Lady GaGa’s latest effort, ARTPOP, has been highly anticipated since it was first announced, following her critically acclaimed career.
Although is wasn’t as hyped up as her previous LP, Born This Way, her 40 million Twitter followers and 60 million Facebook fans — who, if you use social media you know, are insanely passionate about promoting their idol — have been promoting and awaiting the album since the title was announced August 12, 2012. After hearing the two singles Applause and Do What U Want, and the three promotional singles Aura, Venus, and Dope, I was split on whether the album would be just as great as her other albums in her discography, or fall short of the high standards she has set for herself.
The album opener, Aura, is a heavily EDM-based pop track. She uses the song to write and sing about the repression of not only cultures but Hollywood. The verses are the highlight of the song, with controversial yet insightful lyrics. Venus, the GaGa herself-produced song, unfortunately is one of the weakest links on ARTPOP. Although the beat is fun, the lyrics barely make sense. I understand she is using Greek myths and planets, but the way she writes about them just doesn’t end well for the song. The chorus is the best part of the song — not only does it make perfect sense, but it sounds great too. Track three, G.U.Y., is hands down the best song on the album. Zedd produced several songs on the album, but his best work is on this song (which is probably why she gives him a clever shoutout at the end of the song). The album is full of magnificent pop songs its audience will eat up, but G.U.Y. stands out from the rest. It is the catchiest song on the album and the feminist message pushes the envelope but in a tasteful manner (tasteful for the industry anyway). I knew it would be the best song when I heard the twelve second snippet, and the remaining 3:40 did not disappoint. G.U.Y. is the dance track of 2013.
Sexxx Dreams is an above average song, but nothing special in the writing department. The subject matter of the lyrics leaves a bad taste in my mouth and that’s about the only thing that puts me off. Usually GaGa presents a good message in her songs, but with the lyrics: “In love as I am when I lay with you / I think of him, I think of him,” all I can think is, “Great, a song about cheating emotionally.” Despite the lyrics, the music other than the vocals aren’t the best, anyway. When she talks in the song, though, it is humanising and endearing. During the verses her voice comes off as seductive, with the deep whispers sounding like Paris Hilton (yes, that’s a good thing). The verses and the prechorus are the best parts, musically. Then comes track five, dreadful track five, Jewels N’ Drugs. This is the worst song Lady GaGa has ever made. She announced on Twitter that it is her favourite song off the album, but she must be joking. The rappers spout horrible vulgar lyrics, and even GaGa’s part is less than mediocre. Jewels N’ Drugs is a song I will almost always skip over. GaGa herself is hardly even in it. Twista’s part is amusing though, I will give it that. The fact her can fit rapping 134 words in a mere thirty seconds is remarkable. I mean, it sounds awful, but it’s amazing. The next track redeems the album for what it is so far, after three out of the first five tracks being unsatisfactory. MANiCURE is a rock song, which is also the only rock song she has released. It is another standout track, with lyrics about dressing yourself up to love yourself and receive love as well. It’s a nicely composed track.
The R Kelly featured second single, Do What U Want, may have broken a record, but it is one of my least favourites on the record. Despite my knowing the meaning of the lyrics, I find it hard to get behind a song that — on the surface — only talks about sex, drugs, and alcohol (à la Miley Cyrus’ We Can’t Stop). The chorus is the highlight with the lyrics being well thought out, featuring the better media metaphors of the song. ARTPOP is the worst title track of GaGa’s discography. It is the definition of a mediocre song. The prechorus is the only memorable part. The next song, Swine, is the ultimate EDM track perfect for clubbing. The beats beg to be played at volumes too loud for comfort at blinding light-filled raves. The chorus has a noticeable Lana Del Rey sound in the vocals. If you’re furious with someone, it would probably help to blast Swine rather than call them a swine. Despite the animal lover I am and my disapproval of her (and my pet peeve when anyone else does it) comparing my second favourite animal to the scummiest people on Earth, this song is a strong dance tune and definitely one of the great tracks of ARTPOP.
Track ten, Donatella, discusses the elitist lifestyle of fashion designer Donatella Versace and her models. It represents its pros and cons, from being fab, blonde, skinny, rich, and a little bit of a b*tch (can I get away with listing that as a pro?) to only eating a salad before walking down the runway. Donatella is the Black Jesus † Amen Fashion of ARTPOP, but an emulation rather than a counterpart. It makes you feel famous in the way The Fame did. Fashion! is unique in that GaGa’s voice at times sounds like it would be better suited for a jazz track. Fortunately, that will be happening soon. Unfortunately, that’s the best comment I have to make on the song. Other than that the will.i.am produced song is a bland Donatella. Mary Jane Holland gets an easy approval from me with instruments in the chorus that make it pretty similar to G.U.Y.‘s chorus. The song has equally bad girl lyrics. It is less catchy but still an upstanding pop song. The verses are the most intriguing part.
Dope is the beautiful ballad of the album. Everyone seems to be doing ballads lately — The Killers, Katy Perry, Britney Spears. I love ballads, and this is no exception. Again, her Lana Del Rey sounding vocals surface, this time for the entire song. GaGa is known for making each song sound unique by magically changing her voice, and this is a huge change. I was shocked upon my first listen. The only actual problem I have with it is the part of the chorus that makes the title. The song would have been better left as I Wanna Be With You, because it’s so hard to take a song with the lyric “I need you more than dope” seriously. Luckily for her and her fans, the rest of the song is beautifully written, which is enough to overlook the strange drug reference. Gypsy is the second best song on the album, only sitting behind G.U.Y.. Not sitting, really, but dancing. The Madeon produced Gypsy is a power-ballad-turned-EDM track. The song starts soft with force, but once it hits the chorus for the first time, it’s kicking and screaming and it doesn’t stop until the song ends. The lead single wraps the album. Applause has rocky beats and a deep, raspy-voiced GaGa to change things up. It works well as a theme song for herself, the fan-adoring, fame-loving superstar who gracefully and humbly accepts her applause. Applause is a great first single and the perfect way to end an album on a good note.
At first I was worried I wouldn’t like ARTPOP very much. Fortunately, when GaGa released a couple mediocre songs as singles and promotional singles, she left the true treasures for the album. The album deals heavily with sex, drugs, money, fashion, and more sex. That can end up a mess, or if you have the songwriting skills of Lady GaGa, you can pull it off. On a few tracks she went off course and didn’t write to her full capabilities, but on the second half of the album, with the exception of Fashion!, she rediscovers her intelligent songwriting talent. ARTPOP is the pop album for dancing to of 2013.
Songs to buy: Aura, G.U.Y., MANiCURE, Swine, Donatella, Mary Jane Holland, Dope, Gypsy, Applause
Songs to skip: Jewels N’ Drugs