Categories: Album Reviews

ARTPOP – Lady Gaga (2013)

Final Rating: 8.8/10

Lady Gaga, often slammed or highly praised, is no stranger to controversy and to how the music industry works. After her last album Born This Way, one of which was either adored or ridiculed for its messages and filthy beats, and after a tour cancelation, a broken hip, twitter feuds, and so many other troubles, she seemed to keep a level head for her biggest project yet, ARTPOP (Yes, in all capital letters). Like anything Lady Gaga related, you may love this album or you will hate it depending on how you feel about her to begin with or whether or not you agree with what she is trying to do. This writer is highly impressed with ARTPOP; A musical journey that travels through genres, ideas, and emotions. It is an album that starts off far fetched and off the walls and then slowly comes down to Earth and is frighteningly personal.

The album starts off with Aura, a bizarre track that begins with the kind of sounds you would hear on a weird Born This Way track (perhaps Americano). The song talks about the murder of the narrator’s former life (presumably Born This Way) as the bass featured on this album bursts its way slowly into the song, changing the song entirely. That is how the album starts. It starts with the most experimental song on the album, as it transitions into the second weirdest song Venus: A modern B52s-like song that combines partying, sex and astronomy with an eerie Sun Ra sample that chants within the background. The album begins to explore sex based songs with GUY and the more toned down Sexxx Dreams, as it jumps into a hip hop based song called Jewels and Drugs (two of the other topics found in rap) featuring T.I., Too $hort and Twista. Following this theme of popular radio genres we have the rock anthem MANiCURE which cleverly combines the idea of getting a manicure to relieve ones self of stress with the mentality of being rid of men entirely. After so many songs about sex and self power, we have Do What U Want, featuring R Kelly, which has Lady Gaga sacrificing her body as a sexual object but refuses to give up her mental integrity. It is a driven song with R&B elements that features some of Lady Gaga’s best vocals to date.

After so many heavy hitting songs, we reach the midway point with the title track ARTPOP: A pretty and calming song about unity. The concept of self depravation for art returns, sadly (for the pop star, not for us) with Swine. Swine, too, is about self sacrifice for one’s passion as it is a much more confrontational song about doing what it takes to live one’s dream as it exposes the disgusting personalities of higher ups. Suddenly, the second half of ARTPOP reveals itself to be the more hard hitting half lyrically, as the first half focused on giving us a good time and on being strong. Donatella follows as a satirical look on the idol of the same name, as it both commends her for her importance yet also paints the tabloid driven picture of her (with lyrics about how she is a self empowered bitch). Fashion! similarly praises yet mocks the fashion industry with lyrics that are as flashy as a photo shoot itself: You sense the reality behind the art. Mary Jane Holland follows, and it is a marijuana anthem. However, it isn’t the typically sleazy weed song. It’s actually a bitter sweet epic full of dirty synths, a theatrical bridge, and lyrics that both promote highs yet show one’s dependency on them.

This leads us to Dope, a piano ballad that can be linked to marijuana as well yet is Lady Gaga’s most hard hitting song yet. It compares the separation between her and her loved one(s) with being separated from a drug. It’s candid. It’s heavy. It’s Lady Gaga at her most bare ever. Gypsy trails afterwards with a piano intro that fights back with an upbeat rhythm signifying Lady Gaga’s strengths lying amongst her music and her effect on the world musically. As she ends the song off with listing the names of countries, she mentions “I don’t speak German but I try”. This is a clever homage to her song Scheisse off Born This Way, which sexually states “I don’t speak German but I can if you’d like”. Only this time in Gypsy, she’s showing her efforts as an entertainer, not her will to impress a lover. The album is over with her remembering why she is a performer to begin with, and we conclude the album with the epilogue Applause: A tune devoted to her fans.

