Lady Gaga has undoubtedly been one of the most influential artists to hit the music scene in recent years. Grabbing attention with her show stopping outfits and creative music videos, she has also been one of the most flamboyant, with the ability to write perfect pop choruses in her sleep.
But how does Artpop fare in comparison to her first two massive albums?
Well, the first four tracks are brilliant. Opening with creepy metallic vocals before breaking into unhinged laughter, Aura is pure Gaga, with a dash of Daft Punk-tinged electronica thrown in and a punching, euphoric chorus.
Venus is a stomping space-agey tune with Beyoncé style chants – it’s pure sing-along pop. G.U.Y takes a tongue-in-cheek look at role reversal in the bedroom, over some more funky electronica, while Sexxx Dreams features stunning operatic vocals, some decidedly un-subtle lyrics and a trancey chorus to boot. This is what Gaga is meant to sound like – space-agey, slightly unhinged, hypersexual in a wry campy way, and stupidly catchy.
The middle section of Artpop is somewhat weaker, beginning with Jewels N’ Drugs, featuring rappers T.I., Too Short and Twista. Their presence alone means Gaga’s distinctive style is compromised somewhat, and it’s essentially a faceless hip hop track. Similarly Do What U Want, featuring R. Kelly, is R’n’B chart-lite that sounds a lot like Christina Aguilera.
Things pick up with the acerbic Swine, which sounds more like a remix of a Lady Gaga song, tantalisingly withholding the chorus, building up, breaking down, and generally being evasive of all the usual pop tropes. But in a good way.
One standout track is the David Bowie-inspired ‘Fashion!’, which is rather stunning, all sashaying funk and opulent vocals, as good as the original pop chameleon’s identically-titled track. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Gaga album without the obligatory ballad, and Dope is as it suggests, showing off Gagas amazing voice. She sounds cracked and broken, and yet powerful, a pulsing electronic underlay beneath the piano chords and soaring chorus.
Gypsy is a feel-good Springsteen drive-time romp, with a genuinely euphoric chorus in which Gaga claims she loves gypsy life. Though I find it hard to imagine how a caravan could hold all her outfits.
Surprisingly perhaps, underwhelming first single Applause makes sense within the context of this album as the final track. And it’s a grower. It’s no Bad Romance, but I was never a particular fan of that song anyway (sshh, don’t tell anyone).
Artpop is not as immediate as its predecessors. It’s more experimental and some songs take time to grow on you. Arguably it’s the weakest of her albums, but it’s still good enough in itself, perhaps because Gaga always seems to maintain a kernel of integrity which many pop stars lack. She’s Gaga, and she’ll do what she wants, whether you like it or not.
I have to applaud her for attempting something different within the context of commercial pop, although her big idea of art and pop coming together seems a little hollow on this album, which, bar a couple of obscure references, bears a far greater resemblance to pop than art. That’s beside the point – if you’re a Gaga fan, buy it and if not, this latest album probably isn’t going to change your mind.