Skip to content

Track-by-Track: Lady Gaga’s Joanne – “Sinner’s Prayer” (Track 08)


Another Lady Gaga shot from the New York Times Style Mag.

I’ll be dissecting Joanne song by song every day until November, which will bring a monster month of daily music and comics content with it.

I’ll admit, I’ve been somewhat dreading making it past “Million Reasons” in this track-by-track dissection. Maybe anything would seem like a comedown after such a phenomenal song, but I feel like the back third of Joanne is unremarkable and not as fully-baked compared to what came before.

Maybe Joanne should have been another 8-track EP masterpiece?

Sinner’s Prayer” is the most alt-country of all the tracks on Joanne – even moreso than the title track. Where “Joanne” was an all-acoustic ballad that almost defied genre, “Sinner’s Prayer” has several signature elements, like a low, tremolo-fueled baritone riff and the simplistic kick-on-every-beat drums.

This lightweight song was co-written with Father John Misty. Gaga’s past co-writes haven’t had the feel of the feel of the co-writer overtaking Gaga’s own sound, but here that’s the case. The narrative is fractured, the first verse fights with itself, and a cheerful, major-key chorus and bridge that seem lifted from another tune entirely.

That misplaced, low-key chorus might be the best thing about the song. It shows off Gaga’s chesty, alto vocals clearer than any previous song in her repertoire. Unfortunately, there’s barely a hook in there, aside from the “good as, good as gold.” A final refrain takes the chorus up an octave to a more typical Gaga location, but other than selling the “gold” hook a bit harder it’s forgettable.

Hear my sinner’s prayer
I am what I am
And I don’t wanna break the heart of any other man but you, but you
Hear my sinner’s prayer
It’s the only one I know
It sure as hell don’t rhyme, but it’s as good as, good as, good as, good as gold

If some of the rest of the song was an introspective piece that matched up better with the concept of a repentant but unapologetic lover this could have been a subtle antidote to the whore complex Lady Gaga returned to on “Diamond Heart” and “John Wayne.

Track-by-Track: Lady Gaga’s Joanne – “Million Reasons” (Track 07)

14612367_10154750429999574_973463793454855765_oI’ll be dissecting Joanne song by song every day until November, which will bring a monster month of daily music and comics content with it.

Million Reasons” isn’t a country song or a pop song. It’s not an anything song. It’s simply a great song. It imagines a world where Lady Gaga could topple Adele from her throne as world’s most-signature balladeer if she choose, not only because she has the pipes for it, but because she’s a damn good songwriter.

Imagine that for a moment. What if, instead of an acoustic, country-tinged pop LP, Gaga released a straight up ballads disc with just one or two upbeat tracks the way that Adele has in 21 and 25. Gaga doesn’t linger on her ballads, but they’ve all been standouts – “Brown Eyes,” “Speechless,” “Dope,” and “Till It Happens to You.”

Until this point “Speechless” was the crown jewel of that collection, a meticulously crafted classic rock song that easily references The Beatles and Elton John. It wasn’t a huge hit. Having played it many times over with Ashley (it was sort of the reason we even got together in the first place), I think that’s because it’s just too complex compared to the ballads of today. People want a simple song with repetitive chords and a simple melody, a la “Hello.”

Welcome to “A Million Reasons,” a ballad so intent on communicating its hook that it repeats it three to five times in each verse, frequently emphasized with a single plain harmony part. I was singing along with the harmony before I even hit the first chorus.

It’s dead-simple I vi IV V chord progression is as common as rain, and inverts itself for the chorus. It’s mostly built on one piano and one acoustic guitar, to the point that I hardly remember if any other instruments enter. It’s relatable – not about dope, but about just wanting to trust.

Head stuck in a cycle I look off and I stare
It’s like that I’ve stopped breathing But completely aware

There’s barely the hint of country here, maybe in Gaga’s inflection on “if I had a highway” on the verse and “try” and “worn out” in the chorus. Mostly she sounds authentically like herself. No put on pop voice, not the monotone of “Dope” or the weird throatiness of “Speechless,” and none of the rasp of “Joanne.”

