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Lady Gaga
Artpop Mof Gimmers , November 7th, 2013 08:05

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There's no getting away from it – some people really loathe Lady Gaga. Those that oppose Gaga (not including those who simply reject the notion of her based solely on a hatred of commercial, popular music) see her as a phoney – a loudmouth lifestyle tourist latching onto various sub-cultures, ripping off Madonna's moves and quite tedious in her attempts to shock with her wardrobe. On the flipside, her army of Little Monsters offer up the kind of devotion normally accorded to either cult leaders in bad jumpers or Morrissey, worshipping Gaga as an eccentric, funny, sarcastic icon.

Fact is, as ever, the truth probably lies somewhere between the two. And there's no getting away from the fact that, while other pop stars deal in trying to out-risqué each other, Gaga's weirdness (genuine or otherwise) keeps us transfixed.

In the past, she's surpassed the expectations of a pop singer. 'Poker Face' and 'Just Dance' were dancefloor dynamite and perfect for the radio. Then she blew up with 'Bad Romance' and 'Telephone', both with ridiculous, irresistible choruses and lavish videos. She made events out of each release, teasing with lyrics and online countdowns, premiering new ideas online as she went along… all the while cannily giving the air that everyone was invited to the red carpet. After a delightfully pompous arena tour, complete with the kind of giant rubber monster that would've kept Peter Gabriel in Genesis, she'd gone from no-one to being able to walk on water.

Yet the wheels started to wobble when she told us she was 'Born This Way'. The message, admittedly sound, felt a bit forced and the album artwork that followed – Gaga morphed into a motorbike – wasn't exactly cut with the style we'd become accustomed to. Still, conservatives (both musically and politically) hated her. She, like no other, could get a rise out of dissenting voices and it was still a fabulous spectator sport for all concerned. However, doubt had set in and it looked like Gaga couldn't work out where she was exactly supposed to be, leaving fans slightly apprehensive about new album Artpop. For starters, the name of the project produced a collective squirm. We geddit. You want to meld art with pop. Of course, part of the appeal of Gaga when she first arrived was she wrote songs that treated pop music like it was an artform in itself. All the cod highbrow ephemera that went along with it was good, campy fun.

And now, with Artpop, it seems she's got confused. You can feel the weight of what Gaga thinks her work is, rather than what it actually is. The once wonderful haphazard gesturing has been replaced with the crowbarring of ideas into songs. Musically, in places, this is a tremendous juggernaut of pop. Unfortunately, at times the lyrics can be found wanting. On too many occasions, a line will be so poor that it takes you out of the moment, killing your pop buzz dead. Gaga sings about being "behind the burka" at one moment, before breaking into "walk down the runway but don't puke, it's okay, you just had a salad today, boulangerie."

That said, like other Gaga LPs, this isn't an album to be ruminated over (sadly for her). She wanted Artpop; we wanted Goodpop, and what we actually have is Somepop, with regrettable sags caused by the odd filler track. However, when it is good, it is terrific. 'Sexxx Dreams' has a wonderful energy, while 'Jewels 'n' Drugs' (feat T.I., Twista & Too Short) sees Gaga trying her hand at skittering the hip hop you'd find in Juicy J or buried in trap. 'Applause', we know, is a bit sticky in places but, if you stop expecting too much of Gaga, you'll realise it has a furiously irresistible chorus.

While 'Manicure' is the lousy rock song she's been threatening to make for years and 'Dope' tries too hard to tell everyone she's clean, Gaga may well have made her best song in the gigantic 'Do What U Want' which features R Kelly, a man in the middle of a renaissance. In this song, Gaga and Kels go head-to-head to see how can out-sex the other. Of course, R Kelly has his detractors (he's a genius, but his social life is troubling), but here he teams up with Gaga to take a pop at the detractors: "we're taking these haters and roughin' 'em up and laying a cut like we don't give a fuck." It'd be nice to believe that.

