Move over Katy, stop all your twerking Miley, and hand over the tarnished crown Madonna (you haven’t done much recently to deserve it anyway), pop extraordinaire Lady Gaga is finally here with the highly anticipated ARTPOP and it is as crazy, chaotic, inspiring and magical as we all hoped. While the eccentric singer/songwriter has come under scrutiny the last couple of years for the reception of the extremely underrated Born This Way, the “Marry The Night” songstress is coming back with a vengeance, supported by her fun, slightly more immature, official third full length studio album.
Preceded by the number four-peaking “Applause” and a stern message to her numerous haters in the form of “Do What U Want” featuring R. Kelly, Lady Gaga has strategically been teasing ARTPOP for the last few months (it all started with a forearm tattoo) to positive and satisfying results.
Following a well-received yet overshadowed VMA performance, a stripped back iTunes Festival gig, a gorgeous album cover unveiling, numerous snippet releases and media attention to her second single change up, ARTPOP thankfully lives up to all the hype. Praise the pop gods! The artist focuses her beautiful, powerhouse vocals and eclectic production team, including RedOne, Zedd, Madeon and DJ White Shadow, on fifteen tracks of pure pop which puts the whole reverse Andy Warhol-ism to some “logical” sense. Soup can?
The new album wastes no time getting right to the point of things, causing unnecessary controversy nonetheless. “Aura”, the effort’s most abrasive track, kicks everything off in a sexy, spaghetti Western sort of way where the singing speaks of murder and peeking underneath her façade. “Do you wanna see me naked lover,” she politely asks. It’s a giant hump to get over, but well worth the bumpy ride that is soon to take place.
Inspired by space odysseys and mythology, the campy, carnal fun continues with original plan for second single “Venus”, Gaga’s first shot at solo producing, and the incredible highlight “G.U.Y”, that’s “Girl Under You” for you mere mortals. While both tracks appear out of this world, certainly not ready for radio, they bring the crazy pop art influences to the recording booth. With solar system references, odes to Aphrodite and Himeros, and Twitter shout outs, they work in only a way Gaga could actually make happen.
When an artist discusses the serious issues of equality, religion and political reform on their last full effort, it seems lyrics of explicit sex and pleasure are the next logical step. Right? On the sultry “Sexxx Dreams”, energetic “MANiCURE” and “Do What U Want”, the artist flirts with the idea of desire with rock and R&B production supporting her ever-impressive vocals. On the latter, the album’s official second single and safer choice, Gaga calls in R. Kelly for a steamy duet which doubles as a personal message to her naysayers. “You can’t stop my voice, cuz you don’t own my life, but do what you want with my body,” she belts in some Christina Aguilera level notes.
It is evident Gaga has many harsh critics, who focus on her “over-the-top” antics more than her actual music, but even those critics would be the first to admit the “Just Dance” singer has paved a new road for pop music since bursting on the scene in 2008. To be honest, she is still the most interesting artist out there. Every other female pop star (Katy, Rihanna, Nicki, Miley) stepped up their game when Gaga arrived, and even she is still trying to push the envelope further by crossing different genres.
On “Jewels & Drugs”, Gaga brings together not just one, but three huge names in the rap game for surprising assistance. While T.I., Twista and Too $hort lay down some impressive verses, it is Gaga who shines in a trap-inspired, sass-filled performance. “Swine” follows the same genre experimentation, but on the opposite side of the spectrum. As Gaga sings “you’re just a pig inside a human body”, EDM-styled production comes crashing down to provide a rave-like, head-banging experience for all listeners.
For all the drug-crazed, fashion loving fans out there, Gaga certainly has not forgotten about you. In extremely personal ways, the artist opens up about her struggle with addiction on the 80s theatrical rock influenced “Mary Jane Holland”, and the beautiful, heart wrenching, formerly titled “I Wanna Be With You” ballad, “Dope”. Both carry different vibes and emotions, but also bring something new and fresh to the album’s crazy, up-tempo nature.
“Donatella” is an extremely campy, carefree highlight with its many references to the modeling world, and “Fashion!”, produced by will.i.am, is the most straightforward, down to Earth, creation on the 15-track effort. Only Gaga could convey stomach churning lines such as “walk down the runway but don’t puke, it’s okay, you just had a salad today” and get away with its humorous nonsense.
While Gaga has explained the meaning behind ARTPOP on multiple occasions, the title track helps clear it all up. It could mean anything! Get it now? The robotic delivery may be hard to swallow at first listen, but it grows to be a real staple. “Gypsy”, which needs to be immediately lined up as single number three (hear that Interscope!), is an example of the artist’s best work to date. An electronic ballad with complete country shout out towards the end? You can’t get better than that.
To wrap things up, lead single “Applause” may have divided critics, but it graciously brought the pop artist back to her traditional dance roots. The track feels appropriate where it’s placed because once the 15-track album comes to an end, applause is well deserved, “put your hand up, make ‘em touch”. It may have almost been left off the track list, but it certainly brings the era to a pleasant close.
ARTPOP was jokingly called “the album of the millennium” by Lady Gaga herself… hell I would go on the record and label it “the album of the galaxy”. While going on her crazy promotional tour, describing the new project as the child of art and pop, Gaga has achieved what she set out to do. When people describe pop music in the future, this impressive, grab bag of an effort will be on reference.
From its dance/pop influences, to its odes to rock and roll, and surprising R&B and hip-hop flavor, the artist crosses multiple genres successfully and pulls off what I believe to be her best release to date. Sorry The Fame Monster, I still love you. The artist may not be adored by all, but you must admit, even at her lowest of lows she is still pushing the pop genre into uncharted territories, crossing genre boundaries, and breaking out of the unimaginative box. Gaga leaves nothing off limits, she was not afraid to get creative and messy with this new project and in return delivers the true definition of what pop should be in 2013. Well done.