This is all her, and it’s great. It is, without question, amongst Lady Gaga’s chief achievements in songwriting, if not her best.

things blow up sometimes

If you visited CK anytime between 5pm this afternoon and 10 minutes ago you witness a really confusing muddle of a half-installed WP theme and a cascade of PHP errors.

That’s all due to some sprucing up I did today to prepare for my big November plans for CK. November will mark my 10th anniversary on WordPress, and my ninth anniversary on this lovely, plain little WP theme, Very Plain Text.

I don’t tend to give a lot of thought to the interoperability of old things until they up and die. I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to learn that E’s iPad from 2010 is trapped on version 5.something of IOS and cannot load any apps from the App Store since the lowest IOS they’ve been developed for is v6. I was puzzled when my old PreSonus FirePod didn’t have drivers to work on the newest operating systems – sure, it’s a decade old, but I payed good money for that hardware only a decade ago!

The sad fact is, a decade is now forever when it comes to technology. Heck, four years is practically an eternity. It’s not so much planned obsolescence as forced obsolescence.

Which brings me to tonight. I did a bad developer thing and changed multiple variables of my WP install at once without backing up first, and as a result none of my plugins wanted to speak to each other on the Admin Panel anymore. To make things worse, when I turned on debugging in WP_Config, a massive litany of errors unfurled because apparently when your WP theme was last updated to work with WP2.6 and you’re on WB4.6 pretty much every function call it uses has been deprecated in some way. It was impossible to figure out what other things were broken through the waterfall of complaints about my theme.

Three frantic hours of pulling back-ups later and everything was back to normal (well, normal for my 9yr-old theme) except for my one most relied-upon plugin, WordPress Editorial Calendar. It was still borked.

I’ve written about my love for WordPress Editorial Calendar before, and that love has never ceased. Nothing ever gets done here without it; if you notice I’m making halfway decent posts at a rate of more than once per week, it’s because I am spending quality time with my EdCal. Yet, even after all of my rollbacks it was still throwing a “Unable to Parse” and “Unexpected token” error. I was tearing my newly re-purpled hair out. There was only one hit on Google and and it had no guidance for me. I had reversed everything to the state it was in when I woke up this morning!

Except… except when I rolled out of bed this morning and immediately started doing SQL in Sequel Pro (seriously: not working at an analytics company anymore, but that is still my life), I noticed a few recent post titles that had wrong punctuation and edited them directly in SQL. And some of that punctation could be escape characters in some contexts. Could it be that even thought the rest of my blog was fine, those unescaped title characters were killing my EdCal?


So, if you’re ever getting those errors on EdCal, try going far into the future and then scrolling back week by week until you hit a week that throws the error, then review your post titles for that week.

And, I’m very grateful that everything is back to nine-year-old normalcy here on CK. You should take a moment right now to appreciate some of the older things in your life whose function you take for granted.

Track-by-Track: Lady Gaga’s Joanne – “Perfect Illusion” (Track 06)

lady-gaga-perfect-illusion-1I’ll be dissecting Joanne song by song every day until November, when I debut a month of major daily content!

Considering just wrote about this song six weeks ago and in doing so deconstructed it considerably, what else is there to say?

A lot.

The choice of “Perfect Illusion” as a lead single turned out to be less a canary in a coal mine and more a Trojan Horse. It is by far the most synthy, thrashing, disco-tinged tune on the entire record. Only yesterday’s “Dancin’ In Circles” comes anywhere near it in sound and the chorus of “Diamond Heart” in ferocity.

That begs the question for me – was this a obligation single? You know the kind that I mean. That one song the artist begrudgingly produces to sound a lot like their older work so that their record makes an initial impact on radio, but then quickly ditches and never references again.