A track by track commentary is necessary since ARTPOP is a clear concept album that travels from obscurity to realization. The album is linked musically as well, with songs that bounce off the starts and finishes of one another (yet never fully transitioning, which would usually be a bad note but here it works as this is an album of pop songs that can be played individually). We hear a lot of EDM beats and synths throughout the album, but they never feel fake like they did on Born This Way, despite being electronic sounds. They sound as real as electronic sounds can sound. The production on this album is well done, with walls of sound thick enough to stand within and bass that cascades off all corners of the room. There are many sounds and ideas happening at once. As an example, Venus (which Lady Gaga produced herself) will have snare drums get more and more layered to punctuate parts of the song more than others to create dynamics. In ARTPOP, she creates a falsetto sung melody to accent the background music of the second verse, never mind a chorus. These kinds of cares of all parts of the songs are what separate ARTPOP from your run of the mill pop album. Vocally, Lady Gaga has never been better, as she belts the high notes in Do What You Want, screams in Swine, and channels many of her idols ranging from Elton John and David Bowie to Christina Aguilera and Annie Lennox.

ARTPOP is interesting because its goal was to combine pop with art, clearly. While it shows a great sense of pop being done well, its sense of art doesn’t pop out at first until a further look. Pop art, a type of art popularized by Andy Warhol, created meanings and art through commercial objects. On ARTPOP, Lady Gaga creates further meanings within the same songs. Mary Jane Holland isn’t just about being high: It’s about hiding behind a fake person. Donatella isn’t just about admiration: It’s about jealousy. Do What U Want isn’t just about standing up for yourself: It’s about begging for your reputation as you are stripped of your innocence. This album may not scream about the art classics or stray too far off the pop spectrum, but each song creates ideas that can be analyzed on a further analysis as a double meaning (including the overly silly Venus, which can either be a fun and sexy song or reference an outside look on how the world is run). While the album can be silly at times lyrically, the album is meant to be a fun experience for the most part so these silly hiccups are easily forgiven.

With every song climaxing, every track leading off the next, and the album taking a ride from the highest point outside of one’s mind down into the deepest parts of their subconscious, ARTPOP is an unusual pop album. It’s rare to see such a commercial pop album have such steady precision and such purpose. In the end, not everyone will be a fan of Lady Gaga, but after ARTPOP, one has to respect the hard work that went into this album. Lady Gaga co wrote and co produced virtually every song on here and had a lot of control over this idea she had in mind. With the eccentric cover that’s bizarre at first but rather stunning after some getting used to, this album may be a bit weird to some at first. However, whether the trip is a good one or not, it’s a rare time such a commercial album is worth the devotion and time of everyone. It’s the album that separates Lady Gaga from her pop rivals on the radio and on disc, and it’s the album that will remind us why she is to share an entire album with the legendary Tony Bennett next year, and why she has performed on stage with The Rolling Stones. It is the album that reminds us why Lady Gaga is Lady Gaga.

Andreas Babiolakis

Former Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.

View Comments

  • Amazing review!  This is one of the most fairer ARTPOP's review I have read. I mean, when they hear ARTPOP, they only think about the ART and they expect something totally different than this. They expect some deep and difficult meaning into the album, and they, literally, try to dictate how a Art and Pop has to be. C'mon boy, you're no real critic! She's been around for 5 years and she knows what she's doing! She's not as dumb as you presume she is. BTW is too serious and now she's releasing something cool, not as dark and 'weird' as the BTW era. There's Art and there's Pop - woooah, lots of it - but you're too blind try to find the ugly holes in her art. 
    Enjoy, and stop being so rude!

    • gag4loo Glad to see that you enjoyed reading Andreas' review! I think it is very well written too. What is your favourite track off the new album?

  • Amazing review, well thought out and articulated when compared to most album reviews we see nowadays. Please don't be disheartened by some of the comments on here (mostly by the same bunch of people) who are criticizing you, they are known to be haters of Gaga and will try and discredit anyone who paints her in a positive light. It's the same bunch of people obsessed with searching the net on anything Gaga related to try and vilify it somehow. One only has to look at their comment history to grasp what kind of people they are. Hope to read many more reviews written by you, well done and good job :D

    • lolums Wake up you stupid teenager. Not everything in life is all happiness and sunshine. People grow personally and professionally from a range of different comments. 
      I would attempt to look at your comment history but you don't have one. You created this account for the specific purpose of committing here despite the fact you can use twitter or facebook to log on. 
      You call us obsessed but at the end of the day we are not the ones hiding our identity and making alias accounts all to get in to defend our idol. - It's kind of sad.

