image.
The rock, blues and Americana influences throughout the album are a nice change of pace for Gaga and there's more of an introspective, storytelling value in the lyricism as it features a song seemingly about rape, one entirely about masturbation, a girl power anthem with Florence Welch and a feel-good doo-wop in which Gaga becomes a maternal, sympathetic ear (and sounds awesome doing it).
Is it the huge statement it was clearly meant to be? Not quite. But it's a nice change of pace for Mother Monster.
Lady Gaga, Joanne
Streamline / Interscope
Strong statement? Not quite. But a refreshing change.