Hark, ARTPOP approacheth.
This Monday, the 11th of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand and thirteen, Lady Gaga’s third full-length album will drop. About a billion people will probably give it a listen and about a million online reviewers will probably weigh in. I suppose it would be out of place, given the mini-saga on this blog, for me to refrain. But my reservations about Mother Monster’s current place in our cultural landscape (that is, out of touch), as well as her bizarrely self-deprecating campaign for the album, endure.
There’s also the litany of outfits and get-ups that are truly wearing Lady Gaga more than she’s wearing them. Have you seen these images? Careful, they’re really not for the faint of heart. Or anyone with taste.
I stand by everything I’ve said about my former idol’s inability to truly captivate our attention in a world that, ironically, seems numb to outrageous post-Gaga pop antics. 2011 Mama Monster would have guffawed at today’s #Mileygate craziness, but now Miley, Nicki, Katy, Riri, and that random newcomer Britney Jean – they’re all serious #competition. (Wait, why do all their names end in an “eee” sound? Have I been pronouncing Beyoncé wrong??)
The thing that should separate Lady Gaga from someone like Miley Cyrus is the quality of the music itself. I say SHOULD, not DOES, because what little we’ve heard of the contents of ARTPOP, leaked in intermittent snippets on the web, does not exactly inspire confidence. She may never achieve anything as close to the raw, fervent power of “Bad Romance,” a song which I truly believe changed the way we listen to pop music. But that iTunes Festival performance in London made it look like she wasn’t even trying. Personally I’ve been dreading my first listen of the album, because if it lacks any of the innovative and invigorating adventure that defined The Fame Monster, what’s to prevent ARTPOP from being grouped into the same category of pop as Miley’s god-awful Bangerz? It’s a shame because I have fond memories of my friend and I combing the internet for illegal downloads of Born This Way and then sitting around all day just listening, savoring the fabulousness. My paws are just no longer in the air.
“Dope”! Rock piano ballad realness! Here Gaga is certainly reaching into her bag of tricks, but the tried-and-true combination of impassioned vocals and piano is wonderfully reminiscent of acoustic versions of “Yoü and I” and that incredible duet with Elton John at the Grammys. This is the kind of pure and simple rock n roll that Steffi, pre-fame and pre-Fame, grew up practicing in Lower East Side bars. Her weirdly affected opera voice and damaged-goods lyrics are part of this song’s appeal, and that high belt feels downright refreshing. Maybe my Mama Monster’s still got it!
Mind you, “Venus” is basically garbage, and “Do What U Want,” featuring R. Kelly with Gags doing her best Christina impression, throbs seductively but doesn’t hold up to multiple listens. But “Dope”! It’s a sign that ARTPOP could be intermittently great, or at the very least, stylistically all over the place… Things are looking up. Ish.
You know that thing where you’re mingling at a party, but there’s a pan of triple-chocolate brownies on the table, and you keep kind of circling around and only looking at it out of the corner of your eye, and like sweating a little, and determinedly making conversation with anyone and everyone to distract yourself from the absolute certainty that at some point you will, without a doubt, consume as many of those brownies as physically possible? That’s how I personally am feeling about ARTPOP at the moment. Stay tuned.