Lady Gaga - "John Wayne" (Singles Going Steady)

by PopMatters Staff

15 February 2017

The video is all saturated color, motion, and quick edits, part Death Proof, part two-fisted tribute to Wendy O. Williams, not subtle, perfectly apt, Gaga going for sensory overload above all else.
 

Jordan Penney: I like Lady Gaga for many reasons, among them her skill for conceiving, developing, and performing melodies, for her unselfconscious sincerity, a rare attribute most (but not only) conspicuous in her solo and acoustic performances. I also like her predilection for inspired weirdness and “John Wayne” belongs firmly in this category. Like “Million Reasons”, the song is elevated by a simple sonorous hook powerfully delivered by Gaga and reflects the kind of crafty experiments with pop, country, rock, and dance music that is by now a hallmark of her style. It’s the song’s finer details and video that combine for an off-kilter effect. The mix is dominated by the apparent influence of collaborator Josh Homme, a metal/hard rock titan in his own right, with twitchy guitar (or guitar synth) riffs, odd vocal effects, beginning with a brief spoken word ramble and rushing through its barely two-and-a-half minute runtime. The video is all saturated color, motion, and quick edits, part Death Proof, part two-fisted tribute to Wendy O. Williams, not subtle but perfectly apt. Gaga going for sensory overload above all else. [7/10]
  

Andrew Paschal: If Joanne was mostly a lukewarm overcorrection to ARTPOP‘s excesses, “John Wayne” remains the odd wild child of the bunch. Lady Gaga has occasionally pursued straightforward rock-oriented numbers like this one since the Born This Way era, usually with mixed results. The best part of “John Wayne” is the very beginning, when we hear her voice escalate from demure conversation to deranged restlessness: “Can I just hang off the back of your horse, and can you go a little FASTER?!” After that, the song is catchy, ugly, dirty, and surprisingly ordinary. It should summon at least a little foot-tapping, but it never quite conveys the hedonistic release promised by that opening missive. [6/10]

Morgan Y. Evans: The video is a blast, and personally I love the Joanne album. It’s totally under appreciated by people who are mad it is different, but it is a great pop rock and dance blend. I listen to the whole record often of late. Gaga dug deep, and there is some killer material on it. “John Wayne” is one of the songs that sticks in your head the most, super catchy. I had been getting my sassy dance pop from the very inventive Maxi Wild lately, but Gaga is kicking some ass again on my stereo as well. The video is a hoot and over the top fun. Love the boots, racy car scenes, comedy, and color scheme. Honestly, my only problem with it is that I recently re-read John Wayne’s homophobic and racist as heck old Playboy interviews and other comments, so every time she says his name I cringe and wish she had not used his name for the song. She is still a queen and not a drag, though, of course. [7/10]

Mike Schiller: Well, that was…something. Having watched it three times, I’m still not sure exactly how we get from the straight-laced image of Lady Gaga and her guitar—straight out of the “Million Reasons” video, actually—to shooting bullets out of her platform stilettos, but here we are. Along the way, we get a black leather bodysuit, low-budget horror fonts, and a feral Gaga biting a hole in some dude’s jeans. It’s wild and chaotic and totally random, which isn’t exactly out of character for Gaga, but it feels like it’s overcompensating for a song that has a lot of energy but can’t find a memorable melody to save its life. [4/10]

Chris Ingalls: Here we see Gaga dipping her toe into strutting country-rock, and what makes it work is that she’s not happy to sit with a conventional arrangement - there’s a layered complexity to it. Instead of sticking to some weird Kid Rock/Skynyrd hybrid, she blasts robotic synths and a big, studio-heavy sound to give it more depth. It seems as if just enough tweaks were made to give it a unique feel that could only be Lady Gaga. [7/10]

Steve Horowitz: Okay, obviously John Wayne himself would hate the song and the video. He was no wild man even if he was never exactly civilized for most of his screen appearances. The song is purposely dumb and matches up well with the grindcore video. The retro sound and look provide a spectacle and suggests how easy it is to spend big money to look cheap. Being shallow is the new deep; the song has enough pop hooks to catch the bottom feeders as Gaga tries to worm her way into teen rebel hearts. [6/10]

Adriane Pontecorvo: What city kid hasn’t dreamed of getting away from it all in the wild frontier? Lady Gaga proves that she doesn’t have to give up her strong pop sensibilities to get raw and real on “John Wayne”. She’s still the Gaga we know, in outrageous platform heels and haute couture, but she unleashes her inner rocker as she snarls and screams her way through arguably her catchiest single since “Bad Romance”. This is a song made not for ecstasy-fueled dance floored, but for driving westward on empty highways at 80 miles per hour and never looking back, for rugged terrain and dirt beneath your fingernails. Ride on, Gaga, ride on! [8/10]

Scott Zuppardo: Lady Gaga is never short on ideas and creativity, and I appreciate that 13-fold. Getting high with John Wayne could be superb and also very uncomfortable as he doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy I’d like to take some rips or inhale a few chokers with. I wonder if John Wayne would be into uppers or downers? As for the song, Lady Gaga makes more bubble gum pop, shocking. [5/10]

SCORE: 6.25

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