For years, Little Monsters have been asking for Lady Gaga to cover PAPER Magazine and it seems like Lady Gaga has found the perfect era to finally be on their cover. Lady Gaga discussed a variety of things such as her fibromyalgia, her much anticipated collaboration with Ariana Grande and her upcoming album “Chromatica”. Read below!
On the Stupid Love leak:
She jokes that when hackers typically find her material, they’ll leak their favorite, which validated her decision to make the track open the Chromatica era. Many fans figured she’d rush it out, but Gaga wasn’t interested in releasing anything half-baked. “There was a minute where me and my manager, Bobby, were talking, ‘Do we change the single?’ We’d just spent months and months developing this video and choreography. And I said, ‘Nope!’ You know why? Because the song, when it’s mixed, mastered and finished with the visuals, and everything I have to say about it — when all those things come together at once, that will be the art piece I’m making. Not a leak.”
On the Stupid Love music video shoot:
“I want you to imagine people dancing for eight to 10 hours straight. I watched them work so hard — the blood and sweat. Scrapes from dancing in the desert or getting poked in the eye from a stud that knocked them in the face. They’re breathing in sand, they can’t see. The conditions alone were ridiculous.”
After extensive rehearsal, a drone was finally used to film the scene on-site, though it didn’t have nearly the same drive as Gaga and her dancers. “The damn thing lasts three-and-a-half minutes” before dying, Gaga laughs. “I was like, ‘Oh, are you tired? Was that choreography too hard for you?’ And I had another epiphany: I said, ‘I can’t even rely on this drone to capture this shot for me. But these dancers behind me? Their bodies are killing them, they all feel like fainting. That is more powerful than anything. The human spirit is remarkable.’ I told the dancers before we left for the desert, ‘This might be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, and if it’s not, I did it wrong. But you can do it, and when you look back on this time, you’ll remember how strong you are.'”
On recording “Chromatica”:
While recording “Chromatica”, Gaga says she often “couldn’t get off the couch” because her head-to-toe body pain was so extreme. But BloodPop®, the hit producer whom Gaga describes as the “center” of her new album, would consistently empower her to push forward and create. “He’d be like, ‘Come on, let’s go. We’re going to make music.’ And I’d be maybe crying or venting about something that was happening in my life over some pain or depression I was feeling.” Together, they co-wrote songs that temporarily brought Gaga joy. “I’d start out the day so down and I’d end up dancing, looking in the mirror, practicing my moves, singing along,” she says. “Every day was an enlightening experience, but it had to happen every day.”
“The debate around fibromyalgia, we could have it for hours,” Gaga says, matter-of-factly. “Some people believe in it, some people don’t. Essentially it’s neuropathic pain: My brain gets stressed, my body hurts.” For the past few years, Gaga has been rightfully angry at having limited solutions for living comfortably with the pain. “[I’m] angry at my body, angry at my condition, angry that when I’m stressed my body hurts,” she says.
On the album sound:
It’s an album Gaga describes as “dancing through her pain.” Featuring explosive anthems that brim with euphoric synth-pop climaxes (way bigger than The Fame), its lyrics nevertheless reflect Gaga’s more somber, personal experiences. “It’s a smack across the face throughout the album,” Gaga says of its celebratory sound. “We don’t stop being that happy. You will hear the pain in my voice and in some of the lyrics, but it always celebrates.”
“I will do whatever it takes to make the world dance and smile,” she says. “I want to put out a record that forces people to rejoice even in their saddest moments. And by the way, I’m not standing over here with a flag going, ‘I’m all healed, everything’s perfect.’ It’s not; it’s a fight all the time. I still work on myself constantly. I have bad days, I have good days. Yeah, I live in Chromatica, it took a minute to get here, but that doesn’t mean I don’t remember what happened. So if you’re in pain and listening to this music, just know that I know what it’s like to be in pain. And I know what it’s like to also not let it ruin your life.”
