Why is she a thing? Why is she trying so hard? Do you think that it physically hurts her to try this hard—with her stupid costumes and her whole dumb affect? Like I mean I think if I tried that hard at anything, I would be in a lot of pain all of the time.
And hey, speaking of pain you guys—listening to Gaga’s latest offering, ARTPOP, has placed me in a serious amount of it.
Look—I’m not the world’s foremost expert in pop music. But I can usually tell good pop music from utter drivel. Good pop music is “Roar,” by Katy Perry; “Maybe You’re Right,” from Miley Cyrus; “Not a Bad Thing” by Justin Timberlake.
It’s fitting that the Huffington Post recently ran a story about a robot that gives handjobs, because that’s pretty much what Lady Gaga’s new album is the musical equivalent of. It’s desperate in its sexuality; laughable, actually—and the whole thing is incredibly cold, uninviting, and just flat out not sexy.
ARTPOP is a big, dumb record. From the moment it begins, the songs are literally drowning in their own bloated production value—gigantic sounding synths and drums just for the sake of a gigantic sound. Gaga, whose given name is Stefani Germanotta, deserves credit for rarely, if ever, breaking character–“do you want to see the girl behind the aura?” she asks on the album’s opening track.
And even if you do want to see that girl, you don’t really get to. You’re left with the caricature Germanotta has created for herself: unsettlingly theatrical, off putting, and bizarre.
(Giving birth to a giant Christmas ornament…Lady Gaga everyone!!!)
There’s a lot of sex throughout ARTPOP—“I wanna be the girl under you,” Gaga declares. “I wanna be your G.U.Y.” Get it? Girl Under You? Some kind of statement about gender and power in the bedroom. It’s so clever. That Gaga. She’s always making some kind of profound statement. The profundity is continued on the next track, “Sexxx Dream,” which is exactly as vapid as you’d expect it to be.
Gaga claims that she is a “student” of Madonna, which is I guess why she has little to no qualms about ripping her off– as if the similarities between Madge’s “Express Yourself,” and Gaga’s 2011 single “Born This Way” weren’t enough; on “G.U.Y,” her diction is impeccable and robotic during the chorus, and boy, does it sound familiar to a large chunk of what Madonna does during “Vogue.”
ARTPOP has a lot of big ideas—there is a lose concept of space and mythology surrounding parts of it. No one should be afraid of Gaga taking herself seriously—she seems incapable of such a task.
After the halfway point, it takes some abrupt turns—two songs about fashion, back to back. The second of which, aptly titled “Fashion!” relies heavily on the incredibly thought provoking lyrics “looking good and feeling fine.” The former track, “Donatella,” is an ode to fashion mogul Donatella Versace, opening with this gem of a lyric—“I’m so fab…I’m blonde, I’m skinny, I’m rich—and I’m a little bit of a bitch.”
Then she slows this down slightly. On the excessively overdramatic power ballad “Dope,” Gaga sings with a bizarre silly bravado, “I need you more than dope,” she belts out with as much emotion as her emotion chip is capable of producing for her robotic vocal styling. Meanwhile a synthesizer continues to fart in the background, and somewhere, a piano plays.
There is nearly nothing redeeming by the time you reach the conclusion of ARTPOP. The only minor saving grace is when R. Kelly shows up on the duet “Do What U Want,”—but man, you gotta wait awhile before he arrives. Past the first minute in, Kellz shows up on the second verse, seemingly phoning it in until the chorus hits and he belts out “Layin’ in the club like we don’t give a fuck.” But for such a marquee name of a guest spot, R. Kelly is unfortunately under-used, playing second fiddle to Gaga who monopolizes the spotlight.
The final moments of the album are courtesy of ARTPOP’s first single “Applause,” where she declares how she lives for the applause, so you should keep clapping for her. It’s in this song that I think she makes her most audacious statement—“Pop culture was in art, now art’s in pop culture, in me.”
Gaga would appear to have some delusions of grandeur, claiming that SHE IS BRINGING ART TO POP CULTURE. I mean the name of the album is ARTPOP you guys. ART! POP! IN ONE! The one truth within this declaration is that she is pop culture—she’s a brand. There is an idea of “Lady Gaga.” A character that somebody name Germanotta plays for a living.
You may argue that her complete commitment to her role is “art.”
But what is “art?” The vapidity of ARTPOP certainly isn’t it, and it isn’t providing any answers. All you are left with in the end is the feeling that Lady Gaga is a performer who takes herself entirely too seriously, all the while maintaining a false pretense that she has a sense of humor. Hiding behind her theatrics, one has to look slightly closer to realize that there is no substance behind this spectacle.
Kevin Krein is a Minnesota based writer, and has been operating the award winning music blog Anhedonic Headphones since January 2013. For nearly as long, he’s been contributing to Bearded Gentlemen; and for nearly as long, he wrote “The Bearded Life” column for the Southern Minn Scene magazine. Since the summer of 2017, he began contributing “The Column of Disquiet” for The Next Ten Words. His writing has also appeared in The Wagazine, and in River Valley Woman. He is a vegan, a friend to all animals, and a huge jerk toward most people.