Likes: Do What You Want, Swine, Dope
Dislikes: Sex Dreams, Jewels & Drugs
Overall: Reminds me of the mindless “Fame” album; plain didn’t like it
My head hurts. Bearing in mind the great improvement I found Lady Gaga’s last album “Born This Way” to be from her glossy and shallow debut, “The Fame,” I assumed the new “ARTPOP” would be next-level and further my transformation into a sideline ‘little monster’ (as Gaga calls her fans). That didn’t happen. I’m terribly disappointed. My ears interpreted “ARTPOP” as an attempted middle-ground marriage between the2 above-mentioned records and if that’s accurate, the problem is that there was too much “Fame” and not enough “Born This Way.” Gaga gives “Born” in her lyrical conceptualization as there are strong topical and metaphorical themes of the interconnections between celebrity, sex and infatuation using Greek mythology and astrology (among other things). How this premise is implemented is where things get weak and “Fame-like.” The first leg of the album is so sexually hedonistic without any other enriching or stimulating story elements. I could be blind to the bigger picture, but with the exception of some lines, the only message I’m getting is “Let’s give into to our lust (and maybe we’ll fall in love)?” All these metaphors, and yet, everything feels so airheaded. Even Gaga’s statements on her own music and how she’s perceived and treated (ex. “Aura,” “ARTPOP” & “Applause”) seem surface and abbreviated. Ironically, “Do What You Want” ft. R. Kelly is the most frank and telling.
Musically, Gaga kept with the spirit of shadowed, sharp, pulsating, noisy and theatrical (still lots of synths and effects) with 80’s inspirations; it depends on personal taste whether that’s a positive or negative. I loved the floaty, 80’s pop deliciousness groove of “Fashion!” and hated the trap hip-hop of “Jewels & Drugs.” First Miley Cyrus, then Katy Perry and now Gaga have trap beats on their records. What the hell? If trap is the next mainstream wave after techno, I’m going to lose it. I dislike trap for the same reason I’m unmoved by techno; to me, it’s too repetitive and simplistic and lacks instrumental quality. I’m sorry, but nothing beats the feel of drums, piano and/or strings, even if they aren’t live, which brings me to my next point about “ARTPOP.” While I don’t mind Gaga’s usual style of musical production, I think it does a disservice to her vocal abilities. Gaga has a rich tone that she exaggerates and manipulates in entertaining and fascinating ways; it’s as if she creates characters for each of her songs (ex. how she sings the 1st verse of “Applause”). It’s not impossible, but it can be hard to show evidence of the texture, colors and range of your voice on riotous up-tempos, which is why I quite enjoy Gaga when she sits down for tracks like “Dope.” “ARTPOP” has been promoted as an especially artistic, elevating work, but I am underwhelmed. It’s catchy, but the lyrical façade of depth kind of insults my intelligence. “ARTPOP” is pretending. Either that, or I’m just too dull of a crayon to “get it.” Anything’s possible *Kanye shrug.*