On the concept of Chromatica:
“We’re living in the future,” which is why Chromatica — as a concept — feels like the result of every seed initially planted on that intergalactic G.O.A.T. In her studio, Gaga clarifies her updated stance on futurism, and the reasons she wanted to question it on set. “I’ve been obsessed with the future for so long, going, What’s next?” she says. “And then I turned back and looked at my life. I unpacked all the things I’ve learned that have helped me and that have hurt me, and that taught me infinitely more. Now, [the past] informs my work. It’s like I was blocked because I was so obsessed with what was next, what was coming, what does it mean to go forward, that I didn’t realize I was already in the future. And where we are, where we stand in the present, is powerful.”
About living on Chromatica:
“It’s a perspective,” Gaga corrects, pointing to her heart. “It’s right here. I might sound silly, but I’m on it right now — I’m not on another planet. If you see and listen to Chromatica, and you want to live there, too, you’re invited. But I do want to be clear that it’s not a fantasy.” Gaga earnestly explains that it’s as if she “deleted Earth” and “replaced it with Chromatica” in her mind, making this abstract, arguably absurd process seem realistic. Admittedly, I want to be in Chromatica with Gaga, too. Maybe I am?
Bloodpop and Gaga felt Chromatica represented, in its simplest form, “a spectrum of people” that “all shared the same perspective” and always believed in “kindness over war.” But Gaga wanted its ethos to dig even deeper. “It became not just about saying all people are included (all colors, all races, all ethnicities, all gender identities, all sexual identities, all religious identities),” she says. “It’s saying there are more colors and more kinds than we could possibly fathom. We’re all so different and that’s the perspective.”
Gaga reiterates that Chromatica is not “this imaginary fairy-tale happy land where everything’s perfect,” and understands the inevitability of darkness co-existing with the light. “In order to understand love, you have to understand that there’s hate,” she says, in another parallel to G.O.A.T. and her “Born This Way” video when Mother Monster questions, “How can I protect something so good without evil?” Much as Gaga continues to reconcile these opposing forces on Chromatica, she also needed to wrestle with this duality in her own life and face her preexisting trauma head-on, which she says is the “bravest step you can take as a human.”
On her legacy:
“I want my legacy to be the most beautiful diary that I ever could’ve made. And diaries are meant to be true. I think when we start lying to ourselves in our diaries, we start to create secrets within ourselves that don’t help us. I like to look myself squarely in the eye now.”
“I went on tours and became very traumatized by the pace of fame and everything I had to do — what was required of me physically and mentally changed the way I wrote. Relationships, family, friends, isolation, traveling all the time, no sleep.” Through it all — the inevitable extreme highs and lows of a superstar who’s been built up and torn down by the public — Gaga says she doesn’t regret anything she’s ever made.
I was like, ‘I’m going to die soon, so I better say something important.’ Now I listen to it and know that I’m going to live.”
On her famous “I don’t remember ARTPOP” tweet:
“I think it’s funny that I’m not allowed to have a sense of humor,” she says. “The internet is essentially a big joke, but if I tell one everyone freaks out. I don’t regret my art, and I wouldn’t suggest anyone do.” Though ARTPOP couldn’t possibly compare to the colossal success of Gaga’s first two albums, it’s certainly her most experimental to date. (Justice for “Sexxx Dreams,” the hit single that never was.) “I look back at ARTPOP and look at music today, and I see a lot of things that were very…” Gaga pauses to find the right word. “Futuristic. Or they were ahead of their time, and I’m okay with saying that.”
On her previous albums:
“Joanne was exactly what I wanted to do,” Gaga affirms. “The way I wanted to do it, the way I wanted it to sound, and so was ARTPOP — everything about it. Every album has been exactly what I wanted to make at that time. It’s just there was a period where I think I forgot about where I was, and maybe that’s why it’s been so important for me with Chromatica to reestablish where I am for myself. So that here can mean something very powerful.”
On creating “Chromatica”:
According to Gaga, ideas for songs on Chromatica came to her by “opening the portal to the other realm and listening to God,” which is why it all sounds so positive. “That’s what the other realm was telling me to create,” she says. “I might, to some people, sound like I have a perspective on life that’s eccentric, but I actually don’t think that my talent belongs to me.” When Gaga was younger, she remembers hearing melodies in her head and “running to the piano.” The portal has been with Gaga her entire life, only she forgot for a brief moment to listen.
