An apt gendered review of music's once most controversial pop icons. Lady Gaga's ARTPOP involves sex, synth and subtlety, read what Sarah Dickins and Roddy McGlynn thought about it…
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this any more than most people tend to enjoy bland electro pop. Besides which, her pseudo-intellectual shock factor tends to make me want to crawl into myself. Golly! Mild BDSM references in a music video? Rumoured androgyny? But it’s all for the sake of pursuing a ‘90s/blues/cybergoth/New Age/insert-subculture-here creativity? Gee-whiz, Gaga, you’re just the most cleverest ever ever!
Admittedly, she has her moments: the Futurism-cum-Classical-Mythology theme is a bit… interesting, and the title song is a pretty boring 4-minute reminder of why I hate Tracey Emin. But two years in the making, plus appearances from Zedd, will.i.am and David Guetta (amongst others), Lady Gaga’s third album is certainly worth a listen or seven. With EDM, experimental, synthpop and even some acoustic influences, ARTPOP is interestingly varied, yet cleverly enough produced that, as an album, it all comes together quite well.
Favourite songs include ‘G.U.Y’, whose intro is reminiscent of parts of A Clockwork Orange’s soundtrack, ‘Sexxx Dreams’ and ‘Swine’. The album’s first single, ‘Applause’ -which barely made the final cut- makes a lot more sense in the context of the rest of ARTPOP and is a cracking closing song. This isn’t ‘Just Dance’, and listeners who go searching for that will be disappointed. But it’s new, relatively original, and I’m certainly less humiliated to be caught listening to this on my Walkman than I am embarrassed to be the only person that I know who has one.
As a card-carrying homosexual, I have to like Lady Gaga. It’s the law. It’s been a long two years since her last full release, and so it was with bated breath that I waited for ARTPOP to descend from the heavens above onto the iPods of us mere mortals.
On first listening, I’ll admit I was left, as I’d clandestinely feared, rather underwhelmed. There were a few stand-out tracks but no ‘Bad Romance’s or ‘Heavy Metal Lover’s, tracks that wormed their way into your head and stubbornly refused to leave. ‘Mary Jane Holland’ and ‘Gypsy’ are perhaps my two favourites, although a notable mention has to go to ‘G.U.Y.’ for the ways in which it plays with gender and subverts our traditional ideas around sex and gender roles.
Indeed, sex is one of many recurring themes throughout the album – from the subtler referencing in ‘G.U.Y.’ to ‘Do What U Want (With My Body)’, a title that leaves little to the imagination. However, upon listening to it, more layers appear: ‘Do What U Want’ becomes an attack on the media’s preoccupation with her image rather than her music.
The multiple layers to each song and the numerous themes that permeate the album truly are where ARTPOP really excels. Just as with Gaga’s previous albums, there is a cohesiveness to it that few others can come close to. Each song, and the album as a whole, can be interpreted in so different ways that listening to ARTPOP becomes an experience. To quote the title track, ARTPOP really ‘could mean anything’, and it’s this openness to interpretation that makes the album so much more than the sum of its parts.