Time for another big album dropping, perhaps one of the most anticipated pop releases of the year, or at least the most talked-about, even if Gaga herself was doing most of the talking.
It’s almost a surprise that we even got this album, considering how delayed and muddled the pre-release promo has felt. A flurry of buzz singles followed after the main single “Applause”, I’m not sure if it was just increasingly commonplace tactic to see if any of them stuck around as big hits, or just a sample of the album. Either way, it felt like a decent number of the songs were familiar before the album came out.
After initially feeling it was a bit of an overproduced mess, I think this is perhaps as strong as “Born this way”, I’m just not entirely convinced the huge singles are on here. Still, I can’t deny she’s putting everything into this album.
09 Aura – I wasn’t totally sold on this when it debuted last week, but it’s grown on me. It’s an oddball intro with those squeaky Latin-tinged effects and filtered vocals. When it really kicks in after the first minute the production is a bit too chaotic and spiky, but I’m getting used to it. There’s a great song in there somewhere, I feel it might have got drowned out a bit with too much going on, but a great start. I just don’t get why she’s making out she’s got all this mystique, she can’t seem to help but tell us what she’s thinking every minute!
09 Venus – Now this is a hot mess that I can’t seem to get enough of. That intro is a bit… well I don’t know what to make of it. A lot of pressure was put on this song to be amazing, and while I think it got overhyped, when it gets it right, it really nails it. I think it’s the (probable) chorus “When you touch me I die…”. A bit too hi-camp to be a huge single I think, but I really hope she makes a video for this one.
09 G.U.Y. – Why is that intro so addictive? Naff spoken word but I really like it. But when that dirty little electro riff starts off, it’s really gorgeous. The chorus is a bit drawly and perhaps a little annoying but it’s another infectious track. I really need to start rating lower… but not yet. OMG love those bridges!
08 Sexxx dreams – Starting to sound a bit one-note now, more wailing over a thumping but understated bassline. This doesn’t really get me until the “When I lay in bed I touch myself and think of you” (who can’t relate to THAT?) and that wonderful little chorus. It’s all over a bit too soon though, the laboured verses take up too much of the runtime.
06 Jewels ‘n’ Drugs – T.I., Too Short & Twista guest on this gear-changing urban track. As generic as it comes, with only Gaga offering anything decent to the mix. Not my thing really, but the bombastic backing track gives an interesting if overblown backdrop.
07 Manicure – Was this a leftover from “Born this way”? It’s got that rock-tinged sound, but I’m not really getting this one. I mean it’s fine when I’m listening to it, but on a 15-track album like this, it feels like a bit of fat that could have been trimmed.
10 Do what U want – OMG I really clicked with this one since my lukewarm review a few weeks back. That opening bassline is so addictive, I love it. If this is what the future of Gaga sounds like, sign me up. Urban influenced but still totally up my street. Love the message, not quite Girl Power but a great idea either way. R Kelly works well on it, much better than the rent-a-rapper than could have easily be used instead. I think that’s the most beautifully I’ve heard anyone since “Fuuuuuckkk”. Addictive and brilliant, that creeping bassline is amazing.
08 Artpop – Worried this was going to disappear up its own arse, but it’s a really solid little electropop track, almost a bit of 90s retro dance in there. It doesn’t quite have the hooks of some of the bigger tracks but it’s got such great flow to it. That last line too… wonderful.
08 Swine – More brash industrial electropop now, I wonder who she’s singing about. She’s not a fan anyway, and her burn track against them takes a little while to bed in. But I can imagine a great performance with this one, with its extended dance sections and more chaotic production. Not my favourite track but I’m sort of drawn to it all the same.
07 Donatella – A bit more filler, this time a tribute (presumably) to fashion mogul Donatella Versace. I’m not sure how much of a tribute it is, as it revels in the superficial side of her lifestyle. The song itself isn’t the strongest, but it’s listenable enough. Some of the verses are a bit cringey, particularly the one about puking, should I be shocked?
07 Fashion! – Love that piano intro, but when the beat kicks in it’s a fairly unextraordinary with a basic beat straight out of a Kylie album track. I mean again there’s nothing particularly bad about it, it’s just not grabbing me.
08 Mary Jane Holland – I looked it up but I have no idea who this is, perhaps just a Gaga invention? I love the full-on squelchy electro production on this one, it’s a rich and less complicated sound than some of the earlier tracks. It’s just nice to listen to, even if I can’t really hear what she’s singing a lot of the time. That irregular beat on the chorus is pretty sweet too.
07 Dope – Seems to get a lot of stick from other listeners, but I don’t think this is too bad. It’s a bit of a surprise to finally get a straightforward track, mostly led by a piano. Sticks out on the tracklist, but I don’t know that it’s even strong enough to be particularly memorable. It’s a decent ballad, though “I need you more than dope” isn’t exactly a Valentine’s Day sentiment is it?
10 Gypsy – OMG she did it again, I thought this album was going to fizzle out like most do. But no, we get a lovely piano intro before breaking into an energetic and wonderfully dated track in the same vein as “Edge of Glory” and “Marry the night”. I guess that might be a bad sign if her best songs sound like her old ones, but I still love those two songs. An easy single, surely? Once it gets going there’s not much to match the wonderfully optimistic energy in this one.
09 Applause – What an odd one to finish on, the lead single! I guess applause does come at the end doesn’t it? Overplay might have dulled this one a little but it was a hot single to launch with, particularly with that bridge and chorus. If anything it feels strange to have this at the end, being one of the more moderate tracks after an hour of spiky and noisy production. Still, a great song, even if it never quite reaches the incredible heights of her best moments. But that’s a tall order, isn’t it?
I suppose the thing that strikes me about “ARTPOP” is that it doesn’t feel like that it’s that much of a leap from “Born this way”. Not that it feels like leftovers in any way, but it doesn’t feel like the creative rebirth that it seems to have meant to be.
I mean it’s a great listen, I’ve got no problem with putting it on as soon as it’s finished. I think maybe the hype made me expect something a little more out-there, but I’m still pleased she hasn’t thrown out the tunes.
Keepers for the iPod: Aura, Venus, G.U.Y., Sexxx dreams, Do what U want, Artpop, Swine, Mary Jane Holland, Gypsy, Applause