The opening track on Joanne drops this bombshell, likely a reference to the sexual abuse she was subjected to in her early years. In 2014, she opened up to Howard Stern, telling him that she had been raped when she was 19 by a man 20 years older than her. "It didn't affect me as much right after as it did about four or five years later," she explained to the radio host. "It hit me so hard. I was so traumatized by it that I was like, 'Just keep going,' because I just had to get out of there."
"Take my hand, stay Joanne/ Heaven’s not ready for you/ Every part of my aching heart/ Needs you more than the angels do" ("Joanne")
Gaga sings about her late aunt's tragic death on her album's title track. getting more emotional as the song goes on. Though written in the first person, the song is taken from more of a family perspective, as Joanne's death from lupus in 1974 at the age of 19 came over a decade before Stefani was born.
"He called, I cried, we broke" ("John Wayne")
This lyric, buried close to the end of the musically swaggering "John Wayne," likely references Gaga's split from fiancé Taylor Kinney earlier in 2016, over a year after their engagement was first announced. "Just like all couples we have ups and downs, and we have been taking a break," she explained on Instagram. "Please root us on. We’re just like everybody else and we really love each other."
"The man's got a gift for getting what he wants/ He's thirsty when he drinks/ Gets on the brink, and throws her off” ("Sinner's Prayer")
The second verse to Gaga's "Sinner's Prayer" begins with her introducing, "Got a baby sister who looks just like me," and then goes on to discuss the emotional (and possibly physical) abuse she receives as a result of falling in love too easily. Whether she's actually relating the experiences of her little sister (Natali Germanotta) or not, Gaga's empathy is clear.
"Hey girl, we don’t need to be one-in' up another" ("Hey Girl")
Gaga and Florence Welch's duet speaks to the importance of female solidarity, and this lyric in particular makes a plea for women working to help each other, rather than competing or bringing each other down. In a week where Gaga was yet again sized up against a certain female pop predecessor in the media cycle, it rings especially relevant.
"I confess I am lost/ In the age of the social" ("Angel Down")
"Angel Down" is an ode to slain teenager Trayvon Martin, but before Gaga gets into the thick of her tribute, she takes a second to admit her own confusion in today's Twitter-accelerated world. It's a recurring theme on Joanne, as lead single "Perfect Illusion" also sees Gaga trying to cope with reality being obscured by the misrepresentation allowed by the Internet.
"I was 23, she was 35/ I was spiralin’ out and she was so alive" ("Grigio Girls")
From the Joanne Deluxe Edition, "Grigio Girls" pays homage to Gaga's longtime friendship with Haus of Gaga managing director Sonja Dunham, who was revealed last year to be suffering from breast cancer. This opening lyric shines a light on Gaga's lost years pre-fame, where this "Texas girl real strong" showed Stefani the strength to be found in letting your tears fall as they may -- even into your glass of white wine.