Lady Gaga – ARTPOP (2013)

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I’d like to say that Lady Gaga (or is it Stefani Germanotta now?) is a very interesting person, making a bold attempt to fuse art with pop music, a resurrection of Pop Art…but I just don’t see it. Gaga is no Andy Warhol of the new millennium, or even of the 2000s dance/pop culture. But really, who is? Katy Perry? Ke$ha? What does it mean to be the Andy Warhol of dance music, anyway? Do the kids really care about “art”?

If these issues are tossed aside (as they should be because we got there only very indirectly via what the album title is hinting at), what we have here is a giant mess of disco. And (believe me when I admit that I’m scaring myself here), kind of a good one.

But before we get to said giant mess of disco, it’s only fair that I get into my feelings on the Lady. Yes, like a lot of people, I thought she was a Madonna wannabe. And what the world doesn’t need is a Madonna wannabe. But then there was that “Bad Romance” video, which was so weird that I couldn’t stop watching it. At that point, I was still on the “Meh” train. But then I saw Gaga perform with Elton John. Hey, the girl’s got chops! Maybe more than Madonna? Does Madonna even have ’em? I have no idea. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that I came to sort of liking Lady Gaga, even if I wasn’t cuing up her records every day (or week, for that matter).

So now we have this ARTPOP thing in all of its throbbing glory. The two things I noticed right away were the slinky, almost Middle Eastern riff that flashes through the opening “Aura,” and then…well…there’s the sex. A lot of it. I already feel like sort of a jerk for thinking this, so I might as well go ahead and write it: she pulls this stuff off far more convincingly than Madonna. Or at least, middle-aged Madonna. I totally dug what happened with Madonna’s Ray Of Light, but then I would see live video shots and the cringes would add up quickly. Is there an official point at which a sexy dance/pop queen should shelve the stilettos and spiky bras?

Anyway, there’s nothing revolutionary going on here. In the disco era, many of the songs were about the disco era, with all of the sex, drugs, and other fun recreational behaviors that that implies. On ARTPOP, all of that fun is hanging right out there in the open. There are piles of questionable lyrics but really, this ain’t philosophy class. The chorus of “Venus” conjures Abba, “Donatella” is stupid and fun at the same time, and “G.U.Y” (girl under you, tsk tsk) manages to be both goofy and sexy. The Lady’s chops even show up on the piano ballad “Dope.” It’s something that the record could have used a little more of, mostly as relief to the relentless disco pulse.

I always enjoy reading dismissive reviews of pop music. So much venting and hand-waving. Let’s face it, the kids are going to lap this stuff up. They’re gonna iTunes it and listen to it in their little earbuds while ignoring your middle-age self. It’s pop music. It’s as it should be.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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