We’ll never know Lady Gaga’s true intent. One signal that “Perfect Illusion” was a throwaway is that Gaga hasn’t been performing it visibly past a single pub warmup gig in the UK. It played but not published for her Bud Light sessions on YouTube, not on her release-day Facebook Live concert, and not on Saturday Night Live this weekend. The only full-quality performance we’ve seen is a stripped down version that would have fit in with the ballads on this disc.

Is that in response to tepid radio pickup of the tune, or was it always going to be this way?  I’m not sure, and we won’t have more of an indication until we see if it shows up in tour setlists.

What we do have is its context on the record. “Perfect Illusion” acts as a crescendo to the build of energy throughout the first half of this album. The back half is a much more subtle affair. When the vinyl of this record drops I would be surprised if it wasn’t the final song on Side A rather than the start of side B.

There’s also the thematic content of the album to consider. As a lead-off single, “Perfect Illusion” seemed like a standard kiss-off to a past lover – an easy inspiration to assess considering Gaga’s recently-ended engagement. Instead, try reading it as a song that’s about making Artpop.

Tryin’ to get control
Pressure’s takin’ its toll
Stuck in the middle zone
I just want you alone

My guessing game is strong
Way too real to be wrong
Caught up in your show
Yeah, at least now I know

Gaga fired her longtime manager Troy Carter simultaneous to Artpop‘s 2013 release, when media attention and fan expectations were at their peak. She had promised for months to deliver a stunning work of artistic perfect on par with her highly-regarded Fame Monster EP, but Artpop turned out to be a mirage of synthesizers and drum programming more about The Fame that Gaga had been chasing than about the woman herself. Most critics and fans brushed it off like a gossamer soap bubble. She was truly caught up in her own show on “Applause” and flop “Venus,” which was scrapped for middling performer “Do What U Want.”

Would it have been better off more undressed, with a plainer, Gaga at its center? Did she let producers, managers, and A&R reps second guess her own direction – or perhaps did she second guess herself? Maybe she wasn’t as obsessed or inspired by all of those layers of fabrication as she claimed she was. Maybe it wasn’t love – not for her, or for her fans. It’s evident that the world loves a less-guarded, still-unique Gaga based on the success of her intervening work like Cheek to Cheek, American Horror Story, and “Til It Happens To You.”

In that interpretation, maybe “Perfect Illusion” was the only possible lead single to Joanne – a callback to a less-fussy sound that lays bare all of Gaga’s pent up anxieties about exposing something a little more stripped down and true on this record.

Or maybe that’s all just useless speculation about an inscrutable pop star who is smart enough that she can make us assume anything she wants to about her true motivations.

Either way, the vital, live-rock sound of the song is already aging well even if the brevity of its actual content continues to dissuade repeat listens. It turns out that Joanne would have plenty of live-band sound to share with us, but just not in the same vein as this tune.

Track-by-Track: Lady Gaga’s Joanne – “Dancin’ in Circles” (Track 05)

Lady Gaga in bed for The New York Times Style Magazine.I’ll be dissecting Joanne song by song every day until November, when I debut a month of major daily content!

Lady Gaga continues her trip back through time with “Dancin’ In Circles,” a song that sounds ripped from The Fame Monster in more ways than one.

As soon as the song begins we hear a familiar sound – what we now know to be Gaga’s fake, swollen-tongued, pop voice, in which she talk-sings, “let’s funk downtown.”

That tiny voice was all over her first two efforts, as on the title hook from “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich” – usually contrasted against full-throated belting (also present here). Yet, it was banished as of Born This Way. It returns here, as if to say, “Do you remember when I was the newbie weirdo in your headphones? I do.”

Maybe it’s just a sign of my age, but any sort of reggae-by-way-of-pop tune like that always seems to be influenced by Ace of Base. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time Lady Gaga has referenced the early-90s Swedish hitmakers. “Alejandro” on Fame Monster was an obvious sound-alike to their “Don’t Turn Around,” and “Dancin’ In Circles” could easily be Gaga’s version of “All That She Wants” (or the less well-known “Wheel of Fortune”).

