Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The lack of Art in Lady Gaga's "ArtPop"

I will be honest, I once was a proud "Monster". When Lady Gaga, the reigning queen of bizarre publicity stunts and awkward musical choices debuted onto the scene, I was sold in an instance. She had all the wacky clothes, great vocals, and catchy tunes to make her a hit among classic pop fanatics. She showed influences from the grand daddies and mommies of the 70s and 80s, with some 90s thrown in. She was curvy, full of fun and didn't take herself too seriously.

But slowly since the release of The Fame in 2008, Gaga has become the exact polar opposite of all those things and in fact a joke of her former self - to the point where even her album covers ( as seen above) seem like a parody.

With her latest release, the vain inspired ArtPop, Gaga tries to recreate the success she had with her past releases, but unfortunately fizzles to the newest lows with forced "fierceness" and an overabundance of repetitive "tricks" from her previous work. Think all the greatness of tracks like "Paparazzi" and "Dance in the Dark", rip out all the energy and fun and fill it instead with pathetic attempts at relevance, and you haven't even begun to scrape the surface of the mess that is ArtPop.

The album begins with the track known as "Aura". What should be a melodic introduction to the musical journey we are about to take with our meat wearing pop gal, but is instead a treasure trove of the worst noises known to man. When listening, the phrase "ear vomit" comes to mind. 

As it progresses, "Aura" becomes a message of discovery, repeatedly asking the question "Do you want to see the girl behind the aura?" Now with hearing this question you would think this album would be Gaga's most personal. Are we gonna find out about the REAL Lady Gaga? Will we find out who she is under those crazy performance art outfits? Unfortunately the answer is no. 

Later on in the title track of the album she states, "My artpop..." (a.k.a the purposes of this album) "... could mean anything" So Gaga basically is saying that the message in "Aura", asking us if we want to know the real her in this album, probably won't happen since these songs could mean anything - including not being honest. The result: this album seems incredibly redundant, along with being reductive as Madonna would say

An equally horrendous track, that sadly seemed to have promise at first, is "Do What U Want" featuring the ever equally bizarre R. Kelly. In a lot of ways this could be the companion sequel song to Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" - but instead of the women's rights approach it could have taken, "Do What U Want" sounds more like an anthem to Stockholm Syndrome than one promoting sexual liberation: 

"Sometimes I'm scared I suppose
If you ever let me go
I would fall apart
If you break my heart
So just take my body
And don't stop the party."

Followed up by tracks like "Fashion!", which is basically a rinse and repeat message of a song with that same exact title from her B-Side collection, and "Donatella", another song about owning designer products and being important, all lacks the wit and charm Gaga once had when describing the price of fame. Instead of speaking of it's emotional value, now her focus is on its literal worth and the sex that apparently comes with it. 

But the album does have some saving graces. "Applause" is one of Gaga's weakest singles (along with worst videos), but still is catchy beyond most other releases of this year and has a fantastic melody when listened to instrumentally. "Dope" could be the best song on the album.... if its chorus wasn't so dumbed down. But it at least gives a shred of hope that the Billy Joel inspired tracks similar to "U and I" and "Speechless", which happen to be my favorite side musically of Gaga, still exist in her over produced being. 

And that one song, that one sound, speaks levels to why ArtPop is in many respects a failure. The Lady Gaga I fell for initially was a no-nonsense, pop culture respecting artist that didn't take crap from critics and got attention because she had talent - not just musically but being an overall artist. Now she's become a "Monster" like version of her younger self, whose influenced too much by the attention she has garnered and is asking the world to respect her in the way they did with her idols musically (MJ, Bowie, Madonna, etc.) But the problem is none of those artists asked for respect upfront - they got it when it was deserved.

ArtPop only deserves one thing: to be known as a textbook example of what could go wrong with your third album. And apparently Gaga's now ex-manager, Troy Carter, agrees.

Score: 4.9 out of 10


Otakitty said...

I was wondering about this album. Her first is still my favorite, but as you say in your review it's as if she's progressively trying too hard to the point where it's not fun and its all forced and fake.



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