There’s been so much said and written about Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP before its release that you feel like the album has been judged and mostly written-off by most people already. Indeed the marketing campaign around the release has been somewhat frantic with new songs being fired left, right and centre making it difficult to understand what you should be focusing on and when. Lady Gaga has climbed the fickle ladder of fame and she’s certainly getting the backlash it would appear as she finally prepares to release ARTPOP. Her eccentric behaviour is now labelled ‘attention-seeking’ by press and her declarations that ARTPOP will change the face of music seem to be a bit way off the mark. What is ARTPOP actually like?
In order to properly critique ARTPOP you have to put everything around the album to one side. Forget the bonkers iTunes Festival performance, ignore the complaints about her recent X Factor performance, and put aside her supposed rivalry with every female artist ever (according to the press). Before ARTPOP is released on Monday we’ve already heard 10 of the 15 tracks through one means or another. Of the many things Gaga has said about the album, the one thing that sticks in our mind is Gaga’s insistence that ARTPOP works best when listened to as a whole. You know what she might just be right.
After the disappointment of Born This Way which was a very patchy album off the back of the incredible The Fame/The Fame Monster, ARTPOP lies somewhere inbetween the two. As a body of work it makes for a rather cohesive listening experience with a couple of mis-steps along the way. Certainly on the whole it’s more hit than miss and is free for the most part of the filler that clogged up Born This Way. As we’ve come to expect from Gaga, ARTPOP is pretty bonkers in places and certainly isn’t ‘safe pop’ by any stretch of the imagination. Opening with Aura, one of the most sonically peculiar songs on the album, you know from the off that you’re not about to listen to just any bog standard pop album.
Singles Do What U Want featuring R Kelly, Applause and Venus make more sense in the context of the overall album. Do What U Want in particular is a real grower and a much better track than we initially thought. There are much better tracks than all of these on the record though which could have been stronger singles. G.U.Y. is reminiscent of classic Gaga and a pure pop pleasure whilst the R&B rhythms of Sexxx Dreams are a joyous guilty pleasure. Title track ARTPOP is an electro-pop fest that gets better the more times you listen to it.
On the bizarre side of the spectrum the rocky MANiCURE shows a different side to Gaga whilst Swine is possibly one of the oddest songs Gaga has ever committed to record. On Swine she growls her way through the lyrics whilst shouting ‘you’re just a pig inside a human body’ but sonically the song is pretty adventurous and just about falls on the right side of kooky.
Our favourite moments oddly come on the more straightforward pop moments Donatella and Fashion! The former is clearly an ode to the great Donatella Versace with squelchy beats and a strong chorus in its favour, whilst the latter is just a pure pop joy that sounds a little Scandi-pop and we love it.
Whilst Gaga may think she can do pretty much anything, there’s a couple of moments on the album that prove otherwise. Jewels N Drugs featuring T.I., Too Short and Twista simply doesn’t work and hip-hop/trap isn’t a sound that Gaga can pull off whilst Mary Jane Holland is a plodding track that doesn’t seem to actually go anywhere. Similarly the acoustic-driven Gypsy isn’t a song we’re likely to revisit all that often.
ARTPOP for the most part is a bold, adventurous and bonkers album. It captures all of Gaga’s eccentricity and pushes her sound. We could have done with fewer than 15 tracks but we don’t think anyone is likely to tell Gaga what she can or can’t do at this stage in her career. Whilst the critics already have their knives out for Gaga, we’re glad she’s back and pushing the boundaries of pop music. Is ARTPOP perfect? No it’s not but it’s the most adventurous album we’ve heard in pop this year.