If we weren’t already firmly in The Fame Monster zone within the first ten seconds of the song, the lyrics invoke yet another element. Gaga nearly quotes “So Happy I Could Die” with the lyric “[I] touch myself to pass the time” in the first verse.

On the topic of touching oneself, “Dancin’ in Circles” may well be Lady Gaga’s own official ode to female masturbation, a la Cyndi Lauper’s “She-Bop.” Try reading the lyrics to her second verse through that lens:

I fool myself, swirl around as if I’m someone else. Your hands are mine
I do a trick , pretend that I am you until it clicks. I come alive, come alive

In the fire I call your name out
Up full night tryin’ to rub the pain out

I’m singin’, “Baby don’t cry Baby don’t cry”
Dancin’ in circles, feels good to be lonely
Baby don’t cry Baby don’t cry
I’m singin’, “Dancin’ in circles, feels good to be lonely”

Are you with me on this? Between the lyrics and the pelvis-thrusting reggae rhythms of this song, the connection is undeniable.

The quick “baby don’t cry, baby don’t cry” refrain with its dressing of harmony is another memorable hook, which allows the “let’s funk downtown” refrain to stay quirky and memorable without the burden of acting as a chorus like the “discostick” chant from “Lovegame.”

Just as easily as Gaga let us believe she had made a country record with “A-YO,” “Joanne,” and “John Wayne,” the combination of “John Wayne” and “Dancin’ In Circles” quickly snaps Joanne back to dance-pop territory, making the title track seem like the sonic outlier. Not only that, but they virtually erase the memory of ArtPop by drawing a direct connection to Gaga’s vastly more-popular original trio of releases.

Like I said: she’s smart. It doesn’t hurt that every one of the songs so far has been great, despite my minor songwriter’s quibbles with “Diamond Heart” and “Joanne.” Can Gaga really deliver a full-length effort where every song is distinct and memorable the way she did on The Fame Monster EP?

I’ve got another week of Gaga in store for you to answer that question!

Track-by-Track: Lady Gaga’s Joanne – “John Wayne” (Track 04)

Lady Gaga's title cards from this week's SNL.

Lady Gaga’s title cards from tonight’s episode of SNL, where she is the musical guest.

I’ll be dissecting Joanne song by song every day until November, when I debut a month of major daily content!

Hearing “John Wayne” tracked after “A-YO” and “Joanne” made me appreciate just how canny Lady Gaga is.

A song title like “John Wayne” seems to clearly confirm the country bent of this album. Doubtlessly, some pop fans will be in a panic after the acoustic “Joanne” and another country-tinged tune could cause them to tune out.

What does Gaga do after the shock to reel us back in? Delivers a track named “John Wayne” with a decidedly country-fried guitar lick that’s more in line with her typical minor-key dance-stomp, so much that it feels ripped right from the back half of Born This Way.

Yes, Born This Way. Listen to Gaga’s vocal tone and intonation here. There are still shades of her country drawl from “A-YO,” but it also has the cooed alto notes of Born. Add the bass groove with minor synth work exploding into a big hook feels like it could be tracked right next to “Highway Unicorn (Road To Love).”

The stomp of the drums during that big hook make even more sense when you know that “John Wayne” is one of two cowrites with Josh Homme, of Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal (the other is “Diamond Heart”). Homme’s guitar work – muscular and sour – is usually his sonic signature (heard clearly on the chorus hook and outro solo), but many listeners don’t know he also plays drums. He’s the one behind the sticks here for the massive wallop of chorus drums with emphasized upbeats, which is another QotSA trademark.

Josh Homme

Josh Homme

It’s hard to dissect Homme’s guitars from Gaga’s own wordless chants in the hook of this song, and I suspect they’re each doubling the other. Combined, they’re a sort of slow-mo version of a down-home fiddle riff, as you might be dancing along to in “Cotten-Eyed Joe” at half speed. Gaga can never attack a genre head on, so just as “A-YO” turned radio pop into a line-dance, here she perverts a line-dance into a modern rock song with Homme’s assistance.

