Only Lady Gaga can record an album inspired by Greek and Roman mythology, Orwellian ideals, feminism, sex, and substance abuse, roll it all together and put out what is arguably one of the 2013’s very best albums of the year. Artpop is more than just a dance album; it is a pop music masterpiece with some of the very best work of Lady Gaga’s career. For anyone who believes pop is dead, it’s cookie-cutter music at best needs to sit in a room and really listen to the songwriting genius that is captured on Artpop.
Though it’s hardly flawless by any means, Artpop is onto something here with a rich eclectic mix of industrial, Hip-Hop, techno, trance, electronica . . . a great departure from Gaga’s more rock influenced Born This Way. Track by track the musical styles do go all over the place, going from the very industrial sounding opener “Aura” to the spacey follow-up “Venus.” Both tracks will not only grab you but you’ll be completely blown away by their lyrics. From “Do you wanna see me naked, lover? Do you wanna peek underneath the cover? Do you wanna see the girl who lives behind the Aura,” to “When you touch me I die, just a little inside. I wonder if this could be love, this could be love. ‘Cuz you’re out of the world, galaxy space and time. I wonder if this could be love. Venus,” this is just the beginning of an incredible musical ride on Artpop.
The sexy fun, funky “Sexxx Dreams” is Gaga simply having fun but also not being ashamed to admit what she does under the covers when she sings, “When I lay in bed I touch myself and thinka you. Last night, damn. You were in my sex dreams. Doin’ really nasty things.” One of the few times Gaga really rocks out is on “Manicure,” a cool fast moving track where Gaga chants to the masses, “Can you feel it, can you feel it, can you feel it. I’m addicted to the love that you garner. MANICURE!” sung over a sweet sounding screeching guitar lick. This leads perfectly to the R. Kelly duet “Do What U Want,” with Kelly taking the lead vocals and never sounding better. His smooth R&B voice mixes nicely with Gaga’s throaty, passionate verse, “I would fall apart if you break my heart, so just take my body and don’t stop the party.”
Ironically, one of the weaker tracks is the title song “Artpop” which brings the album to a halt midway. Her Hip-Hop foray with TI on “Jewels N’ Drugs” not only does not work on the album but it’s more of a showcase for TI with Gaga making the cameo. Unlike “Do What U Want” which is more collaborative, “Jewels N Drugs” simply feels like a stunt, more appropriate for a Hip-Hop album where Gaga is making the special appearance than the other way around.
“Swine” is a spacey rock tune that’s more on the experimental side that gets some getting used to but once those EDM-influenced beats take hold you’ll begin to really feel and get into it. “Gypsy,” no matter how many times you hear it on radio still strikes an optimistic chord with it’s anthemic , “Edge Of Glory”-style musical arrangement. Of course one of the stronger numbers is the closing single “Applause” which is simply pop music at its best. With its funk, pop, dance and techno influences, “Applause” is Gaga’s look at the world of pop culture and its triggering influence on the world which Gaga, who is pop culture these days, can certainly make that comment with such profoundness. “One second I’m a Koons, then suddenly the Koons is me. Pop culture was in art, now art’s in pop culture in me. I live for the applause, applause, applause. I live for the applause-plause. Live for the applause-plause. Live for the way that you cheer and scream for me. The applause, applause, applause. Give me that thing that I love (I’ll turn the lights on). Put your hands up, make ’em touch, touch (make it real loud). Give me that thing that I love (I’ll turn the lights on). Put your hands up, make ’em touch, touch (make it real loud).”
Musically, Lady Gaga is at her best here. While my fellow reviewers are mixed on the outcome, Artpop is surely one of those albums when revisited in the future popular opinion will change. Artpop is a turning point in pop, a musical celebration and an album that shows the maturity of an artist at her peak.
Author: Rob Perez
Rob Perez is a freelance writer who has been with The Music Universe early on. As a Correspondent for The Music Universe, you will find him writing reviews and live tweeting awards shows.