Released November 6, 2013
59 min, 4 sec
I don’t really know how I feel about Lady Gaga.
I mean, obviously, I like Gaga. I think she’s a great pop artist, and she has consistently produced incredibly catchy, fun, and occasionally thought-provoking singles.
The problem I have is that her albums, in regards to quality, are woefully inconsistent. At least, to me, anyway, and since this is a blog about my personal thoughts regarding albums in my own collection, that’s really all that matters. Take ARTPOP, for example, just at random.
The same album that features “Aura” (a fantastic pop song, though not without its problems lyric-wise) , “Gypsy” (same problems, but only in the title), and “Applause” also, unfortunately, features songs like “G.U.Y.” and “Sexxx Dreams.” There’s a common theme between those two songs, yes, and you may be thinking “Well, buddy, I know what your problem is.” Are you right? Maybe. But I have the same problems with both The Fame and Born This Way – none of Gaga’s three albums are albums that I can comfortably sit through, even if I don’t particularly like a given song. All three have songs that are, when I’m not forced to listen to an album cover-to-cover for this blog, immediate skips.
A lot of that comes down to personal preference, sure. And there is, of course (and especially with Gaga), the simple fact that she will write songs that aren’t for me, as a target demographic. That target demographic being, put simply, “white straight dude.” That is absolutely not a knock on Gaga herself, certainly not – I would never say that an artist I like has to write songs that my poor little white boy brain finds acceptable. No.
Instead, I’m taking that and positing that some Gaga songs I don’t like just because I’m not big on their subject matter. Sometimes they’re horrendously produced, like “Jewels N’ Drugs.” Straight bottom-tier hip-hop production. Who scraped this beat out of the bottom of the damn barrel? (Also, the verses are shit.)
But, overall, Gaga is a solid artist, and she has a great musical sense. Yes, she chooses to hide her voice and “traditional” musical prowess under layers and layers of pop production. But there’s nothing wrong with that – she still makes great music, regardless of who’s producing her.
That said, ARTPOP isn’t the best that Gaga can do.
Part of that is probably because of the extra-musical hype built around the album – this wasn’t just an album, friends, this was an experience. An album, a tour with production through the fucking roof, and an app. Holy shit, an app! ARTPOP was always supposed to be more than the music. The app itself was meant to be a vessel for a new kind of interaction between Gaga and her fans, as well as a way to release new music after the album came out.
What was it, in reality?
Well, it sucked. I remember trying to use it multiple times, before and after the album was released, and was incredibly bored by it. Very few features, no music ever came out through it, and it seems as though Gaga’s team has abandoned it now that the ARTPOP tour cycle is coming to a close. And that’s to be expected, honestly; apps are not the future of music, people. You’re not going to reinvent music distribution by putting something on the iOS App Store. It’s a gimmick, just like iTunes LP is a gimmick. Gimmicks sell records for about five minutes before they dry up and become useless.
But the album itself isn’t even all that bad. There are plenty of songs that I try not to listen to if I can avoid them, but most of the album consists of perfectly serviceable pop songs. But perfectly serviceable is not what Lady Gaga should be. Lady Gaga, for all intents and purposes, should be the Kanye of pop, every single album innovating in at least some categories. That was the promise we were given when Lady Gaga stormed through the scene in 2008, obliterating pop as we knew it. The Fame was great; The Fame Monster even better. Born This Way, well, half of it was awesome. Now, we’re here, with ARTPOP, and it feels like Gaga is now just another pop musician.
She’s not even satisfied with that, though – Gaga released an album with Tony “Not a Pop Musician By Any Standard” Bennett this year, entitled Cheek to Cheek. That album is awesome, a true showcase of Gaga’s vocal prowess. Surprise, surprise, it’s not a pop album.
Sometimes I get this far into a post and I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say. That’s one of the challenges of this blog, and I’m glad that I’m doing it, but damn if it’s not incredibly annoying sometimes.
With ARTPOP, I think the main idea here is that Gaga has made better albums, and her time at the top of the pop landscape is over. That’s the nature of pop; the turnover is very, very fast, and tends to be permanent. Gaga may go down in the record books as being one of the greats of pop music, but she may also end up being a footnote, if she puts out more albums like ARTPOP.
Or, do more jazz albums. That shit’s awesome.