On both “Diamond Heart” and “John Wayne” Gaga casts herself in the role of selling her body, there dancing for money and here proclaiming “Every John is just the same” (“John” is the noun that many sex workers use to describe a customer, basically a spin on “John Doe.”). While ArtPop was shameless sexual across its full length, for me the more specific callback is to Born This Way tracks like “Government Hooker,” “Judas,” and “Scheibe.” There, Gaga was toying specifically with the Mary Magdalene aspect of the “virgin/whore” dichotomy, versus the more generally sex positive ArtPop.

Yet, Gaga isn’t offering subservience here – she’s wishing for a better quality of man. “Every John is just the same,” she begins, “I’m sick of their city games. I crave a real wild man. I’m strung out on John Wayne!” Of course, Wayne is noted as a paragon of American masculinity. Yet, is Gaga talking about the literal, historical man here? Or, is John Wayne simply her nickname for any country man with rough hands who can take her on a “three-day bender”?

The answer doesn’t matter – it’s the question that defines this record. If ArtPop was a celebration of all things artificial that are crafted to be obsessed over, Joanne is about appreciating things that are authentic and tangible – anything that isn’t a “Perfect Illusion.”

More on that on Monday. Before then, we have another throwback track to discuss tomorrow.

Track-by-Track: Lady Gaga’s Joanne – “Joanne” (Track 03)

lady-gaga-joanneI’ll be dissecting Joanne song by song every day until November, when I debut a month of major daily content!

The title track of Joanne introduces yet another new facet of Lady Gaga – a finger-picked, acoustic folk-rock ballad.

I am one of those music fans who tends to fetishize acoustic instruments as being “real” music. That doesn’t stop me from loving buzzy, synthy music from the likes of Garbage and Gaga, but I’m always a little more excited when I see an artist I love at an acoustic piano or wielding and acoustic guitar. I was excited over the idea of Madonna holding a guitar a a prop when the first images of Music debuted at the very start of this blog, and later lost my mind when she actually played one in concert.

Yet, I don’t have that same thrill with Lady Gaga. Almost the opposite, actually.

I’ve seen her tear things up on piano and dance while playing keytar. I know she writes her own songs. I’m sure she can play guitar, but it’s not going to be her most expert skill, so why waste time there?

Joanne” answers that question.

Lady Gaga can certainly play these exact arpeggios on piano, but certain songs need the acoustic guitar – belong with it. This song is akin to Paul McCartney’s solo Beatles cut “Blackbird,” with its carefully merged set of picking, tapping, and bass sounding like a single instrument. “Joanne” adds a sheen of shimmery organ behind its choruses to fill out the sound, but that’s no different than McCartney’s simple dressing of bird song.

The verse starts simply enough, picking through a standard I-V-IV progression in G. “Take my hand, stay Joanne, heaven’s not ready for you” is about as treacly simple as any folk song can get – way past “Hey There Delilah” on the treacle scale. On my first listen, I was already girding myself for an awful, earnest tune.

Then I reached the chorus.

The simple “Girl, where do you think you’re going? Where do you think you’re going, girl?” chorus is a hook for the ages. It recalls the sharp knife simplicity of the best Neil Young refrains. (Don’t forget, she name-checks his “Heart of Gold” on “You & I.”)

Lady Gaga's fingers are sore from playing Joanne.

Gaga posted this photo on her Facebook, of newly callused fingers hovering above a lead sheet for “Joanne.”

So many tiny, deliberate choices in the chorus make it a classic. That Gaga starts the first one in a softer, more mixed voice before launching into a full-throated belt. The higher melodic jump on “think” in the second phrase. The surprising dip to the minor-seventh step to resolve on IV on its otherwise verbatim repeat.

The power, sentiment, and performance behind this one vague line makes it one of the most memorable in Lady Gaga’s entire catalog.

