Lady Gaga is back in the industry and, this time, she’s coming for the crown.
“ARTPOP,” Gaga’s third studio album, is anything but similar to any of her previous releases.
With this release, Gaga describes herself as a “phoenix rising from the ashes.” Gaga speaks the truth, as she will surely soar thanks to “ARTPOP.”
The songs feel like a breath of fresh air for fans of her music, as they are experimental, fun and different without removing the essence of her fame monster: a track listing that can make it to the top of the charts upon release.
After a hip injury in the midst of her Born This Way tour, Gaga was forced to halt production of her newest project, giving her time to reevaluate the direction she wanted to take with the album and what tracks she wanted to feature.
After 50 songs were recorded and considered to be put in the album, the list was narrowed to 11 tracks, most of which could be considered some of her best.
I’ll cut to the chase and say this before anything else: “ARTPOP” is an exploration of popular culture and artistic expression. Unlike “The Fame Monster” or “Born This Way,” which were hit single machines for Gaga, “ARTPOP” feels fresh not because she’s given us more songs to listen on the radio that will stay in our heads for weeks, but because she’s letting her true artist out and still achieving the former.
It is a ride filled with a variety of sounds and lyrics, which somehow manage to work excellently against and with each other.
This is the result of Gaga’s collaboration with many artists and producers from all walks of the industry, from DJs such as Zedd and Madeon to rap artists like T.I., Twista and Too $hort.
The result is an amazing exposition of her versatility as a singer, able to go from a breathtaking ballad to a rave song in the two seconds between tracks without breaking a sweat.
The album kicks off with a trio that is best described as the main ingredients for a good time.
“Aura,” “Venus” and “G.U.Y.” are empowerment tracks like never heard before set against beats that you wouldn’t expect from the singer.
“Aura,” produced by Gaga and Zedd, explores middle-eastern guitar riffs and heavy electronic beats as Gaga explores the empowerment of women hidden behind their “cover,” be it their cultural wear or the reserved nature of their behavior.
It serves as an amazing opening track, as the powerful vocals and intense bridges are both sultry yet bold, a common theme across the album.
The other two, “Venus” and “G.U.Y. (Girl Underneath You),” both discuss the power of women beyond the bedroom, comparing them to the goddess of love, a mystical being capable of anything. Gaga takes us across the universe with her robotic instrumentals and references to ancient mythology and outer space.
“G.U.Y.,” however, paints the image of a woman who doesn’t need to come out on top to know she’s in control. With lyrics like “I’m best when I’m in love and I’m in love with you,” Gaga tells her personal story of power, only fed by the affection of her lover.
Although Gaga’s betting for full control of her relationship, “G.U.Y.” could easily give her control of the pop charts as well.
For the sake of keeping the content family friendly, I will say the following: “Sexxx Dreams” and “Jewels n’ Drugs,” the latter of which features rap artists T.I., Twista and Too $hort, are both very raunchy tracks. The lyrics and production work that went into both songs made them raunchy in the best ways possible.
Fans of previous songs such as Rihanna’s “S&M” and Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” will fall in love with these two tracks, but so will anyone else. The songs are very demonstrative of Gaga’s range, both musically and lyrically.
Not only can she be sultry and sexual, but she can also maintain the desire for fame that made “The Fame” and “The Fame Monster” such international successes.
“MANiCURE” is one of those songs everyone will jam out to at concerts, simply because of its high live potential.
The guitar riffs and drum works are surely to work amazingly when Gaga performs the song live, but the track feels somewhat weak as compared to those preceding it.
Nonetheless, it’s a “rock out” kind of song that brings the listener back to the golden ages of female empowerment, made possible by pop and rock artists alike.
“Do What U Want,” the album’s second single, is Lady Gaga’s emancipation from the media attention.
Following all the criticism she’s gone through for her weight, her addiction problems and certain rumors regarding her gender, Gaga starts a movement for pop culture.
Her chorus, an exclamation of “you can’t have my heart and you won’t use my mind, but do what you want with my body” is her way of laying down the law for pop connoisseurs and critics alike: criticize her all you want, but you can’t take her creative genius away.
R. Kelly’s appearance on the song is crucial to its success, as he compliments her strong vocals and the rather calm instrumentals excellently.
“ARTPOP” is one of the album’s most defining tracks. Gaga sings about her beauty as an artist and how her creativity is unlimited and unique to her persona, all by saying that her “artpop” could mean anything.
After all, the range in the album truly shows that her talent cannot be contained to one subject and one subject only; musician, singer, songwriter, performer and overall artist, Gaga is the queen of all trades.
“Swine” is very similar to “Aura” in terms of the instrumental style and the empowerment theme, telling the audience that in fact, she is not a swine. It is a powerful track in terms of a heavily electronic beat and vocals shouted at you, which only makes it that much entertaining.
“Donatella” and “Fashion!” are two very different tracks talking about the same thing: the high life of the fashion industry.
What’s the difference? Their quality. “Donatella,” an anthem to couturier Donatella Versace, sounds shallow yet fun. It’s one of those songs that stick from the first listen on, a characteristic that “Fashion!” lacks. After a good 13 listens of the album, I still find myself skipping the song every time it comes on.
The lyrics are decent at best, but the music is just weak. It’s a tragedy that there had to be one weak song on such a great album.
“Mary Jane Holland” is easily my favorite track off of “ARTPOP.” Disregarding the very obvious references, Gaga has outdone herself in terms of finding the perfect balance between strong vocals and strong instrumentals.
At no point do these two conflict, but they rather complement each other throughout the track. Lyrically, the song is rather genius: she talks about the effect of popular culture on the character of Mary Jane Holland, who refuses to give into the “blonde or the culture of the popular” but still lives a lifestyle of debauchery and excess.
Even with the subject matter, the song manages to be tame and sultry without being too controversial.
So far, Gaga showed the audiences she can be fun, shallow and thoughtful; however, “Dope” is the most vulnerable of her songs. In the track, Gaga talks about her drug addiction and the support her family and lover provided her with.
The song is a slow piano ballad that focuses more on the weakness in Gaga’s voice as she carries through beautiful lines and powerful choruses, comparing the need for company to her addiction.
“Dope” is one of those tear-jerking apologies that have always had a spot in the heart of the industry.
“Gypsy” is a combination of both a ballad and a power-pop track, accompanied with lyrics about finally being able to settle down in one place with someone after seeing it all.
Madeon has done a great job of producing the track, as it is one of the most musically pleasing in the album: it’s techno and fun, but it’s not excessive.
Finally, Gaga closes up “ARTPOP” with its lead single, “Applause,” where she claims the applause and the praise she receives from her fans and critics alike are what motivate her to continue making music.
After the hour-long show that is “ARTPOP,” she’s bound to get tons of it.
To sum it up, “ARTPOP” is not a refined, exclusive experience: anyone can join in on the fun, as it has widespread appeal and a variety of tracks, almost guaranteed to please the masses.
It’s a far step from “Born This Way,” but this musical gypsy life of hers has certainly made it a step in the right direction. All of the songs are genius, powerful and fun, a feat that has usually been a “pick two” system for most of the industry until now.
Clearly, the applause is well deserved. There is little room for improvement in tracks like “Fashion!” and “MANiCURE,” but the album is still excellent as it is. “ARTPOP” is a must-have for any fan of pop music.
Once again, Lady Gaga has managed to outdo herself, as she has blown the roars of the competition out of the water.