★★

Instead of doing the expected, Lady Gaga has dropped the sea-shell bikini, heightened wigs and glitter masks and swapped them for a dirty white t-shirt, pack of Marlboro Reds and a guitar.

This should’ve been exceptional. It could’ve been career evolving. But instead, it’s a weak attempt to strip back the so-called gimmicks. It’s a fast and over-to-soon mess of an album that results in a sigh of relief that it’s over instead of a sigh of joy that it was great.

The thing I find most bizarre about this ‘evolution’ in Gaga’s career is that she has decided to showcase this side of her at a time when she doesn’t really need to. We know she has an amazing voice, we know she writes her own songs, we know she can play instruments. We know she’s more than a meat dress. We’ve seen this before, so why give it to us now?

Since ARTPOP, Gaga has showcased an amazing set of acting skills during her Golden Globe-winning performance in American Horror Story. Musically, she has already showcased her ability to adapt brilliantly to another genre by teaming with Tony Bennet in the Grammy-winning Cheek to Cheek. Did we really need Joanne?

But maybe this isn’t about what we want. Gaga herself has always done whatever she likes, and who’s to stop her now.

Highlights of the album are the brilliant John Wayne (‘every John is just the same, I’m sick of their silly games, I crave a real wild man, I’m strung out on John Wayne!’), the toe-tapping cowboy hat tipping’ A-YO and the beautiful Million Reasons.

The rest of the album just doesn’t work. It never peaks, never hits that emotional stride that feels promised to us after the revealed meaning that Joanne was indeed her deceased aunt who died of Lupus at the age of 19. The single Joanne is a pretty acoustic ballad that tires quickly, instead of delivering those yearned after Gaga chills that she’s so capable of delivering.

I’ve always wanted Gaga to showcase her raw talent to the world, acoustic, stripped back, without the so-called gimmicks. I tip my pink cowboy hat off to her for trying… It’s just a shame she decided to do so with Joanne.