When you have a chorus that plain and powerful, you don’t need fancy dressing on the rest of the song. You can afford a plaintive, almost-silly set of lyrics that includes lines like, “I can’t wait to see you soar.” If the verses were too complex, too poetic, they would would disarm the simple power of that chorus.

I sometimes feel this tiny-voiced, swooping, raspy singing from Gaga on the verses is somehow “fake” because I’ve heard her do so much big-throated belting. Who I am to say what Gaga’s “real” voice is? Maybe this is the way she loves to sing? Her ability to occupy a spectrum from her weird melodic mumble on “Poker Face” to her lovely Sound of Music medley on the Oscars to the too-perfect pronunciation on “Perfect Illusion” to this folk Americana vocal sound proves the prowess of her musicianship.

Lady Gaga truly is as much Whitney House as she is Madonna. You can’t do the things they’ve done vocally and sonically, respectively, without being acutely aware of your choices. And, just as Gaga acknowledged and interpolated her Beatles influences on “Speechless,” here she does the same for influences like Neil Young and even Dolly Parton.

Track-by-Track: Lady Gaga’s Joanne – “A-YO” (Track 03)

lady-gaga-ayoI’ll be dissecting Joanne song by song every day until November, when I debut some much bigger daily content!

A-YO” is a fun, radio-ready clapper that might have done better over the summer months when its nonsense chorus could have been playing at every packed bar of vacationing college students. It’s got a steady bounce to it that feels just right for a smokey dance floor.

The first thing I noticed about the song is that it feels to me like a clap back at some of the newer acts that have co-opted Gaga’s place on the radio as dance pop stars, like Icona Pop and Charli XCX. Gaga has never gone for those trebly, hand-clap kinds of drum loops before, but they tend to mark the songs of those other stars. Here she uses them, but shamelessly sheds all of her typical synths for guitar rock instead (pushing it even more into Charli’s glossy territory).

One unmissable aspect of “A-YO” is the country tinge to Gaga’s clean, up-front vocal. Listen to the first line – How the “I” stays an “ah,” never closing to the dipthong “E”; the throaty A in “wait”; the drawling “aw” in “all”; and, later, the “uh” in other. It’s not a world different from the affect she puts on in “You & I,” but where that barroom stomp got dressed up in a Queen sample to glam it up, “A-YO” is much closer to a rock song.

She’s also pushing the country theme in the lyrics, as she name checks Marlboros, “tearin’ up” the gravel, “city gravy,” and more down South turns of phrase. The vocal twang and vocabulary at first seems like a strange combination with the modern rock guitar solos strewn throughout the song. It’s one of her most guitar-driven tracks of all time – I especially dig the adventurous mid-neck solo.

Once the chorus hits everything becomes obvious: this is Gaga’s take on a line-dance. It’s classic Gaga, especially with its rapid-fire chorus, but all of the production choices push it away from “PokerFace” and nudges it closer to “Achy Breaky Heart.”

It’s an interesting move from Lady Gaga. It isn’t as if one twangy song will get her played on Country radio, but there are some aspects of it clearly calculated for success. It’s a dancefloor cut that isn’t just for dance clubs. The bright, clear vocal takes her out of her clubland weirdo schtick and puts her in a realm of comparison with different artists. Yet, elements of the schtick remain intact, like the repeated words and phrases.

I’m actually surprised this wasn’t selected as the lead single, especially since it’s [spoiler alert!] a much better portent for the unusual remainder of the LP than the more disco-tinged “Perfect Illusion.” But, I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.

Finally, if you had any doubts about the country thing, here she is playing it on guitar while wearing a cowboy hat and an embroidered shirt.

Track-by-Track: Lady Gaga’s Joanne – “Diamond Heart” (Track 01)

lady-gaga-joanneI’ll be dissecting Joanne song by song every day until November, when I debut some much bigger daily content!

Lady Gaga has never quite recovered from the sophomore success of the stunning Fame Monster EP in 2009. Born This Way had a handful of strong singles but was manic and didn’t have legs. ArtPop found a deliciously dirty synth sound but brought too few good songs along with it.