      • ChrisTanasoff  go away you motherfucking piece of shit. Your essays wont change the fact that ARTPOP is a good album. Go and buy FLOPDNA nd FLOPISM. FUCK YOU

      • ChrisTanasoff lolums "we are not the ones hiding our identity and making alias accounts all to get in to defend our idol" Wait - don't you quote the examiner on your 'blog' and yet the accounts that post anti-Gaga articles on there have all been proven to be fake and the same person? Hence why you can find Angela Cheng's picture on Flickr. You make me ashamed to be a Madonna fan.

        • LOL why did you quote something and then proceed to comment something which had nothing to do with what you quoted.
          But because I'm such a kind person, I'll do my good deed for the day and answer your question. I have never once in my entire life quoted the examiner. Not once. It's not my blog either. I don't run it. I've written two stories for it.
          In regards to Angela cheng? I think her stories are poorly written, over the top and stupid - I wouldn't know who she is, or what you have "proven" her to be and I don't care. I'm not a desperate gaga fan that spends my time trying to disprove anything negative someone says.
          I also love your next comment, as if a personal connection you have with an artist can be effected by anyone else LOL if you're so ashamed darling, stop being a fan? .... I don't care LOL

      • ChrisTanasoff lolums Honestly and I mean this from a place of concern, it's not that serious, take a step back and realize it's just pop music. I hope one day you will look back on your twitter page, your hate blog, your comments under every gaga article and realize how you are taking things a little too seriously.

        • Honestly, stop exaggerating.
          Please find another RECENT gaga article I have commented on? The only reasons I did on this one is because it came up on my Facebook.
          I'll say it again because you clearly missed it the first time. I have written TWO stories for paws down, months ago. I use twitter every few days or so.
          Stop, lying.

  • Everywhere you go on the internet, can't escape crazed Madonna fans in a Lady Gaga article. Hey losers, the only time we're thinking of Madonna is when you're shoving her inflated accomplishments in our face in comment sections of articles about someone else. Stay butthurt.

    • RockBot You're the only ones brining up Madonna. We are talking about how awful the album is based on it's musical and ethical merits. 
      You idiots have Madonna on your minds.

      • ChrisTanasoff RockBot lmfao Chris Tanasoff you are OBSESSED. You literally have a blog dedicated to hating on gaga and your twitter page is all full of tweets about her. Your laughable at this point , following her every move, i swear madonna stans need to focus less on gaga and more of their own lives

        • lolums ChrisTanasoff RockBot Just correcting the constant misinformation you seem to love to spout.

        • lolums ChrisTanasoff RockBot I don't have a blog dedicated to gaga, sorry to inform you of the facts. I don't run paws down. 
          My twitter time line atm is filled with hate from little monsters because of my comments here. 
          I swear gaga fans, need to go back to school or perhaps get jobs, maybe then you'll be able to keep gaga #1 for more than 24 hours.

  • @AndreasBabiolakis 
    The album is unchallenging, incoherent, unimaginative, and superficial. I expected more. 
    The album is unchallenging, incoherent, unimaginative, and superficial. I expected more. The entire album feels forced and commercial-with little valuable content and lacking any sense of purpose, mind-invoking or direction. With efforts like these, Gaga will you please take a break and stop wasting everyone's time. It is simply Born This Way II.
    Lyrically uninspiring, rife with pseudo complexity, unintelligent, uncomfortable flow, despite what people are saying very little thought, if any went into lyrics composition and structure. The only redeeming quality on a track or two was Artpop the title track, G.U.Y and Manicure and even that should have been released by someone else like Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, One Direction or Ke$ha. 
    As a "musician" you should be more demanding of the people that you work with, Gaga. I would give the same amount of money as DJ White Shadow in effort with this piece of crap- ZERO.
    8.8 out of 10 ?? Come on, please. You might wanna rethink your review and musical knowledge. Embarrassing for someone who claimed to have a Degree in Art whatever.
    It is 1000 times better to have common sense without education than having education without common sense.

