Hands rubbing together! Mouth slavering at the chance to write again! Tissue wiping at mouth! It’s been awhile, readers (?). My bad. November is a tough month. Cold winds, calories, emotional regression, air travel. But so much has been going down in my personal pop world and it’s getting regurgitated bit by bit. YUM!
First up, ARTPOP. I’m late, but who cares. The album barely made a blip in the cultural landscape, because Gaga died long ago in a fiery tornado of production values, sometime soon after Born This Way. But because I loves me some zeitgeisty ambition and experimentation, I’ve still been poring over it. It’s really not great, but it is interesting, and for that I feel comfortable paying it minimal heed.
I think ARTPOP is less earwormy than previous efforts, but it is lyrically a relief because Gaga’s MERCILESS preaching has stopped; it has given way to the strictly personal. In a sense, Born This Way was written for the fans – for society, really – and that kind of pandering and proselytizing makes a smash album with a shitty legacy. In ARTPOP, the pendulum has swung towards the über-esoteric and the über-grand, which feels WAY more Gaga than a bloated ode to anti-bullying. ARTPOP is a colorful and epileptic melange that fails a lot and wins a lot, and although I don’t really love it, I do love how fucking nakedly insane it is.
So let’s start with the shit that stinks.
Tracks That Sück
It would have been wonderful to see a follow-up effort in the vein of “Yoü and I,” stripping down the arrangements and making use of Stefanie Germanotta’s brassy Broadway bawling. ARTPOP‘s one ballad, “Dope,” is a shell of an imitation:
The melody is virtually nonexistent, and her voice sounds so drama school final showcase. And no one really buys that Gaga’s some kind of world-worn addict stalking the underbelly who can actually get off calling drugs “dope.” And what kind of dope are we even talking about here? You don’t come back from heroin to eventually pull off complex booby-grab dances. Supposedly she’s singing to her former assistant, who left as a result of Gaga’s “destructive behavior.” Which kind of also sucks the authenticity juice out of this overpostured confessional yawp.
Hey rappers, stay away. Stay far away. Gaga has NO IDEA how to utilize rap, including simple sampling, and “Jewels n’ Drugz” absolutely buries T.I., Too $hort, and Twista in a calamitous pile of poopyshit. It’s a torturous song and I have no idea how it made it to the final cut of this album.
Öther tracks that sück: “Sexxx Dreams,” “Swine,” “Donatella”
Tracks That Are Jüst Ökay
There are some moments on ARTPOP that are simply middling – they have their moments of beauty but mostly just expand to take up two minutes of odd, gentle filler. Like those multi-colored sea monkey things you buy in the store, watch grow into mildly interesting lumps, and then forget about and leave to rot in your old fishtank.
“G.U.Y.” is languid and druggy, reasonably hypnotic, and I like it because I completely get the lyrics. Some classic Gaga gendering. She’s gotten enough control over her language that her treatise on sexytimes is never offensive, always mildly pleasing to THIS lady listener who hates most things about being a lady in the sheets.
I’m gonna wear the tie, want the power to leave you
I’m aiming for full control of this love
Touch me, touch me, don’t be sweet
Love me, love me, please retweet
Let me be the girl under you that makes you cry
I wanna be that guy
“Gypsy” is a fine little soaring ballad that veers surprisingly into Bruce Springsteen territory, but the melody errs on the side of trite. It’s really only notable for the #singlegirlproblems lyric “I don’t wanna be alone forever, but I can be tonight.” I am also into “Venus” for its staccato fuckery and kooky space imagery. How can you hate a track that rhymes “Uranus” with “Don’t you know my ass is famous?”
It’s got a bit of David Bowie vocal gymnastics, and although the intergalactic march rhythm never quite allows it to get off the ground, it’s still a fun little novelty. I also like to imagine Gaga thrashing about the recording studio, making similar faces to the one above, just to achieve the extreme enunciation that “Venus” boasts as a calling card.
Öther tracks that are jüst ökay: “MANiCURE,” “Fashion,” “Mary Jane Holland”
Tracks That Are Really Güd
Hey, let’s talk about the title track! Really, all I can say about it is “BEEP BOOP BOOP BEEP.” It’s R2D2’s wet dream, and I don’t mean one night inside C3PO’s hard drive. The mechanical sounds are beautifully muted and layered, and I enjoy Gaga’s near-academic lyrics: “Come to me with all your subtext and fantasy.” Her plaintive and detached musing, “We could, we could belong together, ARTPOP” gives me some of that old avant-garde hopefulness for a brighter and more complicated musical landscape.
And now it’s time for the two best gifs to come out of the “ARTPOP” promo video.
“Aura” was leaked early and got a HUGE backlash for its politically-charged goad: “Behind the aura, behind the curtain, behind the burqa, behind the aura.” It’s gimmicky, but it’s sooo much fun. It’s over-the-top, aggressive, cool, and kitschy in a Tarantino way. Her introductory litany of “HA HA HA HA” will wend its way into your daily vocabulary faster than you think (she said to no one). I also quickly warmed to “Do What U Want,” the dark and stormy synth R&B party that co-stars R “Urine for it now!” Kelly:
Listen, you try to do sex pushups. It’s easy, ’til you have to rotate the orientation of your entire vagina, like the groin of Gymnastic Barbie. It’s a good song. It makes you do stuff you didn’t think was anatomically possible.
And of course, there’s “Applause.” Oh, “Applause”…I hated you so much when you came out, but contextualized in ARTPOP you’re not so bad. In fact, you’re kind of infectious and thrilling. Be sure to watch the video of this song performed at the VMAs; no one really got it then. Finally, Gaga’s passion and personality come through on this track. Not only is it the most classic Gaga on the album, it’s also the most solid song, the most accessible, and the clearest in terms of message. And the music video is pretty fucking cool too.
And there we have it! A day late and a dollar short, so they say. Anyone out there with an opinion on this thing? Leave me a comment, space mortals.