In just under 10 years of her career, Lady Gaga proved herself to be a revolutionary and iconic force in popular music from the moment she released her debut, “The Fame”. Through the years her style has morphed and her outlook has changed, and on “ARTPOP”, she brought themes of art together with themes of pop to create an intuitive body of work that felt like one of her most personal pieces – if not the most personal piece in her discography at the time of it’s release.
In “ARTPOP”, Gaga blends common pop tropes and light-hearted, danceable beats with insightful lyricism and smartly conceived concepts. Such is apparent on songs such as “Swine” – a song which on the surface, appears as a high-energy EDM dance track with little lyrics, but is actually written about Gaga’s encounter with sexual violence.
This is but one of the many examples on the album of Gaga bringing opposite themes together. She manages to also create this seamless blend of concepts in many different ways. For example, in the song “Fashion!”, Gaga takes a light-hearted lyrical approach about her love for fashion, but mixes it with masterfully engineered production and clever amenities to transform it into something which manages to feel intelligent and smart, yet also keeps it’s fun, breezy, and of course – extravagant and over-the-top edge. The following song, “Donatella”, written about Donatella Versace, is another wonderful example of a different method of blending together separate elements. In this track, Gaga experiments with double entendres and satirical wordplay – on surface level, expressing the personality of Versace as desperate and callous, but ultimately hiding a truth and an homage behind the devastatingly infectious beats.
There is a certain feeling of authenticity behind “ARTPOP” which may be skimmed over at first in favour of huge beats and jarring synths. Gaga takes an introspective approach on many songs which may not be noticed because of said songs’ sheer power and pop appeal. This is very fitting in terms of the album’s grand scheme of things – blending commercial appeal, fame and grandeur with intuition, creativity and storytelling. This is also apparent – and very strategically so on the first and last tracks on the album – “Aura” and “Applause”. “Aura” is a brilliantly conceptualised track, and one of Gaga’s strongest songs of all time, in my opinion. It takes an incredibly flamboyant approach on dealing with themes of identity and character. It feels very autobiographical and reminiscent of Gaga’s character as a whole which makes it so strong as a song. The lead single, “Applause”, also takes a very autobiographical approach in terms of lyrics, masquerading lyrics about Gaga’s loves and aspirations with a spectacularly loud “oomph”.
Although there is an overwhelming abundance of danceable tracks with truly captivating and exhilarating production, Gaga doesn’t shy away from demonstrating vulnerability and rawness on this album, either. For example, the story told through both songs “Mary Jane Holland” and “Dope” about Gaga’s love-turned-addiction to marijuana. Although the former might not necessarily seem raw or vulnerable on top, when looking deeper into the writing you can uncover themes of desperation. However, the latter, certainly the most stripped back track on the album, is one of the few moments on the album when we really feel a true and obvious presence of heart and warmth from Gaga which is much-needed and much-appreciated. Another song which masterfully uncovers vulnerability is the album’s third single, “Do What U Want” featuring R. Kelly. The incredibly sleek R&B tune may seem fun and sexy at first but Gaga really gives away a lot of herself with this song, leaving her personality open, and also, in the form of a double meaning, showing her vulnerability towards media and paparazzi.
Yet, the album most definitely does not miss out on any of our classic Gaga moments of pure light-hearted fun and ecstasy. “Venus” is a simply, but brilliantly written song about a sexual or love encounter and features an incredibly interesting production job done by Gaga herself, which does well to demonstrate her whole artistic involvement in the project. The album’s second single, “G.U.Y.”, also talks about sex, and creates inspiring messages of female empowerment, as does the equally peppy, rock-influenced and cheerleader-esque track “MANiCURE”.
Overall, this is a magnificently conceptualised project as a whole and although the era may have not gone as Gaga planned, you can truly tell how much personal and artistic investment Gaga had in this project and she conceived her idea of mixing art and pop in the best way possible.
Essentials: Aura, Venus, G.U.Y, Do What U Want
(7.9 / 10)
***This article is contributed by @BeautyKween, thanks Brandon!
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