Is Lady Gaga’s Chromatica the Best K-Pop Album of 2020? (Plus, a Sour Candy Review)

Yes, yes, I know. The title of this article is problematic in many ways. But listen to me. Obviously Lady Gaga is not a K-pop idol and her career does not follow the traditional K-pop process. But I would argue that their rise has greatly influenced the idol industry.

In the mid-2000s, pop music was in an emergency – similar to the situation today. And whether or not exactly, I largely owe it to Gaga that she revived the kind of widescreen high concept pop that hadn't existed for several years before her debut.

This energy was filtered down to K-Pop about a year later and helped create the Pop Peak 2009-16 that we saw in the idol industry. That doesn't mean firing K-Pop yourself. Although Western trends are often needed and reinvented, I would argue that the source material is almost always improved. With years of traps and tropical homes flooding the western charts, K-Pop doesn't really have much inspiration to offer.

With Chromatica, Lady Gaga has returned to the big, bombastic pop she has made a name for. This time the music is based more on EDM and loops, but is still driven by hymnic melodies and powerful, charismatic vocals. The album is very good and often reminds me of the K-pop sound that I fell in love with for the first time. The songs are top-class, the production is trendy but engaging, and there's a crackle of dance floor energy that keeps everything together. I could see so many great K-Pop acts playing hell out of these tracks. Ah, to be free from the constant glitches.

Sour Candy has drawn a lot of attention in the K-Pop community due to its BLACKPINK function. It may not come as a surprise that the song itself suffers from many of the problems I've had with K-Pop lately. It is certainly the weakest of the three duets on Chromatica. The kind of strong melody that characterizes most of the album and prefers the mood and production over sophisticated songwriting is missing. Do you sound familiar, longtime readers?

This has nothing to do with BLACKPINK itself, although I think their performance style is a bit too similar to Gaga's to act as a compelling slide. In the context of Chromatica, the sing-talk delivery of Sour Candy made it clear to me how refreshing it was when the melody took the lead for most of the album. It is a critical element that has been playing the second violin in both K-Pop and Western mainstream pop music for some time. A killer melody really enables a more diverse appeal – even within a project that is as rational and genre-specific as Chromatica.

Chromatica may not be K-Pop, but its undisguised theatrics feel like the fuel for many big K-Pop comebacks. I look forward to seeing how this and like-minded albums like Dua Lipas Future Nostalgia will impact the industry. Although pop music is still in an emerging phase, it seems to be returning to the western charts. Could we hear K-Pop's answer to Rain On Me or Physical before the end of the year? I hope so, because we are more than ready for a new energy boost – even if it is inspired by old retro sounds.

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