Fact is, Artpop seems a little too eager to impress Gaga's critics. If she has tried to make things cerebral, to answer the criticism of 'you're just some dumb pop singer', then it doesn't quite work. This is a shame, for Gaga is always best when she doesn't worry about those people. The simple matter is that Gaga always works best in the language she speaks fluently - heartbreak, partying, fucking, falling in love and teen melodrama. It's in these moments that Artpop really shines. Yet it's not Gaga's finest hour. There are moments where she reminds us that she can still do wonderful things, but for the most part, Artpop shows us an artist who is trying to do too much all at once. Gaga's head on a swan neck is perfectly hilarious, but rein in the preaching and clanging references to fashion because, basically, all we ever wanted was to dance, for inspiration.

If Gaga learns anything from Artpop, it that she should stop trying to impress the hooting cynics who keep asking her to prove herself and stick to turning basic human emotions into rousing, hair-raising pop because, quite simply, when she's on form, there's no-one quite like her.

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Nov 7, 2013 1:24pm

First of all, great review. It can sometimes be hard to find an unbiased piece on Gaga. Very typically on blogs it's just bile spat at her.

Moving on though, I do disagree. I think ARTPOP is quite 'fun' and in places silly very much on purpose. No better example of that than in Venus, the consciously self-parodic acid trip of a tune. No, I think this is Gaga back at her best. One last thing I'd take issue with is your suggestion that she's best when she takes the arty bits out. I disagree. I quite like that.

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Nov 7, 2013 2:05pm

I have no issue with 'pop' or commercial chart bound music of any kind, let's get that straight, some of the best songs made this year have been popular songs('Get Lucky', 'I Like You','Royals' etc)....but Lady Gaga, well she's just not very good is she? People bandy Poker Face and the likes as if they're the next Billie Jean and it just isn't so IMO. As soon as she starts making songs that seem to have the same effort as her endless restyling...then I'll be happy to claim her as a modern pop great.

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Nov 7, 2013 2:12pm

The review starts by evangelising its own objectivity…but that’s what pretty much every review of Gaga does. It’s like she’s become this big symbol of ‘pop music’ which you dare not go in hard on because it then means you’re a conservative dullard who hates pop. Fuck that. She’s everything that’s terrible in pop music.

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Nov 7, 2013 2:17pm

She tries so hard to be weeeeeeird, but nothing she's ever done has seemed that odd really, maybe that's because we're all shocked out. She does seem to be largely style over substance.

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Nov 7, 2013 3:21pm

discokid has no opinion! discokid keeps on listening to jessy lanza...

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Nov 7, 2013 4:52pm

I love the straw-man arguments that begin the article: People that don't like Gaga have image issues with her...? People that do like her do so because of her 'humor' and 'sarcasm? Oh, please.

How about about the quality/character of her music? Can we read about that for a change?

Apparently not. Right away, we can see this yet another lazy cultural review of an album that doesn't have the stones or intelligence to examine the actual music. The closest we get to that is a one or two word description of a few songs... This is not a review, and sure as hell isn't music criticism.

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Nov 7, 2013 5:32pm

Good review, might want to clean up those typos though. Just a quick shout-out to Evan who thought he was visiting

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Nov 7, 2013 6:42pm

"Your comments on 'Lady Gaga.'"
This comment header perfectly sums up my thoughts about this review. Was this an ARTPOP album review or a Lady Gaga review?

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Nov 7, 2013 7:29pm

You can't even get the lyrics right, yet I'm supposed to have faith in your reviewing capabilities?

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Nov 7, 2013 7:47pm

In reply to discokid:

YOU da Man discokid! YOU da Man :)

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Nov 7, 2013 8:06pm

Aww man, and I was hoping this might be like album of the decade or something, the album cover is really beautiful I think... Well, at least I learned something from this, never believe the hype, it was all too good to be true.

I would also like to say something about this Gaga problem, her music does not simply live up to her image that she's built, I mean, visually she's really stunning and quite "forward" if you know what I mean. There are few songs that do and when they do, they are excellent (Bad Romance). Many people will get angry at this comparison but I will do it! I think Gaga is a lot like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, because like her they have this ultra cool and "out of this world" image that does not materialise in their music, YYYs albums are quite uneven listening experiences (sometimes boring) but when it's good, it's really wonderful!!

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Nov 7, 2013 8:44pm

You were too generous. The album is a mess and so is that woman. Her 15 minutes of fame are up and the smell of her decaying career can't be hidden no more.

