Lady Gaga’s ‘ARTPOP’: Album Review

Nov 11th, 2013 // 19 Comments
Gaga's "Applause" Vid
lady gaga applause video
Watch the visual for Mother Monster's ARTPOP single. Read More »
Lady Gaga & R. Kelly
lady gaga do what u want single artwork
Hear their excellent R&B collab. Read More »
Lady Gaga's "Dope"
Hear the ARTPOP buzz track ballad. Read More »
Gaga On Madonna
lady gaga attitude magazine uk cover 2013 madonna
Lady Gaga talks Madge in Attitude. Read More »
In 2009, when “Just Dance” rose to the top of the singles chart, we desperately needed Lady Gaga. America hadn’t embraced a pop musician this brazen and flamboyant since Madonna (not to mention Boy George). Quite simply, the scrappy, self-made New Yorker with her dance-meets-glam-rock jams provided the perfect escapism for the recession-weary, music-loving public.

Just four years later, however, Gaga is a much different artist than the aspiring superstar who gave us the disco-pop of “Summerboy” and Bowie-as-Ziggy-Stardust pastiche “Brown Eyes” — tracks off The Fame that sound downright quaint compared to the jagged and spiky production on ARTPOP (out today, ).

Gaga’s third studio LP (sure, okay — let’s just go with the notion that the brilliant The Fame Monster is not a full album) states its case up front: If The Fame was about ambition and Born This Way was about acceptance (plus, you know, mermaids with green hair, government hookers and heavy metal lovers), ARTPOP’s opening number asks us if we’re ready to see “the girl behind the aura, behind the curtain.”

Lyrically, Gaga delivers on the insights. And, unsurprisingly, there’s not really much here that we haven’t heard from the singer’s predecessors in pop and rock over the years — tales of sex, love, drugs and Donatella. Melodically, though, with the exception of woefully out-of-place hip hop headscratcher “Jewels N’ Drugs,” ARTPOP is Mother Monster’s most cohesive work to-date. It’s here that she finally cements her “sound.”

Upon first listen — or even second — the employment of EDM throughout ARTPOP comes dangerously close to miring the whole thing down in a sloppy heap of overproduced mess. But you have to hand it to Gaga’s knack for savvy songwriting — those choruses chainsaw through the album’s flaws and rise like cream. “Aura,” “Venus,” “G.U.Y.” and “Sexxx Dreams” kick it all off like four relentless sucker punches to that part in the head where our craving for addictive pop is generated.

Said sex and drug references run amok on ARTPOP, as Gaga clearly tosses any hangups about being a “role model” for her younger Monsters out the window. “I lay in bed and touch myself and think of you,” she confesses on the not so subtle “Sexxx Dreams,” which, as mentioned, is one of the album’s standouts. Later, on the equally straightforward “Mary Jane Holland,” the singer declares, “When I ignite the flame and put you in my mouth, the grass eats up my insides and my brunette starts to sprout.” Not even the piano ballad “Dope” is without mention of intoxicating substances, as, of course, the title implies: “Been hurtin’ low from livin’ high for so long,” she laments, before offering, “Toast one last puff and two last regrets, three spirits and twelve lonely steps up heaven’s stairway to gold.”

The album’s centerpiece is “Do What U Want,” an unlikely duet with R. Kelly that succeeds in combining funk and ‘80s synth flourishes while still managing to sound timeless. With its harmonies and impeccable ad libs from both vocalists, the song is one of Gaga’s greatest compositions to date — one that also allows Robert Kelly the perfect vehicle for reminding us why he became one of R&B’s brightest stars two decades ago.

Quickly, back to “Jewels N’ Drugs”: WHAT THE HELL IS THIS DOING ON THE ALBUM? Okay, moving on…

While the first half of ARTPOP finds Lady Gaga driving through EDM territory, the record winds down with a bit of a throwback. “Mary Jane Holland” sounds like a first cousin of Born This Way’s “Heavy Metal lover.” Likewise, the upbeat, curiously sweet “Gypsy” is the twin sister of “The Edge Of Glory.” (It’s probably no coincidence, then, that “Gypsy” was co-written by longtime Gaga collaborator RedOne.) The album closes out with its lead single, “Applause” — a song that, let’s face it, plays like a retread of the best bits from 2009 chart topper “Poker Face.”

At this point, the innocence Gaga displayed on The Fame and The Fame Monster is clearly a thing of the past. ARTPOP‘s greatest achievement is showing us a more focused artist than the one behind previous, all-over-the-place effort Born This Way. She might not have nailed it 100% this time around, but now more than ever, Lady Gaga has found herself on the right track.

Pops Like: A bible for weekend nightcrawlers doubling as Paris runway music.

Possible Future Singles: “Gypsy” would be the safest choice here, but why not throw caution to the wind and select the randy “Sexxx Dreams”?

Idolator Score: 4/5

Robbie Daw

More on Gaga:

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  1. Kevin

    Flawless review. Flawless album. The end.

