Lady Gaga – ARTPOP (Interscope)
As Lady Gaga’s relevance is questioned, Harley Cassidy reviews her fourth studio album – ARTPOP – and tries to unveil the woman behind the meat dress.
Once regarded as a boundary-pushing liberal force, some see Lady Gaga struggling to keep a foothold in the constantly shifting terrain of pop music. With many artists using the cheap trick that is the shock-factor, it’s times like this when any self-developed artist from pre-2010 needs some pretty good songs to stand as the backbone of an album alongside the charade. Sadly, this is where Lady Gaga flounders.
I believe we should cherish pop singers just as much as the big, stadium-filling rock bands. They get some serious flack from highbrow music types who believe that to be a “true artist” you have to have a guitar slung over your back and put doleful pen to paper. But let’s face it without the Michael Jacksons and Madonnas the industry would be a boring place. I seriously believe Lady Gaga could and will be an artist who will be looked back on with awe and pre-eminence. I stick up for her any chance I get. I even defended that egg thing she rocked up in for the Grammy’s for Christ’s sake. So after listening to ARTPOP I feel a little bit hurt – and betrayed.
I wish I could explain the feelings I get when I listen to ARTPOP. But the problem is, I don’t have any. The majority of ARTPOP seems vapid and transparent – almost computer-like in form. Watching her live performances on X Factor or the iTunes festival, Gaga’s voice is a machine taking on rock-like credentials before dropping to a beautifully controlled harmonised flutter. So why the hell doesn’t this transfer to record?
Sexxx Dreams is a perfect example. Her iTunes performance set it out to be a certain hit with a sinister bridge leaping into an animalistic chorus. On record, though it comes across as a soulless albeit brilliant song. And yes, there are some brilliant songs on ARTPOP. Do What U Want is a supposed slam at the press in which she retains her soul and mind and disregards her body as a shell, declaring, “do what you want with my body”. Pretty deep, right? Aura is a baffling saucepot of spices, a mariachi-flavoured stomper with an electro aftertaste in which Gaga asks her audience, “do you want to see behind the aura?”. It’s classic bonkers pop music from the Lady herself.
I don’t know whether I’m being stupid listening to the album and just can’t grasp the hidden meaning, ’cause there always has to be a hidden meaning – they’re cool and secretly give artists an excuse to vindicate a straight up, basic pop song. Or maybe I’m over-thinking everything and Lady Gaga just wants to take the piss and have fun and write lyrics like “Aphrodite lady seashell bikini”. ARTPOP is a pendulum that swings between the two – I see the pop but where is the art? I’m pretty sure art isn’t naming a song Mary Jane Holland.
Secretly I want someone to take me by the hand and dissect the album, tell me where I’m going wrong. After a few more listens, ARTPOP will be the fun, uplifting listen that I knew on Fame Monster and Born This Way. But whilst those two albums stimulated me upon first listen, I can’t say the same about Gaga’s fourth offering.
However, as long as she has her Little Monsters behind her and a cunning businesswoman approach, Lady Gaga will hopefully continue to sustain a healthy, interesting relationship in the music industry. And I guess I’ll be there with her, claw raised and all.