Her new LP Joanne is a step in the right direction, and that step is discarding the idea that Lady Gaga must always equal synth pop. It was an unwinnable equation that left her stranded on a shrinking island of radio play. Even the keyboards of the first tune on the record quickly give way to a sizzling live band sound that currently works just as well on pop or rock radio.

Opener “Diamond Heart” vibrates with the warm, fuzzy, analog sound of electric piano. Gaga plays it loosely, which pairs well with her live-sounding, unprocessed lead vocal. This goes beyond the sparse opening measures of “Marry The Night” to sound like something vintage. If “Speechless” was Gaga’s take on The Beatles “Something,” this might be her version of Linda Ronstadt. “Some asshole broke me in,” she sneers, “rag-dolled my innocence. I’ll just keep go-go-ing this dance for you.”

A tangle of electric drums break the throwback spell and drag us to the present day before everything drops away but Gaga’s voice, though the transitional phrase of “Young wild American, come on baby, do you have a girlfriend” seems wasted on the sudden focus, with the actual refrain shoved into the back half of the chorus. “I might not be flawless, but you know I’ve got a diamond heart,” she proclaims, inserts a slurred interval leap in the middle of “diamond” (the only big ascending jump in the chorus).

It definitely feels like this song came from a pair of disparate elements – the coming-of-age travelogue “Young Wild American” which could have been a solo ballad, and the stormy “Diamond Heart” which could have easily been a part of an earlier stage of “Perfect Illusion.” Both concepts are strong, but the two don’t especially match up. You can hear the creaking of gears every time the song transitions from one to the other.

Even if it’s not Gaga’s most coherent tune, it’s still a bracing opening salvo on her first solo album in three years . It rocks as hard as anything she’s released previously, and the live vibes, guitars, and drums are a good portent for the rest of the album.

Chords to play this song after the jump: (Continued)

New Collecting Guide: She-Hulk, and her new status quo at Marvel

Yesterday Marvel made a shocking and totally cool announcement that Jennifer Walters – traditionally known as She-Hulk – would drop the “She” prefix and become Marvel’s main Hulk in a new eponymous title from writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Nico Leon.

hulk-2016-promoThat will mark her sixth time anchoring a solo series since her debut in 1980, not to mention several runs with The Avengers and Fantastic Four and a ton of mini-series in the past decade. That’s all covered (along with every single guest appearance) in my newly-launched Definitive She-Hulk Collecting Guide and Reading Order. (The guide also covers other She-Hulks, like Betsy Ross.)

This will mark a big shift from past She-Hulk series, which have usually featured a green, grinning woman with her monstrous tendencies almost entirely under control. Here, Walters will get lost in her rage as she tries to maintain her double-life as lawyer and superhero. Says Marvel EIX Axel Alonso in an exclusive with A/V Club:

Jen went through major trauma in Civil War II, and Mariko and Nico’s story will deal with the fallout of that trauma—the anxiety and anger, sometimes self-destructive, that comes along with it. If there is light at the end of the tunnel, Jen is going to have to search hard for it, and she’s going to have to battle with some pretty big monsters—including the one within—to find herself again.

Some fans are already hotly debating if rage and a center-stage turn are the right direction for this typically light-hearted hero who is historically as inane as Deadpool. She-Hulk going all rage-y in lieu of an appearance by her cousin Bruce Banner is a time-honored tradition when she’s on the wider Marvel stage – Brian Bendis used the same trope over a decade ago as one of the inciting events in Avengers Disassembled before setting it up again currently in Civil War II.

Personally, I don’t have an opinion other than, “Yay – more She-Hulk!” I own nearly all of her appearances, and her original series was my first custom binding project last year.

How easy is it to own that all for yourself in collected editions? The She-Hulk Guide can help you catch them all, but let’s take a look at Marvel’s track record of reprinting Jennifer Walters’ starring series through the end of Secret Wars in 2015.