In between the propulsive house and electronica beats, Lady Gaga’s Chromatica is strung together by three orchestral interludes, each feeding into the songs that follow them. The three are perfect palate cleansers, composed by Gaga and former M83 member Morgan Kibby, who connected through Chromatica executive producer BloodPop.
“I must say that I found this collaboration to be rooted in total kismet,” Kibby tells Rolling Stone via email. “Though I came on at the very end of the process, we threw ourselves into a whirlwind, two-week period of writing and recording, and I delivered the mixes just days before the album was mastered. It was a trip!”
Kibby, who performs under the name White Sea, met BloodPop in a writing session six years ago. They kept in touch, especially as she began working more in the world of pop. “I think BloodPop felt that Lady Gaga and I would be a good fit energetically and creatively,” she explains. As Gaga was putting the finishing touches on her sixth LP earlier this year, the Oscar-winning star knew she wanted three distinct tracks to help keep the album connected. Kibby was brought into the studio after submitting an orchestral demo that would lead into the song “Alice,” and the demo eventually became album opener, “Chromatica I.”
“It was really important to both Gaga and myself to make sure we could justify any orchestral additions,” Kibby explains. “The way we crafted their tangibility and life — texturally, melodically, and energetically — was important to identify in order to keep them interwoven into the existing songs. The soul of the album was already there, and so the arrangements were written with the intent to further amplify the nooks and crannies of the emotional themes; they became almost the Greek chorus of Chromatica.”
Adding something meaningful to the album’s flow meant Kibby had two main jobs: matching the energy of the album’s house-infused dance production and adding depth to the emotional journey Gaga attempts to capture in the often broken-hearted lyrics. She enlisted a 26-piece orchestra to perform the compositions and spent a lot of time discussing the spirit of Chromatica with Gaga herself.
“We looked at pictures, paintings, and film references. We chatted at length about her process when writing the albums’ songs. I wanted to understand the world she was inviting us into,” Kibby says. “The overarching theme we landed on during our talks was the exchange between light and darkness, the push and pull she felt within herself and, by extension, our shared and relatable human experience.”
As quick as the process became, Kibby felt more than capable and prepared to handle the “raw power and vulnerability” in Gaga’s music. “There was a palpable sense of earnest joy intertwined with turmoil, and I wanted to convey those feelings with dynamic and melodic arrangements,” the composer says. “Gaga extended an incredible amount of trust in my ability to bring my voice as a foil and a compliment to hers.”