Upon the release of “Perfect Illusion,” the lead single from Lady Gaga’s new album, Joanne, it became clear the singer-songwriter had taken a radical departure from the electronic-leaning brand of dance-pop that catapulted her to fame nearly a decade ago.
During an interview with Beats 1’s Zane Lowe on Thursday, Gaga revealed she wanted to take a more organic approach to crafting her fifth album of original material, with an emphasis on writing lyrics that had the power to shine light on meaningful subjects, including those found on the ballad “Angel Down,” written with frequent collaborator RedOne. The track, she said, serves as her response to the highly-publicized 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
“[There is an] epidemic of young African Americans being murdered in this country. I was overwhelmed by the fact that people just stood around and didn’t do anything about it, and that the justice system continues to, over and over again, not seek justice for these families,” she told Lowe. “[I have] my ear to the ground of my fans, young African American women and boys who are terrified… they tell me they drive in their cars, and when they hear a siren there’s a paranoia that runs through their body, that they freeze up that they can’t think. This is a tremendous anxiety. This is something I care about. This is something that has to stop, something we all need to heal from.”
She continued: “I can only hope my voice and the lyrics will reach people. It’s also a complicated thing. I’m not an African American woman, so how do [I] speak about those things? It feels impossible; how can I not say something. How could I possibly make an album about twerking my ass in the club? In my mind, I can’t reckon it. It feels empty. It feels irrelevant. When I go into the studio and I write, at this moment in my career, I can’t possibly think of, ‘Oh, what would be just fun’… we all [can’t escape the truth], no matter how much we want to just have fun. The more we mask the shame of this anxiety, the harder it’s going to be to heal.”
Speaking on the album’s more traditional arrangements (as compared to the electronic-leaning sounds on previous albums like The Fame Monster and Artpop), Gaga said she tried to distance herself from her previous success as a means to start from a fresh creative headspace while crafting Joanne with the likes of Mark Ronson, Kevin Parker, BloodPop, Beck, Emile Haynie, Florence Welch, and Josh Homme.
“You have to erase all that success in a way… you have to take all those platinum albums off the walls and put ‘em in the back and make room for more. You can’t create records resting on the laurels of your previous success… at the end of the day that’s not really what I’m here for,” the 30-year-old said. “I’ve always been obsessed with music and I enjoy transformation. Transformation through music is one of the most beautiful gifts. you learn about yourself when you write music, you learn about your family… [on this album] I discovered that inner child in myself again who loved music… all the other stuff, if you boil it down, the truth is, yeah, I made all those records and it became this big thing, but all the stuff on Wikipedia and all the charts and all the accolades, this is fantastic noise.”
Watch Gaga’s full interview with Lowe below. Gaga’s ongoing Dive Bar Tour is set to continue tonight at 10 p.m. ET with a performance at an undisclosed location. The set will be live-streamed on Bud Light’s Facebook page.