Diving into the wonderful weirdness of “Dawn of Chromatica”

Imagine for a second that you are a pop star or producer and you have just been contacted by your agent, manager, or label executive. They told you that Lady Gaga wants you to remix a song from her 2020 album “Chromatica.” Certainly you would meet this prospect with excitement—who wouldn’t want to appear on a remix album from one of this generation’s foremost pop stars? And yet, a degree of anxiety would come as well—how do you create a remix that highlights and accentuates Lady Gaga’s unparalleled, beautiful weirdness?

Unfortunately, many of the remixes on “Dawn of Chromatica” miss that bar. Many of the songs are fairly straightforward EDM remixes of their source material. LSDXOXO’s remix of “Alice,” Planningtorock’s take on “1000 Doves,” and Ashnikko’s remix of “Plastic Doll” are not bad songs, by any means, just uninspiring. They seem to do little other than recontextualize Gaga’s vocals over bone-stock EDM beats.

The remix of “911” by Charli XCX and her longtime producer A. G. Cook is one song off the album that really comes into its own. Like the aforementioned tracks, it generally sticks to a fairly standard palette of EDM timbres. However, these collaborators stand apart in that their remix really contributes to the source material. Every single sonic choice that these producers bring to the track greatly enhances the narrative arc of the song.

Other producers opt to take another approach and capitalize on Lady Gaga’s characteristic weirdness. One example of this is Pabllo Vittar’s mix of “Fun Tonight.” The Brazilian artist brings to the song a bouncy, lighthearted Latin beat that features an accordion and a saxophone — there is a sense of tonal disconnect, though, as this fun beat is paired with a song with fairly dark lyrics — after all, the hook is “I’m not having fun tonight.”

“Dawn of Chromatica” reaches peak weirdness with Chester Lockheart, Mood Killer, and Lil Texas’ take on “Sine from Above (with Elton John).” The song starts with a hyperpop beat under Lady Gaga’s first verse and hook. It then breaks down into a wonderfully strange section where Elton John’s verse is accompanied by an eclectic mix of saxophone, siren whistle, and the unique vibraslap — a percussion instrument meant to emulate the sound of teeth rattling when beating on animal skulls. Eventually, the song climaxes with an even more aggressive hyperpop instrumental at the end — by far the most abrasive and intense moment on the album.

To me, the best song on the album has to be Dorian Electra’s remix of “Replay.” On this track, the hyperpop artist opts to blend more traditional electronic sounds with a metal guitar. It might sound crazy — and maybe it is — but believe me when I say that Dorian Electra blends these elements brilliantly. My jaw genuinely dropped the first time I heard the guitar come in. 

Overall, this is a fairly average remix album with some real standout tracks. If you’re a fan of Lady Gaga or dance music in general, definitely check it out — I’m sure you’ll find something you would like. For my money, the best tracks to check out are “911,” “Sine from Above,” and “Replay.”

 

3/5 Big Oles

griswo2@stolaf.edu

 

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