New Music: Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP – A Track-byTrack Review

The album cover as designed by artist Jeff Koons

The album cover as designed by artist Jeff Koons

Hi gang! After a little blogging hiatus, I’m back posting and kicking things off with a music review. It’s been a long two year’s for Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters (myself included) as they eagerly waited for a new release from the global superstar. She had a lot to live up to for sure. After a somewhat lackluster response from fans to 2011’s Born This Way (though this writer loved it), a hip injury and a cancelled tour last year, fans didn’t know what to expect from Gaga’s next musical venture, which was officially released on Monday around the world.

Luckily, we needn’t have worried. On “ARTPOP,” Gaga takes her music and artistry into a wildly frantic new direction; differing vastly from the star’s”Born This Way,” with some undertones of its predecessors, “The Fame” and “The Fame Monster.” YAY!  The album’s overall tone is decidedly less serious, however, it still touches on themes regarding self worth and empowerment, something all listeners can identify with.

As a long time Gaga fan, I was hugely critical when listening to this, as I don’t think everything she has ever released should be automatically deemed good. However, I thrilled that I wasn’t disappointed with this effort. On the contrary, after The Fame Monster, I think ARTPOP is her best work. The album has it’s shaky moments, but overall is a strong comeback into her foray of popular culture.  As she’s collaborated with a wide variety of different producers on the 15 track album, fans are treated to a range of new sounds for fans, yet  Gaga stays true to the dance-pop roots that made her so popular.

Here’s my track-by-track review:

Aura – The track opens with guitar tinges reminiscent of the singer’s 2011 track ‘Americano.’ This eerie dance track, which was also featured in the film “Machete Kills,” starts us off on new and unique territory from from Gaga and its catchy chorus hook effortlessly draws you in. This one is also rumored to be a follow up track/ possible future video sequel  to ‘Telephone.’

Venus – Next up is promo single ‘Venus’ and, in my opinion, an album highlight. Gaga channels the Gods and the planets on this super dance track, which Gaga, impressively produced on her own for the first time. Those who cite Poker Face and Bad Romance as their favourites will love this one.

G.U.Y. – This is one of the album’s instantly catchy tracks, an acronym for “Girl Under You,” and features quirky lyrics, a dizzying, clap-along chours, and super vocals. It’s a perfect pop track.

Sexxx Dreams – This undoubtedly seductive song has proved to be a firm favourite with fans and critics alike – it’s just a shame the lyrics are too racy for mainstream radio. I love the sultry track and her vocals are impeccable on this one.

Jewels N’ Drugs featuring T.I., Too $hort and Twista – In perhaps what is the weirdest track on the album, Gaga experiments with hip-hop, and it just doesn’t work. No more of this please Gaga! This is very much a dip in the album and is probably the only track I skip over.

MANiCURE – Another instant favourite of mine, this one also was made for those live shows. The clap-along beat, empowering lyrics and strong vocal delivery make it another album standout, and I’m hoping it gets the single treatment.

Do What U Want featuring R. Kelly – Released as the rushed second single from the album, this one is a real grower; the more you listen to it, the more you’ll like it. Surprisingly, rapper R. Kelly makes an appearance in the song’s second verse and blends well with Gaga’s unique vocals, though I’d love to hear her solo vocals.

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ARTPOP – This one isn’t a favourite of mine, despite my enjoying the lyrics. Gaga very fittingly  declares “my ARTPOP could mean anything,” serving as a blueprint for the album’s overall creative direction. The dance track, which features 80s-inspired beats, is I found, very underwhelming, given it’s the title track, and lacks a strong hook that makes some of the previous tracks work so well.

Swine – This one was a favourite of mine when she performed it at this year’s iTunes Festival, and though I think it sounds at its best live, it’s still a killer tune. This song is made for clubs, featuring intense EDM production during the song’s chorus. It’s a standout on the album, sure to be a hit at nightclubs across the globe.

Donatella – This one a homage to Versace designer Donatella Versace. Though we get treated to some over-the-top, cheeky lyrics, to me this is one of the albums weaker moments, and what I would say is the first of the real ‘filler’ tracks.

Fashion! – And so with one filler, comes another in the form of another song that idealizes the fashion world, simply titled ‘Fashion.’ This mid-tempo track, again doesn’t offer a whole lot and is a disappointing effort from producer Will i am. However, it follows nicely on from ‘Donatella,’ the song serves as a, sort of, cousin to the previous tune.

Mary Jane Holland – The rock-inspired track, which would have rested nicely among 2011’s “Born This Way” album offerings, is another album highlight. Here, Gaga yearns to channel the persona of a character named Mary Jane Holland. A follow-on from 2011’s track ‘Bloody Mary?‘ I  definitely think so. This one is produced by French producer Madeon (who at only 19, is already shining as a producer) and is my favourite track on the album.

Dope – The ballad, one of the only slower moments on the album, is Gaga at her best; raw vocals and a piano accompaniment. She performed a different variation of this track titled ‘I Wanna Be With You‘ at the iTunes Festival, and the reinvented Dope packs just as much emotional punch as the former. A beautiful track.

Gypsy – This one is the only track on the entire album to have been co-written with Gaga’s long time collaborator RedOne, and it serves as a story of sorts for life as a performer for Gaga, who travels the world over in order to perform in front of her legion of fans. This one is also produced by French producer Madeon, and is brilliant, sure to become a classic.

Applause – The album’s lead single applause serves as an appropriate bookend to the ARTPOP experience. Released in the summer, though not an instant hit, the song’s catchy, clap-along chorus and odd verses encapsulate everything Gaga attempts to convey on ARTPOP, as she steps down from the stage to revel in the adoration of her millions of fans.

In terms of the music, I she has outdone herself with this release. Also, being a major fan of Jeff Koons, I think the album artwork looks fantastic.  I haven’t listened to Gaga on repeat this much since The Fame Monster. The standout tracks are: Venus, G.U.Y, Gypsy, Mary Jane Holland and MANiCURE. 

She’s rumored to be releasing a second volume to ARTPOP in the future to coincide with the ARTPOP app release, which I’m eagerly awaiting already! Are you a fan of the new music or were you disappointed? What are your favorite tracks? Tell all in the comments section!

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