Review: ‘Dawn of Chromatica’ will invigorate you
A year after the original release of “Chromatica,” former Tisch student Lady Gaga dazzles fans with 14 new remixes.
September 20, 2021
Let your end-of-summer-panic subside — there are still outgoing flights to “Chromatica.” Since singer, actress, entrepreneur, icon and former NYU student Lady Gaga released her long-awaited project “Chromatica” in May 2020, during the height of the pandemic, fans have been itching for more. Now they’ve got it.
“Chromatica” was a revelatory shift from Gaga’s subtle sonic detours such as 2016’s “Joanne” or the “A Star is Born” soundtrack. The album casts her singer-songwriter era aside and sounded like a love letter to the sweaty, electric dance halls before the pandemic. This return to peak pop artistic form earned Gaga critical praise and caused her album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Beyond the monetary success of “Chromatica,” the album’s aesthetic became a phenomenon itself, inspiring memes, edits and outfits across Twitter.
As a part of the initial “Chromatica” craze, “Dawn of Chromatica” was conceptualized with fanservice at the forefront. The idea was brought to the public in April, when the executive producer of “Chromatica,” BloodPop, directly asked fans who they would want to see featured on a potential new remix record, inspiring thousands of replies and prolonged murmurs of anticipation.
Months later, “Dawn of Chromatica” has finally arrived in a more dance-friendly era. The remix album is jam packed with the biggest names in hyperpop, including but not limited to Shygirl, Planningtorock, Coucou Chloe, Bree Runway and A.G. Cook. Although on the surface this album could seem like a marketing ploy — after all, this is the same promotional cycle that gave us radioactive Oreos — “Dawn of Chromatica” is able to stand up beside the monstrous amount of hype and present a joyous, technicolor rebirth of each of the album’s songs.
The euphoric transformation begins with LSDXOXO’s remix of “Alice.” The track was originally a raucous album opener about Gaga’s constant search for cheap thrills. LSDXOXO turns the song into a more restrained techno-staccato dance beat that immediately draws in the listener and foreshadows the party to come. Right off the bat, “Dawn of Chromatica” unleashes a glittering array of loud, proud and club-ready tracks.
Standout cuts include a rendition of hit single “Rain on Me” by renowned Venezuelan producer and NYU alum Arca. The artist adds slinky synths that gently wash over Ariana Grande’s and Gaga’s original brassy vocals, making the track sound like an ethereal underwater rave. Another highlight is Rina Sawayama’s feature on what could arguably be the album’s centerpiece, “Free Woman.” Here, Sawayama manages to match Gaga’s power belting, singing with such ruthless confidence that it becomes difficult to remember a time when this song didn’t include her. In the same vein, Charli XCX also brings her glitchy sound and equally avid fan base to the viral hit “911,” whose industrial disco flare is turned up a notch by Charli’s original verses. The remix elevates the song’s subtle confessions about mental health into a full-on dance-cry session.
Pulsing club music isn’t the only sonic offering on this album, though. Gaga also enlists Brazilian talent Pabllo Vittar on a remix of “Fun Tonight,” adding a delightful forró flair to the track while managing to funnel in a blissful sax line. Dorian Electra also brings an alternative flavor with their gritty feature on “Replay,” which is paired with booming guitars and crashing drum kits, making the track feel like a tribute to heavy metal.
Though there are genre-bending moments, the frenzied energy of “Dawn of Chromatica” doesn’t shift for even a second of its 50-minute runtime. This album’s overzealous commitment to its artistic vision makes it more than ideal for a smoky house party, but it also makes tracks such as Doss’ more pedestrian electronic mix of “Enigma” wane a bit sooner than they should on repeat listens.
But let’s make one thing clear: This album isn’t necessarily for the average listener or even the average Lady Gaga fan. The amalgamation that’s present on “Dawn of Chromatica” is Gaga taking ownership of her own digital discourse and curating a roster of artists who are carving a similar, provocative space in the musical landscape. You either ride with the weirdness or you don’t.
That’s not to say the album feels intentionally alienating. The songs can sound like pure bliss to anyone who’s in the mood. There’s a clear celebratory and uplifting nature to “Dawn of Chromatica” as a whole, and though its sound may not be enough to quell everyone’s anxieties, it does outline a future for pop music — a radiant future, at that.
A version of this article appears in the Monday, September 20th, 2021, e-print edition. Contact Isabella Armus at [email protected]