Album review: Lady Gaga, Artpop

By Lydia Jenkin

2 comments
Album cover for Lady Gaga's Artpop.
Album cover for Lady Gaga's Artpop.

Gaga is more flamboyant, sexualised, and pulsating than ever, but whether you would actually want to listen to the 15 tracks that make up Artpop all in one go is debatable.

The mass of ideas, and density of throbbing layers can, initially, make it hard to hear either the pop hits, or the more innovative aspects of individual songs on her fourth album, but consuming it in more bite-sized pieces eventually allows some of them to filter through.

She's certainly turned up the 80s knob, without making any overt references - the synth selections and bass lines put you right back in a leotard-tastic aerobics video, though this one has raunchier moves. Gaga's also embraced the stadium-sized guitar riff and rather convincingly mixed some heavy rock cliches with her technicolour brand of dance music.

Though the album opens promisingly with Aura, all mariachi and Middle Eastern guitar motifs and toe-tapping, which wind you into a heady, warped world of cosmic lovers and burqas, Venus is a slightly grating mash-up of space and Greek gods, and it's hard to tell whether the gender-bending lyrics of G.U.Y (Girl Under You) are interesting or just confused.

On the other hand, despite its almost parody-esque lyrical content, Sexxx Dreams has a certain pop appeal with thick synth chords and overly funked-up bass. The weird hip hop-grime hybrid Jewels N' Drugs feels gimmicky though, even for Gaga.

In terms of potential hits, aside from solid first single Applause (which, unusually, arrives at the end of the album), MANiCURE feels likely to be the next party anthem with the aforementioned rock slant. It's actually a pleasure to hear her occasionally belting out the vocals with some guts. Do What U Want has a similarly earcatching quality, with its 80s R and B croon, and lays out a lyrical message that's ripe for dissection.

The repeated refrain "do what you want with my body", is offset by the context of her defiance at the world of celebrity, voyeurism, and gossip: "write what you want, say what you want about me ... you can't have my heart, and you won't use my mind ... you can't stop my voice 'cos you don't own my life". Gypsy, which appears second-to-last, also seems like a strong candidate for fan favourite, with its rousing chorus, "I don't wanna be alone forever, but I can be tonight" and its celebration of worldwide friends.

So she's still ruminating on the ups and downs of fame, self-confidence, self-perception, sex, fashion and even love, but whether she's melding the worlds of art and pop is hard to say - it really depends on your definitions and, musically speaking, the dance floor-fuelled beats rarely move beyond standard expectations.

As she says on the title track, "my artpop could mean anything", and there are so many layers of pop culture reference and social commentary to analyse on tracks like Donatella, Fashion!, and Mary Jane Holland, it's hard to know whether she's being too clever for her own good.

But despite the frequent difficulty in initially hearing anything beyond an explosion of pop fragments, there's plenty here for fans to sink their teeth into.

Stars: 3.5/5
Verdict: Explosion of ideas can make it hard to hear the art or pop.
Click here to buy Artpop by Lady Gaga.

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- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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