Every once in a while, I decide to be a music critic. I’m not very good at it, but I give it my best shot. Last weekend, I managed to acquire a copy of Lady Gaga’s album “ARTPOP” (ugh, why all CAPS?), due out November 12, 2013. I was a huge Gaga fan after her first album, so I’ll always be curious to hear her new music as soon as possible. However, I’ve had a bit of Gaga fatigue over the past year. The more someone believes their own hype, the more unappealing they get to me. Unless I really like the stuff they put out (reluctant side-eye to Kanye), I find it harder to forgive ridiculous antics and bold self-proclamations.
Lady Gaga can write a great pop song. See: “Just Dance,” “Pokerface,” “Bad Romance,” “Edge of Glory.” Those are great pop songs with fantastic pop melodies. ARTPOP has so much potential, but the “art” overtakes the “pop” so much so that it’s almost as though someone takes a perfectly fine painting and decides to refinish it so that all of the delicate intricacies that made it so special are now lost underneath an overbearing mess. At the end of they day, ARTPOP is just another over-saturated pop album by someone who thinks genius has to be complicated when sometimes the best thing to do is to keep it simple, stupid. Much of the album is overproduced, overindulged, and some of the songs even start to sound the same. So many of the songs have some really great moments within them and you can’t help but wish, man, if only she’d gone this way instead of that way.
The best part of some of Lady Gaga’s best songs were that beneath a good pop hook, they took us on a journey with her. With “Just Dance,” we got the story of a fun night out at the club. With “Bad Romance,” we followed the tale of an unhealthy love story. “Paparazzi” warned us about the perils of chasing fame. None of the songs on here really take us on any similar treks with her. They’re all pretty vapid when you get down to it. To me, that’s not what makes a groundbreaking record. We were promised a life-changing “album of the millennium.” Try again, Gaga. Jagged Little Pill was life-changing, ARTPOP is not. And, for the record, I REALLY wanted it to be.
- Do What U Want
After the jump, I said a little bit about each track. If you want to read more, go for it. I’d really like to hear what everyone else has to say about ARTPOP after listening to it.
Overall grade: B.
- “Aura” – Solid pop song filled with things that Lady Gaga does right. Good beat, melody, pop hook, etc. Wish more of them were like this track, though it’s overproduced at times.
- “Venus” – First of several sexually suggestive songs, though this one isn’t too bad at all. I actually really like it and wouldn’t change the station if I heard it on the radio. Does it have any tinges of Lady Gaga-exposition? It sure does, but it’s catchy and I didn’t want to skip to the end of it while listening to it.
- “G.U.Y.” – Spoiler alert: G.U.Y. stands for “Girl Under You” and if you don’t get it by the end of the first verse, then don’t worry, Gaga will literally say it over and over and over again for the rest of the song! I *think* she’s trying to maybe make this her own “PYT”? That being said, it’s not a bad song at all. It’s a quite fun pop song if you can get past the lyrics “Love me, love me, please retweet.” Yes, that’s a line. After hearing the first three songs of the album, I was encouraged to keep going.
- “Sexxx Dreams” – This song reminds me of a mid-90’s song. I’m automatically prejudice against any song that’s stupid enough to purposely misspell words, use “R” instead of “are” (etc.), or use hashtags in a completely unironic way. I think she tries too hard to be dirty (oooohh “Dirrty” is the one exception to the list above, as I LOVE it still to this day) on the album. Is she trying to be Janet Jackson this time? Essentially, “Sexxx Dreams” is just a weaker, continuation of “G.U.Y.” that we don’t really need to get the point that Lady Gaga likes to be sexual.
- “Jewels N’ Drugs” – I don’t quite get it, but I like it. I like that this track sounds different from every other song. In a world where you can’t NOT have a hip-hop version of or collaboration on one of your songs, Lady Gaga was overdue for a hip-hop song anyway. It sounds like the urban version of “Beautiful Dirty Rich” from The Fame, only after the subject of the song has gotten very, very messy. Like the beat, not on my “Skip” list yet, but I feel it could be better.
- “MANiCURE” – MANiCURE or “man cured” as the chorus goes is another song on here I don’t get. I mean, I get the premise of the song and it has a super fun beat, but I think the lyrics are dumb. I don’t hate it, but it’s not exactly a great song. It doesn’t belong on an album promised to break ground and change our loves.
- “Do What U Want” – Another “omg edgy sexual yet empowered” song! We get it, Gaga. It’s just not exciting. Also, she couldn’t find anyone better to work with than R. Kelly? Meh.
- “Artpop” – Like the lyrics, bored by the song.
- “Swine” – I don’t know who “Swine” is supposed to be about, but I like to imagine the subject is Perez Hilton and that automatically makes me smile and like it. It’s a harsher song, but a much needed mid-album pick-me-up. Really enjoy it.
- “Donatella” – Meh. Why are we glorifying Donatella Versace again? Or are we talking about Maya Rudolph’s Donatella Versace? Because that I could totally get behind. It’s a fun one-listen track, bu feels like another throwaway song.
- “Fashion!” – Has it’s moments, but sounds like “Donatella Part 2” and never quite realizes itself as a good song. It’s another superficial song, but unlike some of the songs like this on The Fame, it’s just not fun or a guilty pleasure.
- “Mary Jane Holland” – Soooo is this song about doing marijuana in Amsterdam? I have to lump this in with the previous two. It sounds similar to “Fashion!” and although it has its moments, – it really does – it never quite gets where it’s supposed to go. Worth noting are the following lyrics, which make me wonder about the rehab rumors: “I know that Mom and Dad think I’m a mess/But it’s alright/Because I am rich as piss.”
- “Dope” – It takes 13 songs before we get a Lady Gaga power piano ballad. It’s nowhere near as good as good as my favorite Lady Gaga song, “Speechless,” but it’s got some chops. I wish she’d do more acoustic, stripped down, vocal-heavy songs like this, only with less cheesy lines than “I need you more than dope.”
- “Gypsy” – FINALLY! This is the type of song that I was waiting for the entire album. It’s got that same rock-pop vibe as “Edge of Glory” and at times sounds like it could be something that Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel would have written if they were a female singer in 2013. I really wish that more of this album had been like this song.
- “Applause” – We’ve all heard “Applause.” I actually really like it and always have, even though I think Katy Perry’s “Roar” was a better pop single.