My first desire after listening to Chromatica, aside from wishing it were still safe to head to a dance floor, was for a button I could press on my phone so that I would respond to messages with Lady Gaga’s specific, exaggerated delivery of “that’s gos-sip” from “Babylon.” On the last track of the album, Gaga brings her rah-rah bitch self back harder than ever with a nonsense-on-the-rocks dance track seemingly designed to be heard between several sweaty bodies. “That’s the thing that you bring / That you bring, that you bring / Him, you and me,” she announces just before the chorus. “That’s gos-sip.” May it be sampled everywhere: When a story is delicious and good! That’s gossip! When I’m issuing a denial? That’s gossip! When you just want the beat to drop? That’s gos-sip!
Since this album is fully devoted to trigonometry, it takes a little math to figure out what exactly Gaga is going for in the moment — it’s sort of about a threesome between you, Gaga, and gossip about you and Gaga. We’re back in Artpop and Fame Monster land, with Gaga writhing in the trappings of celebrity, poking a little fun at her leaky reputation (“Money don’t talk, rip that song”). We’re taking a trip back to 1980s New York, with Gaga and producers BURNS and BloodPop sampling the bassline of New Order’s “Confusion,” and getting so close to the sound of “Vogue”-era Madonna we’re sure to see that whole stan war erupt again. But enough of that, just think of the “Babylon” drag show possibilities!
As she is wont, Gaga also goes about constructing an opulent metaphorical context, setting things back in 16th-century B.C. Babylon (Gaga tell us your thoughts on Hammurabi’s code) and freely referencing the Tower of Babel (an actual Babylonian temple potentially inspired the story in the Bible several centuries later), seemingly all so she can throw together the so-obvious-it’s-brilliant homophone of “talk it out, babble on / Battle for your life, Babylon.” Babble/battle/Babel/Babyl, it’s all a blur when you’re this far into your trip to the planet Chromatica. Rumors, scandals, truth, lies, whatever — just more things to dance to. “That’s gos-sip!”
B.C., intentionally or not, also sets things before COVID, and what’s delirious, and oddly comforting to me at least, about “Babylon” and so much of Chromatica is how much it is absolutely not the album for right now. Most people will have to resort to dancing in isolation, or over Zoom, and good gossip itself has become a precious commodity in quarantine, unless it’s about people doing incredibly risky shit in order to hang out or rehashing old beef into gossip Soylent. Gaga’s fantasy universe of moving your body like a sculpture (sure!) in defiance of the world’s babble is sort of accidentally a fantasy of that babble also existing. At this point, I miss the talking as much as the dancing. Gaga’s beaming us all a radio message from a prelapsarian reality, and if you can’t take a trip there yet, man, it’s something worth gossiping about.