On her collaboration with Ariana Grande:
One such message led Gaga to collaborate with a fellow female pop star, who has similarly experienced immense trauma while in the public eye. Their song together is a monster of a dance tune, but its message is about submitting yourself to devastation (“It’s coming down on me, water like misery”) — a flawless dance floor crier as a “celebration of all the tears,” Gaga describes. “I sat with her and we talked about our lives. It’s two women having a conversation about how to keep going and how to be grateful for what you do.” Without being prompted, Gaga raises the inevitable criticism that celebrities face when they say “it’s hard to be famous.” She knows that “75% of the world rolls their eyes,” but Gaga counters: “Yeah, you can be in a mansion, but you can still be six feet under in one.”
On other topics of songs on Chromatica:
Elsewhere in Chromatica, Gaga explores topics like her antipsychotic medication (“My biggest enemy is me, pop a 911”) and the undeniable force of femininity (“I’m not nothing without a steady hand”), the latter of which acknowledges both her own strength as well as that of the community who has “cheer[ed] her on” and helped her “become a woman.” Specifically, she calls out trans women and gay men for helping her cope with PTSD and move past any spirals associated with reliving her pain. “In 2020, what does it mean to be a free woman?” Gaga questions, prompting a song that answers this question and sees her challenging the need to be with a man — or anyone at all — in order to survive. “Can I feel free on my own? Do I need to be loved in order to feel like I’ve conquered it all?” Speaking to the track’s origin, Gaga says, “It came from thinking on some days I was going to die. I was like, ‘I’m going to die soon, so I better say something important.’ Now I listen to it and know that I’m going to live.”
On working with Bloodpop:
Above all, Gaga wants to talk at length about BloodPop®, her other “nucleus” on Chromatica. “We combined,” she says of working with him on this project. “I’m overwhelmed by the amount of love he had to offer me. I could not have made this album without him. He was the world’s most incredible alarm when the ambulance was coming.”
On her other collaborators:
All of the musicians involved — BURNS, Axwell, Rami Yacoub, Benjamin Rice, Tchami and more — would work on Chromatica as an equal group effort, which is rare considering how so many producers “can get very territorial” based on Gaga’s previous experience. “It was a very fluid process with no ego,” she says. “Every single thing you hear on Chromatica was passed around and things would get removed, changed or altered. Everyone here heard it or touched it.” That’s why songs like “Stupid Love” sound notably soulful and complex. “It’s easy to go into a computer and find a cool loop, but the producers I work with don’t work this way. When they’re inspired, they embroider things.”
“I think the only day me and BloodPop® ever had a fight was when I was trying to learn a jazz tune because I was going to see Tony [Bennett] really soon. He was like, ‘We have to finish this!’ and I was singing a Cole Porter record in the corner,” she laughs. “And that wasn’t even really a fight.” Rather, BloodPop® was more focused on bringing people together through this process. “It was like some really talented, wonderful men all joined arms with BloodPop® in front of all of them and he was like, ‘Do you remember how much you’ve changed the world? Do you know how much you have to offer people?’ He reminded me that every day, no matter how hard it was.”
Her final thoughts on the album:
“I think Chromatica is the most honest thing I could’ve ever created, and I’ll never forget making this record. It’s been one of the most special and hard times in my life.” As if to drive home her points at the end of our meeting, Gaga picks up a giant, green crystal on the coffee table, surrounded by speakers, microphones and mixers. “Do you know crystals have been around for billions of years?” she asks, smiling. “The past is incredible. Look what we’ve done without technology. Look how we’ve survived without it. Look how we’ve kept going.” Certainly no drone could say the same.
Paper Magazine’s description of Chromatica:
From start to finish, Chromatica is firmly rooted in classic house, with crisp, clubby dance breaks that all sound like they’re competing with each other to be the biggest on the tracklist. Sonically, it’s perhaps Gaga’s most focused, consistent album to date, with all these producer contributions laddering up to the same fearless electronic tapestry, weaving in unruly breakbeat outros, emotional power-pop melodies that send a dopamine rush through the brain and tons of slick, shiny synths. You can weep to these songs just as much as you can sweat to them, and Gaga seems to be encouraging both at once.
This article originally appeared on PAPER magazine.