The synth-laden evolution of pop music has produced a captivating and catchy sound that’s easily digestible by most younger music listeners. It’s something that has permeated into highly-acclaimed, hyped releases like Kanye West’s “Yeezus” to comparatively lower profile releases like Passion Pit’s “Manners.” In “ARTPOP,” Lady Gaga and her production crew melded this sound to work with her varied expressions of boldness.
“ARTPOP” represents the ever-polarizing Lady Gaga’s latest excursion into the world of her boldness, egotism and extravagance. She chose to dabble in a new, varied array of EDM sounds and disco production for “ARTPOP” to complement her brash lyricism and to distinguish the current rendition of Lady Gaga from her previous incarnations in “Born This Way” and “The Fame.” “ARTPOP” is completely a pop album at it’s core but it feels different and distinctly bolder when compared to many other recent releases in the genre. That much is evident just from a passing glance at the album cover, which features a naked Lady Gaga concealing her genitalia, behind which is a backdrop of the amalgam of influences for this album, including Renaissance painter Botticelli’s epochal “Birth of Venus.”
“ARTPOP” opens with “Aura,” a track that establishes the disco tone of the album interspersed with exotic Middle Eastern instrumentals where she mixes and mashes themes of the qualms of her famous and extravagant lifestyle with Muslim culture. Or, as Gaga says, “Enigma pop star is fun, she wear burqa for fashion/It’s not a statement as much as just a move of passion.” It is this sort of eccentricity that Gaga exhibits throughout this album-interspersing an array of cultural sounds with her EDM and disco style-that makes the album a worthwhile and engaging listen.
“ARTPOP” also features flat-out excellent production on some tracks that carry the album’s intended vibe perfectly like the pseudo 8-bit sounding beat on “G.U.Y.,” which works well with Gaga’s overtly sexual lyricism. The album also features production efforts from the seemingly timeless Rick Rubin on the track, “Dope,” which features minimalist electronic sounds in the backdrop of Gaga crooning about drugs and addiction in a well-composed ballad. Other production highlights include “Sexxx Dreams” and “Venus.”
However the album has unfortunate lapses that lead it astray from time to time, most notably with “Jewels N Drugs,” the fifth song on the record, a pop-rap and EDM fusion that really misses the mark in terms of execution. Sonically, it seems that the intention was to change the flavor of the album to make it more varied and eclectic but, the ultimate result of the song was only a break-up in terms of sonic cohesiveness with the EDM and disco production. The verses from rappers T.I., Twista and Too $hort, while not horrendous, would be better served on one of their albums and the change-of-pace offered by Lady Gaga’s complementary vocals and verse fail to establish a cohesive tone throughout the song. It all ends up feeling rather like a bad sort of fusion of poppy hip-hop and electronic music, something that Kanye West has mastered but something that this song lacks in. Some might consider it the type of song to grow on them with time but with six passes of the album, I didn’t find myself wanting to revisit it on future spins.
“ARTPOP” is, at least sonically and aesthetically, never boring. That’s a given. But that doesn’t preclude the album from hitting various lulls musically that just represent misfires in approach by Lady Gaga. Tracks like “Do What U Want” featuring R. Kelly vocals and “Applause” while certainly catchy, have lackluster hooks that detract from the overall vibe of the album.
All in all, ARTPOP doesn’t emphasize a novel, experimental sound, but rather represents a sort of conglomeration of lofty ideals that Lady Gaga and her production team went for but missed the mark on.