  2. Alesso

    This is not a good album and by no means cements her in the right direction of continuous pop stardom and creative development. This is an album made for the now. Forgettable. Do what U want is the best song. 2/5

    • Serial chiller

      No, PRISM is an album made for the now. It’s funny that you folks always assume EDM music as mainstream. You can say anything about ARTPOP: pretentious, overproduced, overthought, noisy, etc… but it’s by no means a typical bland album. It’s Gaga in all her messy glory her over the top shenanigans multiplied by ten. The reason why we dig it so much. It’s clearly her sound, her signature gagaloo concoction, not anybody else.

  3. Im Gonna need Sexxx Dreams or GUY to be a single…

  4. Greg

    This is a great review for this record. I don’t think it’s necessarily the direction i’d like to see Lady GaGa stay… but I do think it’s a perfect culmination of her previous albums. I also agree about the role model comments to an extent, but also disagree slightly too. The lyrics to ‘Dope’ almost warn against the uses of these substances. Gaga really laments the pain she’s caused to people she loves, and the harm she’s done to herself in those lyrics. Maybe she’s not the BEST role model per say, but I definitely think she cares so much about her fans and their lives… and that counts for something….

    pretty pleased with ARTPOP as an album.

  5. Rempo

    5/5 AMAZING ALBUM, IM ADDICTED! GYPSY IS THE BEST SONG!

  6. jamison

    love the album. gypsy will slay as next single. there really is no other option.

  7. i_want_pj

    g.u.y & sex dreams will slay

  8. too crackhead sounding for me. (the music not the review.) i cannot get into it :(

  9. Darwin

    I’ve deleted 3/4 of the album tracks. She oversings, it’s overproduced, and there’s no subtlety. When did she turn into Christina Aguilera?

    Artpop and Sexx Dreams are standouts… most of the rest hurts my ears and I can’t relate.

  10. Darwin

    I’ve deleted 3/4 of the album tracks. She oversings, it’s overproduced, and there’s no subtlety. When did she turn into Christina Aguilera?

    Artpop and Sexx Dreams are standouts… most of the rest hurts my ears and I can’t relate. STOP SCREAMING!!!!!!!!

  11. Lady GaGa is back with her brand new studio album ‘ARTPOP’.

    The collection of tracks kicks off in style with the unique ‘Aura’, combining Middle Eastern melodies with some attitude-laced vocals and a chorus like no other. Controversial, perhaps, but one heck of a song.

    ‘Venus’ and ‘G.U.Y.’ follow – unique and exciting tracks with great production value, and while they may not strike the right chords immediately, a few listens and they’ll be growing on you at a rapid pace.

    One of her best songs to date – ‘Sexxx Dreams’ – comes next, and without too much of a heavy bassline or overproduction it manages to impress on a completely new level.

    Her versatility is shown on ‘Jewels N’ Drugs’ – probably not everybody’s cup of tea, but the proof (if she ever needed it) that she isn’t just a one trick pop pony.

    ‘MANiCURE’ is the best of the album – rock-based with pop vibes and perfect guitar solos that’d sound great in the clubs. This needs to get the single treatment from Gaga and her team – it’d be such a waste to see it ignored.

    What can be said about ‘Do What U Want’, other than it’s the perfect hit back at critics who slate her for trying her damn hardest at everything she puts her hands to? The R Kelly addition is a welcome one, and should keep the mouths shut of those who opposed his feature on the album before even hearing his verse.

    The title track is absolutely stunning, with banshee-like calls on the backing track that really add to the eerie yet laid-back feel of the tune.

    Personal track ‘Swine’ is another that has the ability to set the nightclub scene alight, with some fantastic EDM and distorted vocals that do well to resemble the animal itself.

    An alter-ego is used throughout ‘Donatella’ – or so we’d hope – as Gaga sings about being a “rich b**ch” on yet another fabulously produced track.

    Similarly, ‘Mary Jane Holland’ states “I am rich as p**s”, but it doesn’t take away from the greatness of the rest of the tune.

    ‘Fashion!’ and ‘Dope’ are personally my choices for weakest of the album, but that isn’t to say they’re completely awful. Every song here has something to offer.

    ‘Gypsy’ dazzles, exploring the notion of travelling the world and being a popstar, having to make each and every country you visit your home.

    Ending on the under-appreciated ‘Applause’, the album does indeed get a raucous hand from me.

    EDM-infused smashes come time and time again – she’s really hit the nail on the head with what she was trying to achieve.

    The album is – well – a work of art. It runs in perfect order, as if it were made as the soundtrack to a musical with only a few blemishes that Gaga manages to powder up and gloss over without too much effort.

    A stellar contender for the album of 2013 – Gaga’s got away from preaching and is working hard on getting us to ‘Just Dance’. Bravo.

  12. I dont consider myself a little monster in the least bit, but This new album is great. Almost every song on here is better than every song from Prism.

    Sex Games, Manicure, & Donatella are my favs.
    Gypsy, Venus, Aura, and DWYW are great too!

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