Lady Gaga does crazy very well. When Stefani Germanotta first burst into our lives, being cray cray was her thing, but since then it seems her contemporaries are catching up. Yeah ok, she turned up to an awards ceremony covered in raw meat one time but Miley lit up a joint on stage one time as well and Rihanna always puts her middle finger up on Instagram and shit. Doing weird/cool/attention seeking things now seems to come with the package for 2013 popstars. Gaga needed to crank it up a notch. Explaining that ‘ARTPOP’ is her first ‘real’ album, Gaga implies that perhaps this album is about her maturing as an artist and fully flexing her creative muscles. ‘ARTPOP’ seems to be an attempt of the notch being cranked up, but it’s kind of gone less up, and more sideways.
The single, ‘Do What U Want’ was described by R Kelly as “Sexual but classy”. I would say sexual and classy yes, but also slightly bland with a predictable catchy pop chorus. (Update: R Kelly and Gaga simulated sex via press ups on SNL last night, it’s not classy). But pop is what Gaga does best, and ‘Dope’ a slow pop ballad that actually does scream with some emotion, and ‘Donatello’ an upbeat flex about glam living are both enjoyable and highlight her talent in being able to produce slow tracks as easily as she can produce upbeat synth-pop radio-friendly jams.
The album has a sort of go at varying the genres. ‘Applause’ is an electro pop record that, despite not quite having the success that was anticipated, due to snippets being leaked before it’s release date, is a powerful electro pop infusion that we actually rather enjoy. Annie Lennox springs to mind as a comparable voice and style. Which is a good thing. However ‘Jewels and Drugs’ feels like an average hip hop record, a lesser committed Nicki Minaj track is what it echoes, but a commendable attempt from T.I., Twista and Too $hort.
Single ‘Venus’ provides us with some intergalactic fun. Repetitive chants intertwined with catchy dance pop lyrics; and we are even treated to an astronomy lesson as GaGa shows off her knowledge of the Solar System and lists us those all important planets. And no planet related song would be complete without a Uranus gag - “Don’t you know my ass is famous?” It sure is Gaga. But this dance pop tune, infused with hints of electro and a drop of disco, feels like it is paying homage to her former ‘Just Dance’ era. It’s a good song, but it’s not going to be remembered as her greatest, which slowly becomes a running theme on ‘ARTPOP’.
It seems to lack that personal connection that ‘Born This Way’ and ‘The Fame’ had. Gaga loves her little monsters, and the Monster Ball tour seemed to be a shared experience with her fans. Her previous work boasts unmissable sincerity along with fun. Arguably ‘ARTPOP’ is a coming of a different age album? Maybe. Or perhaps the detached and sometimes impersonal lyrics are an attempt to get us listeners to see her music more as a show we just watch; as opposed to connecting directly with it. Whatever her aim, this album is still cray cray Gaga, but it fails to really live up to it’s title. The ‘ART’ is swallowed up by the ‘POP’ and the ‘POP’ ain’t what it used to be.
Words: Holly Matthews