TDP Review: ‘ARTPOP’ by Lady Gaga (Mother Monster)

 9304188125_e9fc8f7b03On August 19th of this year, Lady Gaga released the single, “Applause,” a track from her much anticipated third album, ARTPOP. After being trumped by the likes of Katy Perry’s rave new song, “Roar,” many were critical of the possible success of the upcoming album. Some were quick to attribute Gaga’s predetermined “flop” to a feud with her manager, Troy Carter, over the creative path of the album, which eventually led to Carter’s dismissal. On November 11th, however, ARTPOP, to my complete satisfaction, gave Lady Gaga her third No. 1 album. The album, although reaching and sustaining No.1 on the Billboard 200, has been trashed consistently by critics. As an unjaded listener and fan, I am here to tell you that they are wrong. Lady Gaga is a genius.

          In the critics’ defense, ARTPOP is one weird album and an even weirder mix of songs, but it is appropriate for what we culturally consider and mandate as pop today. ARTPOP is what Gaga promised: an abstract pop album. After listening to all of the 15 songs, experiencing the journey from pop to R&B to disco to techno, and enjoying its bizarre mix of random one-liners, I promise this album, regardless of your love or hate for it, will leave you saying “O-M-G!”. Even for listeners who are not pop enthusiasts, ARTPOP is well worth a listen – provided that you are willing to look past the crude, accept the crazy, and find the message.

The first song, “Aura,” opens the album perfectly, melding together electronica and banjo music, transforming it into an instant club classic. Also, when Gaga randomly screams “Do you want to see me naked, lover?” at the halfway point, you can’t help but answer with a resounding “yes”; just like in “Venus” and “G.U.Y” when she poses similarly interesting and crude questions.

          While the first few songs on the album are traditional Gaga, “Jewels & Drugs,” is a deviation from her standard catchy dance hits. The song is completely an artistic risk, and one that pays off, as it is possibly the most finished song on the album. Featuring TI, Too $hort and Twista, “Jewels N’ Drugs” is Gaga’s first collaboration with a hip-hop artist since 2008. Another collab, “Do What U Want,” featuring R. Kelly, is an electronic atmospheric piece that benefits from the smooth singing of its pop-R&B style. This track, hailed by some critics as one of the album’s stronger moments because of its stripped down authenticity, in my opinion is primarily a filler song that strays way too far from the Gaga aesthetic.

           She finds her way back to the style her fans expect in “Sexxx Dreams,” which – as the title suggests – will never be a family-friendly favorite, but it is one of the album’s absolute high points. With a mixed vibe of Marilyn Monroe, Rihanna and of course Gaga, “Sexxx Dreams” is a jewel in ARTPOP’s crown. The lyrics, in which Gaga is trying to seduce an unavailable potential lover by telling of a fairly explicit dream-  “last night/you were in my sexxx dreams/doing really nasty things” –  are initially somewhat disturbing. Then, just when it all starts to get a bit too ridiculous, she does the unthinkable and acknowledges her erratic behavior – “I can’t believe I’m telling you this but I’ve had a couple drinks and…oh my god.” Comically, Gaga giggles near the end of the song. The track strongly resembles Lady Gaga’s “LoveGame” through its constantly changing tempo and awesomeness…and, of course, the inappropriate nature of its subtext.

           After “Jewels and Drugs” and “Sexxx Dreams,” ARTPOP receives a pure pop “pick-me-up” in the form of “MANiCURE,” a song with no introduction and no build-up as it violently kicks straight into the climax with its thrilling rhythm and exotic chants. Unlike “Sexxx Dreams,” which presents a relatively more laid back side of Lady GaGa, “MANiCURE” accomplishes just the opposite. With “MANiCURE,” Gaga delivers a frantic, powerful, energetic and up-beat song. Frankly, “MANiCURE” is one of the songs that perfectly represents ARTPOP as a whole through its ability to show off what Lady GaGa’s artistic style is truly all about.

          Although Lady Gaga experiments a lot with the album, the familiar  Gaga style of some of the songs is very refreshing. As always, Gaga is a whiz at strong melodic and catchy lines, like the swooping hook in ”Gypsy” in which she leaves you hanging to suddenly burst into a fun shout-along chorus. The song even adds in some hidden game-like sounds and tones. The album also presents a sometimes critical, satirical attitude most evident  in the self-deprecating humor and slant rhyme used in a song about marijuana, “Mary Jane” – “I know that Mom and Dad think I’m a mess/But it’s alright because I am rich as piss.”

           Personally, my favorite song on ARTPOP is the one ballad on the album, “Dope.” The song is so honest and raw, while also presenting Gaga’s vocals stripped of any unneeded additives with the aid of only a piano. Sure, the song is about dope and makes obvious references to the struggles Gaga has had with substance abuse and her inability to retain a loved one, but the rich vibe and tone of the song takes the meaning to a new height of admiration. The best line of the song is easily “I’d rather be poor and happy than rich and alone.”

           “Swine” and “Donatella” stick out in the somewhat slower second half of the album for their pace. Both have a very distinct 80’s feel to them, with “Donatella” incorporating some slower parts to highlight Gaga’s strong vocals. Both have a sassy, audacious, and “fetch” vibe while also incorporating an energetic chorus. “Donatella” will definitely have you feeling like the most diva-licious kid on the block with its signature sounds, while “Swine” will instantly relieve any feelings of contempt you have for someone with lines like, “you’re just a pig inside a human body.” Finally, the album ends with the single where it started – “Applause,” which is quite appropriate because the album deserves just that. While staying true to her traditional music, Lady Gaga found a way to take risks and offer a few unexpected, yet fun songs in ARTPOP. “Music is art” – Mother Monster.

Note: The song below is one track from the ARTPOP album.  The song, “Gypsy,” was performed live at the AMPYA. And yes, Gaga is indeed sporting a fake mustache during the performance. Enjoy!

Rating: 4/5

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