A sisterhood, not a clique, made by ‘Joanne’

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There are so many things to remember about Lady Gaga’s concert in the Philippines during 2012 — the red meat dress and the human meat grinder prop, the prosthetics-filled face, the perfectly synced dancers, the club-feel of everything down to the crowd where some of them donned actual wood in their concert outfits.

But what stood out the most, at least for me, is Lady Gaga singing “Hair,” stripped off the beats and accompanied only by a lone piano. Before that, she drowned the Mall of Asia arena with a “love speech” meant for the protesters outside, requesting that the concert be stopped for having a “bad influence on the youth.” Those were the days when Lady Gaga’s song were entitled “Black Jesus + Amen Fashion,” “Bloody Mary,” and “Judas.” With one leg up a stool, she said the most inspiring things about embracing individuality and loving one’s self — a staple theme in her music.

Whenever I’m dressed cool my parents put up a fight
(Uh huh, uh huh)

Up to this day I kind of regret not recording that moment where everyone in the concert sang Uh huh, uh huh while Lady Gaga crooned the remaining words in the song. At times she stood from her chair, she closed her eyes, she raised her hands, she rock n’ rolled, smiled in between singing, and all of us are caught in that weird but wonderful spell in what seemed to be a gay bar full of fabulously dressed criers.

 
She did the same thing during a guest performance on the Paul O’Grady Show way back in June 2011.

And it’s this bare-naked version of “Hair” that makes Joanne, her latest album after three years, makes so much sense. Joanne is that mellowed-down version of an uptempo, Bruce Springsteen-ish club song. It is Lady Gaga singing anthems anew, this time old-soul, traditional, country, and yet, still spicy.

“A-YO” is a catchy smoking-a-pack-of-Marlboro cowgirl song that isn’t corny even though it makes you bop, “Dancin’ In Circles” seems like a song pulled out from Fame Monster but is more tamed and less murky. The staple dance hits are still there, but this time they are more cohesive, more close to the singer’s personal experiences than ever before.

Come to mama
Tell me who hurt ya
There’s gonna be no future
If we don’t figure this out

I’d like to think that Joanne is made exclusively for the Little Monsters, but that defeats the purpose of the songs “Come To Mama,” “Hey Girl” and “Grigio Girls.” While feminism has been obscured by too many artists who try to make it their personal brand (e.g. Taylor Swift), Lady Gaga only wants to bring women in circle, and not in line. We have Beyoncé take on the role of a queen bee hive to get us in formation, to remind us to hustle and to get that paper, while Lady Gaga takes on the role of a mother, the Mother Monster, to blow away our boo-boos and give us tough love when we’ve been sobbing too hard for too long. It’s not a clique but a sisterhood of some sort for women and LGBTQs where we can all sing and huddle in together, where we can cry in each other’s shoulders without judgment or spite.

The kind of positivity that emanates from this album works like Kayla Itsines’ Instagram feed, or that Leonardo DiCaprio meme giving out favorites on Twitter. There is nothing to hate about it, it just gives off happy vibes. Joanne, despite what critics regard as flatness or simplicity in her latest music, carries on an important message in times like this, and I personally need that.

Hey girl, hey girl
We can make it easy if we lift each other
Hey girl, hey girl
We don’t need to keep on one-in’ up another
Hey girl, hey girl
Hey girl, hey girl
If you lose your way
Just know that I got you
Just know that I got you

Joanne is a sweet reminder of what brought her into the music industry and what managed her to stay in it — raw talent and voice. Lady Gaga is an artist who tries, constantly and unapologetically, to bring herself into the adult table be it through avant-garde or the exact opposite. There is a perennial desire in her to show the world what she is capable of that pushes her to create more, do more, sing more.

No, this isn’t a new Lady Gaga. This is Lady Gaga and the accumulation of her different selves she has showcased through her music videos, awards shows outfits, and theatrics. Actually, this is classic Lady Gaga. The American singer never sees the need to kowtow to public perception, and she will sing jazz or country or whatever genre she’d like to dabble in, if she pleases — while simultaneously slaying us in vibrant colors.

She is as free as her hair.

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