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Nov 7, 2013 9:00pm

With the reach of media and social media these days it's difficult to find anyone who sits on the fence with an artist like Gaga (someone who shows up in headlines on an almost daily basis for a number of years).

That said, i think i'm a fence sitter when it comes to Gaga. I don't think her music can keep up with the rest of the package but there have been a few songs I've enjoyed.

And i'm certainly not on the fence about that Thanksgiving special of hers from a few years ago - couldn't turn the d*mn thing off.

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G 'n R Lies
Nov 8, 2013 2:04am

In reply to discokid:

I'm w/u discokid that Jessy Lanza is the art pop Gaga wants to make but can't. Agree with the review here: when she just does pop it's great. Leave the pretensions to Yoko.

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Nov 8, 2013 2:34pm

In reply to evan:

I couldn't agree more with you, Evan.

There is nothing she has done that has interested, or provoked me in the least... and I am not that old 'get off my lawn kids' type. I am constantly looking for new stimulation musically. There is, however, literally nothing there to get your teeth into when it comes to dialogue.

Worse is when you get to her music, which is why reviews rarely focus on it. Were these songs trafficked by anyone with lesser publicists and stylists, no one would give an actual fuck. It's C rate circuit party music for those who fancy themselves daring, and yet in reality, are painfully dull.

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Nov 9, 2013 5:38am

One word: Bjork

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Nov 10, 2013 12:18pm

empty. scratch the surface and find.... nothing. her 15 mins ended about 5-10 mins ago. next!

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Nov 10, 2013 3:39pm

People who hate Gaga aren't conservative, they just have functioning ears. She is great at using visuals to obscure the fact that her songs are generic tripe.

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Nov 11, 2013 12:01pm

In reply to evan:

Lady Gaga should be lucky she has the cushion of her cultural impact to bail her out, because honestly, her music is derivative cheese. It always has been, honestly, but she seemingly put more effort into it before, and had a lot of monster hits. Recently however, her music seems to switch between hollow and mediocre to fucking terrible. She needs to get back to making the quality music you spoke about instead of making dresses that fly - then maybe people would, you know, talk about her music more often.

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Nov 11, 2013 1:00pm

is this an ALBUM review or artist's carreer and expectation review?

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Get On With It
Nov 11, 2013 5:47pm

"and stick to turning basic human emotions into rousing, hair-raising pop because, quite simply, when she's on form, there's no-one quite like her"

What a load of baloney. Her work has alway been very average. Or maybe you find average "rousing" ?

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Nov 13, 2013 1:43am

Donatella is fantastic.

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Nov 13, 2013 7:46am

Any time Gaga has a new product out, I can't look at the comments objectively as it's love/hate with no room for in-between. She gets compared to Madonna as they both dance, sing and manipulate the media better than anyone. Madonna sold albums, but was more a singles artist until Like A Prayer, she was 30 and Gaga is still 27. I'm sure she has more than 15 minutes. The fame level will either be in a Cyndi Lauper mode, still loved but 'does she have to sing new stuff at the concert?", or Gaga stays A-list. ARTPOP was supposed to be a blockbuster and it isn't, Yet just like people either feel yay or nay to her, that's how the songs on this album are "Yay or Nay' Yet, the album isn't lazy, there was a plan for each song but half the plans only looked good on paper. When she drops these still new influences she's discovered on her travels these 5 yrs and show them to us as though NO one has ever heard of Koons before her, her future albums has a strong chance to as classic as Ray Of Light and even ones people feel are better (which there are many.)because when you take away the meat dress (And yes, to judge the music you have to judge the antics as she clearly blends all as one product), there is a phenominally talented person. She just has to realize we're already paying attention, now sing.

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Nov 14, 2013 5:09pm

Is Quietus known for censoring comments. I've left two now that have disappeared and I dont hold much hope for this one. Just want to say that there seems to be a lot of apologists for Gaga's mediocrity supporting her in the media, that's all.

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Nov 22, 2013 7:08am

In reply to Exiene:

"because when you take away the meat dress (And yes, to judge the music you have to judge the antics as she clearly blends all as one product), there is a phenominally talented person."

Why hasn't she made one brilliant song then ?

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