In all honesty I shouldn’t be allowed to review anything that Stefani Germanotta does, because in my eyes, this woman can do no wrong. The woman I’m referencing, of course, is the famous (or infamous, however you choose to view it) Lady Gaga. She’s back and it’s not as if we were unaware of it. ARTPOP is the third studio album from the globally successful superstar and the lead up to its release has been anything but quiet. In her own words she is contradicting the conventional form of the record by releasing songs in the lead up to the full release. Typically you buy an album and all of the tracks on it will be new bar the singles. However, Gaga, naturally going against the grain, has decided to treat fans to tracks such as ‘Venus’, ‘Do What You Want’, ‘Mary Jane Hammond’ and ‘Dope’ prior to the release of ARTPOP. Those of you who have downloaded the O2 Tracks app will be able to listen to the full album on Tuesday 5th November, just under a week before its general release on Monday 11th November.
The album starts with a track titled ‘Aura’. In opens with Western movie style guitars preceding Gaga’s manic laughter filling the speakers. It’s a great introductory track, transcending genres and setting down the premise for what is to come on the rest of the record. It moves through Daft Punk-esque auto-tuned vocals, dub-steppy electronic pop beats before going back to traditional Gaga vocals, truly showing the diversity of ARTPOP.
‘Venus’ we have already heard, and most of you I’m sure have seen her performance of it on X-Factor recently. Undoubtedly it is one of the stand out tracks from the record. Upon a first listen I questioned why Gaga had chosen to release it as the single after ‘Applause’ (before ‘Do What You Want’ stormed the charts and she decided to release that one instead). However, after a week of listening to it on repeat, I completely understand. The track was solely produced by Gaga herself, due to it being a song about the Goddess of Love she wanted it to have complete female ownership over the track. A clear favourite from ARTPOP.
‘G.U.Y’ is a clever little track that parodies gender conventions, blurring the boundaries between men and women in relationships. Gaga goes through many phrases that G.U.Y stands for with androgyny filling the track at every turn. Lyrics ooze with the equality that Gaga seeks to empower people with, however, you have to see past the overly sexual overtones to get to this: ‘Touch me touch me don’t be shy, I’m in charge like a G.U.Y’.
‘Sexxx Dreams’ is reminiscent of ‘So Happy I Could Die’ from The Fame Monster in its lyrical content, the theme of mastubation running through it, and more references to difficulties within relationships. Gaga is very much not afraid to confront sex overtly in her lyrics, in an interview with Scott Mills on Radio One she declared that ARTPOP is not an orgasm but an ‘inferno’. Do with that what you will. Unfortunately, this track would fall under the rader without it’s eye-catching title and lyrical content. Similarly ‘Artpop’ is another mediocre track on the record. I obviously hate to call Gaga mediocre, but perhaps these songs will take a few more listens if they are to solidify themselves in Gaga’s repertoire.
‘Jewels ‘n’ Drugs’ reminds me of M.I.A in its chorus yet I’m rather confused by the inclusion of raps from Too Short and Twista. However, I guess it runs in line with ARTPOP being an all encompassing record including almost every genre of music. ‘Manicure’ has a brilliantly strong opening that grabs the attention from the first hand clap. With a fantastic brass section, screaming guitars and a dup-step breakdown towards the end of the track, this is another track that take the electro-pop tag and lifts it into the realms of the experimental. One awesome new track to one that we’re already familiar with, the amazing ‘Do What You Want’ feat. R Kelly. I am obsessed with this song. The track is reminiscent of 80s pop and early R’n’B with it’s funky beats. Including R Kelly’s soulful vocals was a brave move from Gaga yet it totally works. It is so nice to hear such a classic R’n’B voice on such an exciting track. I had it on repeat for at least three hours after Gaga released it to the fans.
‘Swine’ is slightly confusing. It’s very harsh sounding. Not that I ever said Gaga should be easy on the ears but I feel there is almost too much going on with this track. Gaga’s interesting vocals bring back some credibility, however, still not one of my favourites on the record. ‘Donatella’ pays homage to Donatella Versace and her elaborate lifestyle in the fashion industry. Apparently Ms Versace loved it! Gaga said in an interview with JustJared that ‘It’s about being a fearless female and not caring what people say about you – being proud of who you are and walking the walk no matter what’.
Nicely following this is ‘Fashion!’, a lot tamer in comparison to the previous high energy, electronic track. Yet I fear this travels into the realms of being a tad boring. ‘Mary Jane Holland’ blurs into this category too. I’m hoping that when the album is securely in my top played on iTunes these songs will be the next ‘Brown Eyes’ and ‘Government Hooker’ to name some stunning album tracks from previous efforts. Fingers crossed!
‘Dope’ completely redeems Gaga of all the negative comments I’ve made about this album. A classic piano ballad, see ‘Speechless’ from The Fame Monster for previous piano epics. Gaga is at her ultimate best when it is just her and the keys. Updated with low electronic tones the track maintains the ARTPOP vibe, yet the focus is on her stunning vocals; they have a transcending power that shows her progression from the first two albums as well as her breathtaking raw talent.
‘Gypsy’ is another track that has Gaga’s vocals centre stage. It opens in a fairly tame manner with just the vocals before turning into a upbeat dance track. Finishing with the lead single from ARTPOP ‘Applause’, a natural choice yet I can’t help but think that this isn’t the strongest track on the record. I understand the reasons behind releasing it yet Gaga really shines in tracks such as ‘Venus’ and ‘Dope’.
Overall, ARTPOP is almost everything that I expected of it. Only a few downfalls with slightly less exciting tracks yet I feel the great tracks really do redeem the record from it’s negatives. Bring on the ARTPOP world tour. I cannot wait to see the world of ARTPOP unfold, as we all know Gaga is an artist in every sense of the word, not just via music. Long live the Queen.
ARTPOP is released on Streamline/Interscope on 11th November 2013