DESPITE the high concept, Lady Gaga’s singing the same old song, writes Fiona Shepherd
Lady Gaga: Artpop
* * *
Since shooting out the pop blocks five years ago with The Fame, Lady Gaga has made increasingly flamboyant claims for her art. She describes her latest album as “a celebration and a poetical musical journey” and has this to say of the accompanying app: “altering the human experience with social media, we bring ARTculture into POP in a reverse Warholian expedition.” Huh? At least she sings plainly on the title track “my artpop could mean anything”. Now that’s having your cake and eating it.
Gaga is undoubtedly an audacious stylist. The album cover is a mash-up of Botticelli’s The Birth Of Venus and a statue, created by Jeff Koons, of a naked Gaga, strategically covered by a large crystal ball. On the opening track, she crassly invokes the mystique of the burqa, and asks “do you want to see the girl behind the aura?” Within minutes, she has replaced the veil with a “seashell bikini”.
We will probably never see the girl behind the whatever but that’s fine, as there is ample fun to be had watching her shape-shift so freely – some, including Gaga herself, would say irresponsibly.
Aurally, however, it’s the same old song, as she rolls out a succession of instant disco/industrial electro numbers to more streamlined effect than the pick-and-mix Born This Way. The artpop concept might be blurry but, as imagery and references spill over from one song to the next, it is clear that Gaga intends the album to be a chronological listening experience.
Bubblegum disco track Venus mixes classical mythology and interplanetary travel. It’s no I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper but you’ve got to love a rhyming couplet which goes “Uranus – don’t you know my ass is famous?” From here she slips straight into the astrological puns of G.U.Y. whose sexual role play theme is revisited with an animalistic twist on the Teutonic Swine.
Sex is mixed with style on Manicure, while Fashion!, with its backhanded Madonna references, and Donatella are vague enough to pass as both satire and celebration. The final ingredient in her colourful cocktail of escapism is drugs, referenced prodigiously on Mary Jane Holland and metaphorically on overwrought torch ballad Dope.
But as she encores with generic rave pop single Applause, it’s clear that what really gets Gaga high/hot is adulation, celebrity, fame. Which is where she first came in, is it not?