    • Lady Mehgaga I won't expect any biases from someone named Lady Mehgaga at all! 
      Common sense would also tell you that opinion is not synonymous with fact. 
      You hated the album? There you go. That's the permission granted to you by anyone that makes an album.
      To me the album had a purpose and was cohesive. In terms of challenge, I thought the layout was unique as it had the more off kilter songs on the album merge into the more casual tracks and finally into the personal songs at the end. As I can see, not everyone agrees or likes this. I also don't think absolutely every album has to be challenging. If I want a challenging album, I'd put on Swans or Deathspell Omega. Will this album revolutionize music? No. It's a standard pop album but a damn good one and the one that has stood out the most to me in years. Every song has an ulterior motive and/or message, and you see it as superficial. Fine. I see it as satirical and as a statement. 
      My musical knowledge and my degree have taught me that art has and always will be based on opinion. People can find something to love out of what is considered the absolute worst. People can find something to hate out of the absolute best. If you found something horrible here, with an album I said that I knew would be polarizing, that's fine. I didn't, and there's hardly anything embarrassing about having an opinion that doesn't match with yours or anyone else's.

  • Lady trash does it again she puts out what she calls a album which in reality is nothing but a bunch of annoying noises combine together and she took 2 years to work on this what a waste ..Little creatures save your $$$$

  • The year is 2001, Daft Punk releases "Discovery". The year is 2013, Lady Gaga releases Artpop a watered down version of Discovery that has her screaming lyrics like "Don’t puke. you just had a salad today, boulangerie, just ask your gay
    friends their advice before you get a spray tan on holiday in Taipei" on top of it and some who have absolutely NO KNOWLEDGE on pop music or electronic music fall for it. The album is a mess they covered the lack of ideas in the music and the lyrics by drowning the whole thing in noise, the album is loud. I don't think it's helping her to tell her this is great because it is not and she'll never grow as an artist if people keep on licking her ass. At best it sounds like unfinished demos and ideas at worst like a Makina compilation for car tuning. This is not what the 3rd or 4rh album by a major artist should sound like. Bjork had Homogenic & Vespertine as 3rd & 4th album. Artists are supposed to grow not go back in desperation to reconnect with their previous success after a bump. This is the Fame & FameMonsters album remade by a tribute  band in their bedroom. The mix is awful. I don't know what crosed your mind maybe you did not pay attention to the 1000 albums that are being released right now left and right that are pissing all over this outdated product.

    • PierroteLCHBM I'm paying full attention to most of the releases out now. I don't have time to review all of them by myself and I can't hear virtually every one of them! Haha.
      Björk is far different. I'd consider Homogenic to be one of the best albums of all time, so I'm clearly in agreement. However they are two entirely different artists. Björk may have had some mainstream success, but I doubt that was her goal to begin with. I also think Discovery is a revolutionary album. I don't find much comparison between them and Lady Gaga whose intentions and goals are significantly different. Is ARTPOP album of the year? No. My point is something can be an enjoyable and, to me, an above par album that goes above what other pop albums have done recently (again that's just my opinion, it doesn't have to be shared). It doesn't mean it's a masterpiece. If I'd compare this to the film industry, I'd consider X Men First Class to be a great super hero movie and a lot of fun. Would it be comparable to a film like Drive that came out the same year? Absolutely not. Not to me anyways. I personally think she went forward with this album, but it's okay if you think otherwise.
      To me the ugly lyrics in Donatella are meant to sound as such because they're criticizing how seriously these notions are taken in the fashion industry. I'd hardly call them groundbreaking lyrics but they did their job and I thought it worked in making a very comical statement about said industry. I can easily see why people would hate it as they would hate many things on this album. 
      I'm not trying to coax Lady Gaga into thinking anything. I don't understand why people think I write to satisfy or upset people of fan bases or the artists themselves. I write on how I felt about the album, and if others disagree and, even, if I'm in the minority, oh well then! 
      Glad to see a Björk and Daft Punk fan on here, though!

  • GaGa fans, so delusional, they can't get past the fact this album is pathetic and full of more copied stuff and complete crap. Stop trying to cling onto shit that is not there, she is dead, her career is dead, her music is not true artistry, it's flat out garbage. GaGA and her fans are delusional morons

  • Wow, what a tremendous review. You not only got what Gaga was trying to do but you seem to appreciate it as well. So many reviewers these days don't seem to look past the surface of a song. I can't tell you how many "professional reviews" I've read that are one or two sentences about each song and then a letter grade. This really dives into every facet of the album and I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for taking your time to listen and review!

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