Lady Gaga: Back to her roots and getting personal
Lady Gaga returns to her roots and gets personal in her new album, Joanne
The name Lady Gaga conjures up images of a ridiculously successful pop star, who has the guts to dress in slabs of meat and outfits seemingly made from giant bubbles.
Joanne sounds more like the humble-girl-next door, and that's exactly how Gaga, 30, wants us to think of her now.
Gaga's fifth album, Joanne, will be released this Friday on iTunes and digital platforms.
It bears Gaga's middle name, which she shares with her late aunt - Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta - and signals a return to her musical roots.
For someone whose debut album in 2008 was aptly titled The Fame,and whose singles Just Dance and Poker Face propelled her to stardom, calling an album Joanne is a deliberate attempt to tone down her celebrity image.
"The point of this record was to find that human connection with the world in a deeper way," Lady Gaga told E! News.
"I kept envisioning this girl in the middle of the country somewhere crying her eyes out in the field with a drink in her hand and her kid in the other, going, 'I can't believe that Lady Gaga understands how I feel'."
Gaga has sold over 30 million records worldwide and bagged six Grammys, including Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Cheek to Cheek, her jazz album collaboration with singer Tony Bennett, last year.
The Italian-American singer has the kind of success most artists only dream of, but she started out the way most aspiring musicians do: playing in small clubs and dive bars with her band, made up of fellow university friends.
To promote Joanne, Gaga is on her Dive Bar Tour, playing free gigs this month in intimate locations, and it represents a trip down memory lane for her.
She told Rolling Stone: "I definitely have a more deep relationship with my fans now than I did back then, because I've known them for years.
Even though I don't know them all personally, I could feel that we've grown up together, you know? Even though we had some wild shows back then, the fans now, they are wild in spirit. It's really beautiful to see."
Kicking off her tour in Nashville, Tennessee, on Oct 5, Gaga told the crowd: "My name is Lady Gaga. Tonight, if you could just call me Joanne."
For Joanne's album cover, Gaga wear a jaunty pink cowboy hat, a nod to country music whose influence can be seen on tracks like Sinner's Prayer.
The record has an Americana spirit, which Gaga said comes from her personal experiences written into the album's tracks.
"These are stories about my family, my sister, my father and his sister. My mum's family. My relationships with men, my failures," she told Rolling Stone.
Gaga's new single, Perfect Illusion, also made headlines for the wrong reasons.
Rolling Stone reported that DJ duo The Chainsmokers had dissed the track, with member Alex Pall pronouncing: "It sucks."
Although Gaga's fans, the Little Monsters, were up in arms, the Mother Monster herself has not addressed the remark. She doesn't need to, because she doesn't need to justify her musical choices to anyone.
Take the second single off Joanne, A Million Reasons. The stripped-down piano ballad reminds us how Gaga's strong vocals still resonate with the barest instrumentation.
The musical genres Gaga touches on in Joanne run from country to electro-pop to blues, in line with her eclectic style.
Said Gaga in a radio interview with On Air with Ryan Seacrest: "I'm never aiming to make a pop record that is of the status quo...
"My aim is always to be different and to push things in a new direction, and always have a positive message behind it.
"My brand of pop is weird, it's what I love to do."
Weird, apparently, works for Gaga.
She was also recently announced as the artist headlining the Super Bowl halftime show next year, an honour reserved for pop heavyweights like Madonna.
This year's halftime show, starring Beyonce, Coldplay and Bruno Mars, drew 115.5 million viewers.
"I've been planning this since I was four," Gaga said in an interview with TV channel Fox Sports. "It's such a big world stage, in terms of how many people see it."
But whether it's an audience of millions or a tiny dive bar, Gaga stresses that she wants her music to bring people together.
She said to E! News: "The truth is I want nothing more for both myself and for other people than human connection and love.
"I just want to be closer to not only my fans, but other people and to build a relationship with them through the music where they know that I'm their sister, know that I'm their friend."