#REVIEW: LADY GAGA – “ARTPOP”
She’s proud certainly of the Final Product, calling fourth Studio Disc Artpop “The Album of the Millennium” and “The Anthem of this Generation”. We’ve already had a sampling of its offerings in first Single Applause, peaking both at number four in Canada and the U.S. Hot 100 Charts. Second Single Do What U Want (ft. R. Kelly) received a rushed release as an official Single after some initial success on the iTunes Singles Chart, intended originally as Promo Single. How though does Artpop stack against what in a short time has amounted to a celebrated Discography from the Most Googled Woman on the Internet?
Make no mistake, Artpop is an Album Gaga made for her most ardent of Supporters and more so, Herself. Sex, Art, Fashion and Power are recurrent themes she drills home to us Monsters, owning it start to finish. This is an Album she needed to make as a Pop Visionary, re-affirming her ingenuity after some doubts surfaced after her last Effort, Born This Way. Released back in 2011 when buzz was impossibly high for the Pop Star, Critics might have been afraid to do anything but like the Disc. Despite having the year-end number three-selling Disc in both Canada and America that year, it still experienced the largest SoundScan Era sales drop in history in its second week. Despite five official Singles released, only one managed to reach the summit and that being its Titular Track. Perhaps a bit rushed and over-ambitious, regretfully today it simply doesn’t stand the test of time as one of those Discs I replay. This poses the question whether the Gaga we became obsessed with in her The Fame and The Fame Monster Eras simply was an Artist compromising some of her Artistry in the name of Commerciality? Furthermore, is the Gaga we know now simply the uncompromising Artist she always was meant to be? Despite the slick Production and intricacies of this grand ’90s-blueprinted EDM Opus, one cannot help but feel there is a bit of disconnect between Gaga 2008 and Gaga 2013.
The Disc begins on an odd note with Aura, which has her declaring full control over her sexuality, giving us access beneath the Burqa, while Venus takes us on an out-of-this-Planet David Bowie-esque Rocket Ride. We wait with eager anticipation two-tracks-in, wanting to be shot into the Stratosphere and for a moment, the gender-bending G.U.Y., co-produced and written by zedd, gets us really excited with its The Cardigans-esque Chorus. By the time we are given out-of-place Hip-Hop moment in Jewels n’ Drugs (ft. T.I., Twista and Too Short), we realize we’ve made it a third into the Disc and the alienation begins to feel overbearing. We find ourselves longing for those endearingly simplistic melodies which charmed us once into submission, making us dole-out cash to see The Monster Ball four times and almost – almost – buy a Lady Gaga Polaroid Camera.
Finally, some of that magic returns on the bangin’ Electro-Rocker, Manicure, easily one of the Disc’s finest moments, translating well to airwaves as it would on-stage. I’ll admit that I found R. Kelly-featured R&B-Pop Jam incredibly tough to stomach, but in the grand sequence of the things, we get a bit more context hearing it on the Album and I actually am growing to like it in all of its oddity. It perhaps is melodically the strongest Song on Artpop. The sensual and slinky Title Track takes us into Britney territory, sounding like a futuristic update of something from that one’s In the Zone Era.
Things quickly veer back onto another plain as we focus on Fashion in the Disc’s Third Act, with a RuPaul-esque Tribute to her sartorial Idol Donatella (Versace) proclaiming, “She’s a bit of a Bitch/She’s so fit/She’s so rich/And so blonde/She’s so fab/It’s Beyond”. Fashion! – yes, she also devotes a Track Title to one of her favourite subjects – again is a not-so-in-the-closet Homage to Bowie.
Dope gives Artpop a much-needed moment of silence as Gaga later on the Disc, as she digs deep and gives us a truly affecting moment. Fans of Power Ballad Speechless from The Fame Monster – which she has performed famously with a flaming piano on-tour – will delight in this Track, a cut from that same gritty cloth. Gaga sings to God: “I’ll keep searching for an answer because I need you more than Dope.”.
Artpop certainly isn’t the Voice of my Generation, nor is it in my opinion the Album of the Millennium. Nonetheless, Gaga‘s true Monsters ardently will eat this in binge-esque quantities. My only hope is that the members of the Public who admire her from afar aren’t too alienated from wanting to give her another chance.
Universal Music Canada releases Artpop on Monday, November 11, 2013. Download it here.