ARTPOP, the fourth album from Lady Gaga, embodies all that is laudable and disappointing about her. It is refreshing to hear mainstream pop music that has messages; and Gaga has no shortage of them. From criticizing the image of perfect material beauty in “Donatella” to trashing sex-focused men on “Swine” this Lady is certainly not afraid to engage in musical fisticuffs.
The music behind Gaga’s messages is just as dynamic, colorful, and, at times, as jarring as ever. As she sings on the title track “My ARTPOP could be anything.” While certainly inviting criticism and mocking, this appears to be the defining philosophy of the LP. Gaga is not afraid of bringing in anything, musically or lyrically, to this “pop” record. “MANiCURE” features ripping, headbang-worthy guitar licks and solos and the beats on “Sexxx Dreams” and “Do What You Want (feat. R. Kelly)” make Gaga sound a bit like the last Nine Inch Nails album.
The EDM production on ARTPOP is some of the most dance floor-worthy, well-constructed stuff Gaga has had to work with. Penultimate song “Gypsy” brings supremely colorful and anthemic electronic orchestration. When the first chorus explodes, it will be hard to contain oneself from wanting to just burst onto the dance floor and start a riot. On “Dope” she is at her most raw and personal. From allusions to Derek and the Dominoes and Led Zeppelin to the strain on her voice, Gaga shows real scars here.
While praiseworthy, “Dope” also kicks open the door to the other side: how Gaga disappoints. The chorus of “Dope” is the repetition of “I need you more than dope” – great to hear, but just poor songwriting and kind of laughable as a serious statement. Gaga gets a little too imitative at times as well. On the gender-bending “G.U.Y.” she does a “Love Game”-replica spoken word bit, and the title track is too Madonna-y to be coincidence. Gaga also overextends herself at times, trying to bring everything under the ARTPOP umbrella. “Jewels N’ Drugs (feat. TI, Too Short, and twista)” is just bad mainstream hip-hop, with boring beats and nonsensical rapper appearances. Leading off with “Aura” is a poor choice as well: the disjointed and jarring beats and instrumentation make one more inclined to put the record down than keep listening.
Lady Gaga overextends herself at times on ARTPOP, but still makes an overall good record. Gaga might “live for the Applause,” but she also lives for the art.
Key Tracks: “G.U.Y.” “MANiCURE” and “Gypsy”
Originally Published on The Rotation, WGTB Georgetown Radio's Music Blog, on 11/18/13