Lady Gaga's newest album, Joanne, has finally been released, making it three years between solo albums for the singer. After revealing that her album's name was inspired by the tragic death of her late aunt, Joanne Germanotta, Gaga promised that this album would be her most honest. And Joanne is delivering on that promise. While appearing on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 show prior to the release, Gaga revealed that her song "Angel Down" was written for Trayvon Martin, and it is her honest voice that the pop world needs right now. Particularly, when it comes to being a pop artist who isn't afraid to speak up and be an ally in an issue beyond their own personal experience.
Lady Gaga has always been a proponent for acceptance and courage, especially when it comes to the issues of bullying and LGBT rights, but this is her most stern and candid commentary on the injustices happening to the black community in our country. When Beyoncé released her visual album Lemonade earlier this year, the black experience was an inextricable inspiration, and as a black female pop singer, her voice and point of view was necessary in the time we are living in.
So, where does that leave non-black artists? Gaga revealed that she had to find her place in the movement, to be a powerful ally for her millions of fans, especially her young black fans who have been so effected by the recent tragedies. And she accomplished just that on the beautiful track "Angel Down."
“[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... [I have] my ear to the ground of my fans, young African American women and boys who are terrified... 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 is well-aware of the unique platform she has to reach so many people to offer solace through her music, and it's important that pop stars of this caliber and reach recognize that they can and should speak about these issues without fear. I found it interesting that Gaga also noted her initial doubts and insecurity in writing about Martin. She said,
“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."
Many non-black allies might have had these concerns when approaching the subject, but as a pop singer, Gaga is creating a way to further speak about these tragedies in an honest and heartfelt way. "Angel Down" is one of the most stripped down tracks on Joanne, and it is a revelation to hear THE Lady Gaga sitting down at her piano and singing unabashedly about an injustice against a young black man.
The lyrics of the verse and pre-chorus of "Angel Down" comment on the disconnection of humanity that is occurring due to social media and how a majority of people refused to try to change in the aftermath of Martin's shooting:
I confess I am lostIn the age of the socialOn our knees, take a testTo be lovin' and gratefulShots were fired on the streetBy the church where we used to meetAngel down, angel downBut the people just stood around
In the chorus, Gaga makes an impassioned plea: "I'm a believer, it's chaos / Where are our leaders? Oh, oh, oh / I'd rather save an angel down." And the words will hit you to the core. As far as tracks on Joanne go, "Angel Down" is one of her most emotional and this song has the potential to become an instant Lady Gaga classic.
Throughout the album, Gaga confesses that she is still dealing with heartbreaks, grappling with her religious beliefs and insecurities, but she is an artist who understands she can lead a change. In her interview with Lowe, she finished, “I absolutely cannot write anything that does not have a voice and a purpose in the universe. Why would I have this voice? Why would I have this platform?”