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Karen Datangel is a writer, blogger, social media addict, entertainment enthusiast, baseball/football fan (Go SF Giants and 49ers!), animal lover, nerdy and nostalgic fangirl, city wanderer, and a dreamer. Born, bred, and based in the Bay Area, Karen graduated with a degree in journalism from San Francisco State University. Her resume includes contributions to and internships with Hollywood Life, CAAMFest (Formerly the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival), Audrey Magazine, Bustle, Fandom, SheKnows, and POPSUGAR. Follow her on Twitter @DatKaren.

Lady Gaga’s ‘Artpop’: Masterpiece or Messy?

Lady Gaga - 'Artpop'After two years without new music and a hip surgery that sidelined her from making public appearances, eccentric pop star Lady Gaga is back on the scene with a new album. Artpop is Gaga’s third full-length studio album and a little bit of each of her first works and more. It has the general upbeat feel of The Fame but also very much has the lyrical complexities of the visceral The Fame Monster and experimental Born This Way. Still, Artpop is its own remarkable work, even though it’s just yet another ode to sex, drugs, fashion, and stardom. Amped up with hip-hop elements and a very heavy and scattered club sound, Artpop showcases Gaga’s continued drive to stand out and satisfy and shock the pop music world.

However, is Artpop really a step forward for Gaga or did she “pop”? The effort can definitely be appreciated, but for fans of the pure pop and/or the industrial-influenced Gaga of earlier years, the album can be slightly underwhelming. Although full of ear candy and perfect for listening to while getting ready for a potentially scandalous night out, there are only a few standout tracks worth downloading. Others are okay but ‘meh’ and some are just plain cringe-worthy. So, which ones are worthy of your time and which ones should you forget about importing into your iTunes? Let’s go through each track on the album and sort the awesome from Artpop from the “Are you freaking kidding me?!”

“Aura”
The album opener has some ethnic musical elements, contains dark and mysterious lyrics and laughter (“I killed my former and left her in the trunk on Highway 10”), and builds up to a danceable jam, but somehow lacks some “ooomph.” The “aura” is a little weak in this one.
REPEAT, LISTEN, MEH, OR SKIP: Meh

“Venus”
An intense and hypnotizing allusion to the cosmos, this planetary tune doesn’t particularly have a catchy hook but it’s strong enough to be single material (It actually was chosen by Gaga’s Twitter followers to become the album’s second single before “Do What U Want”‘s success on iTunes propelled it towards a single release)—and outstanding enough to be worthy of a little worship.
REPEAT, LISTEN, MEH, OR SKIP: Listen

“G.U.Y”
In this song, “G.U.Y” stands for “Girl Under You.” I suppose it’s an interesting take on traditional gender-specific roles in sex, and I like that one of the lyrics is “Love me, love me / Please retweet.” See how social media is taking over our universe if Twitter lingo makes it into a Gaga song? Other than that, it blends in with all the other unexciting songs on the album.
REPEAT, LISTEN, MEH, OR SKIP: Meh

“Sexx Dreams”
Seductive and trance-like, this naughty little ditty is one of the album’s best. Unlike the other tracks about the sexy times, this one has the mildly slow and slinky rhythm and composition to get you in the mood.
REPEAT, LISTEN, MEH, OR SKIP: Repeat

“Jewels ‘N Drugs”
With T.I., Too $hort, and Twista at hand, Gaga goes on full gangsta rap and hip-hop and it’s not a great sound for her. There’s too much of the guest artists and not enough of her on this very generic track. Out-of-place on Artpop for all the wrong reasons.
REPEAT, LISTEN, MEH, OR SKIP: Skip

“MANiCURE”
Flamboyant and rock-‘n-roll-inspired, this one just isn’t well-executed and comes off as more unattractive than lovable.
REPEAT, LISTEN, MEH, OR SKIP: Skip

“Do What U Want”
Artpop‘s second single featuring R. Kelly definitely has the addictive mainstream yet very risque appeal, and for good reasons. The R&B collaboration between the two artists simply works and particularly in Gaga’s parts, you can hear and feel her passion in such simple and almost trivial lyrics. Like “Sexx Dreams,” this is another track that satisfyingly succeeds in being smokin’ hot.
REPEAT, LISTEN, MEH, OR SKIP: Repeat

“ARTPOP”
The album’s title track is cool and mellow, plus the beginning kind of sounds like Selena Gomez and the Scene‘s “Love You Like a Love Song,” but there’s not much else beyond it.
REPEAT, LISTEN, MEH, OR SKIP: Meh

“Swine”
The lyrical content of this song is extremely silly and ridiculous (PIGS!) yet it’s pretty catchy, and it deserves points for the instrumental breaks alone.
REPEAT, LISTEN, MEH, OR SKIP: Listen

“Donatella”
Delightfully obnoxious and bitchy, this ode to high class and expensive taste wins partially for the screamy background vocals in the chorus (“I’m a rich bitch, I’m the upper class” / “I smoke Marlboro Reds and drink champagne”)
REPEAT, LISTEN, MEH, OR SKIP: Repeat

“Fashion!”
This discoesque tune opens with a pretty piano entrance before going all runway. It then progresses towards a techno ending—a great and diverse composition.
REPEAT, LISTEN, MEH, OR SKIP: Listen

“Mary Jane Holland”
You can obviously figure out the drug Gaga’s talking about in this one and if not from the song title, then from the lyrics and the sounds of a lighter flicking on at the very end. Take or leave it.
REPEAT, LISTEN, MEH, OR SKIP: Meh

“Dope”
The sole ballad on the album, Gaga follows up one song about drugs with a song talking about how she needs a lover more than another kind of drug. While I would put it in the “Meh” category for being just okay, it does deserve more for showcasing Gaga’s raw voice and range sans chaotic instrumentals.
REPEAT, LISTEN, MEH, OR SKIP: Listen

“Gypsy”
All about that traveling pop star life, this orchestral tune integrates a techno sound to put the Gaga spin on it. It sounds like it belongs in a movie with its big and powerful instrumental and vocals.
REPEAT, LISTEN, MEH, OR SKIP: Listen

“Applause”
It was Artpop‘s debut single, but it is an appropriate curtain call for the album. The Europop track excellently summarizes Gaga’s overall latest at its best—a familiar, old-school, electronic-happy Mother Monster with a fast-paced and tougher edge.
REPEAT, LISTEN, MEH, OR SKIP: Listen

ARTPOP‘S GRADE: B-
Compared to Gaga’s other work—which I consider quite fantastic—her newest album isn’t quite up to par and there seems to be more tracks that are uninteresting and repetitive rather than terrific (Some of my ‘Listen’s were so close to being ‘Meh’s). But evaluating the album as a whole, it’s still a fun and good pop album with a few fantastic tracks worth listening to over and over again.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. FOR THE HUDSUCKER: Lady Gaga’s ‘Artpop’: Masterpiece or Messy? | Karen On - November 18, 2013

    […] I reviewed Artpop track-by-track for The Hudsucker. Please read the entire post at this link. […]

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