Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Album review: 'Artpop'- 2013: A Gaga Odyssey

In the two-and-a-half years since her last album Born This Way, Lady Gaga must have watched Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "A Clockwork Orange" on repeat for a long while. For starters, on the Artpop album cover she looks like one of the sculptures of the girls in the Korovo Milk Bar, and the album on the whole sounds like it's a voyage to space, to a faraway planet where dance music rules and inhibitions are left at the door.

Artpop is Gaga's weirdest, most experimental album to date, and it shows the "progression" she has made from party girl to all out crazy girl playing with all of the knobs in the studio. Since her first album, The Fame, came out five years, she's donned more personas than Roger from "American Dad!" On Artpop, Gaga takes us through her own musical stargate sequence as she tries to find herself, and it's not the most pleasant journey.

Since this is a space odyssey, I found it appropriate to write down our journey (which lasted about an hour).

As Gaga puts on her spacesuit - a.k.a. her burqa in "Aura" - she makes us get up and dance and prepare ourselves for the space odyssey ahead. Before you know it, our spaceship has taken off and we're headed toward "Venus," the planet of love and dance and we fly around all of the other planets. As we float around we're drawn to "G.U.Y." and "Sexxx Dreams," feeling alive in a state of euphoria as we have a sexual jamboree because we're finally comfortable with where we are.

It isn't long before we've run into some otherworldly figures to Gaga, with T.I., Too Short and Twista making an appearance on "Jewels N' Drugs," the interesting rap number that wasn't a highlight of the trip but an interesting off-road attraction. After our "Manicure," we're ready for our date with R. Kelly on "Do What U Want." After this one, I think it's best that Gaga stay away from collaborations.

The title track was pretty forgettable, but after that we were thrust into a fashion whirlwind with "Swine," "Donatella" and "Fashion!", all interesting dance numbers but just an in-your-face reminder that Gaga's albums are becoming more about product placement for high end labels than about the music itself.

As Capt. Gaga has had her fun she congratulates herself with a joint in "Mary Jane Holland." She must have smoked too much because she got all mopey and kept telling me "she needs me more than dope," in the next song (Dope). We finally head back to earth but have one final dance party as we celebrate our universal roots in "Gypsy." We all have a round of "Applause" as we touch back down. Well, Gaga did, we kind of just sat around watching her for another crazy job well done. I just stood there scratching my head.

There we go. That was my hour-long space ride with Gaga. Man, it was weird. I didn't know she was so into EDM, trap, rap as I thought. She has certainly changed since her Fame days but it's not for the better or worse. She's just not the same Gaga that made her stand out.

While I saw it as a Gaga space odyssey into the unknown, I think for her it was a messy reflection of who she is now- a money hungry fame whore who says she loves her fans but is secretly more happy she can have the designer outfits she wants. That's all the last half of the album is, how in love with herself she is. She's not at Kanye level because she appreciates her fans more.

This is a dance/electronic heavy album and I'm not sure she can find much marketable material for many of the tracks. It's an interesting album that has some songs you can leave on repeat - "Aura," "Venus," "Donatella," "Gypsy" - but not the fun, socially-conscious Gaga we know.

Rating: C

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