‘ARTPOP’ deserves ‘Applause’

December 10th, 2013

Over sweeping psychedelic dance music, Lady Gaga sings: “My artpop could mean anything,” her thesis for her new album, “ARTPOP,” which came out on Tuesday, Nov. 6. While her debut album, “The Fame” focused on ‘80s pop, and while “Born This Way” channeled vigorous ‘90s rock, “ARTPOP” explores the electronic genre while incorporating many musical genres.

Main producer DJ White Shadow demonstrates his ability to jump genres and styles. From the roaring “Sexxx Dreams” (a song about naughty subconscious escapades) to the thumping “Manicure” (a song most likely to squeeze its way into a 2013 “Grease” remake), White Shadow dances across boundaries of techno, rap, electronic, R&B and pop. The title-track, “Artpop,” balances between electro-jazz and psychedelic explosion. It’s one of the most ear-pleasing productions on the album. DJ White Shadow is also behind “Swine,” an industrial club track in which Gaga mutters: “I know you want me/You’re just a pig inside a human body” over rushing dirty chords and extreme drops.

Aside from DJ White Shadow, Gaga collaborates with a slew of producers. DJ Zedd’s collaborations on “ARTPOP” are electronic music masterpieces. The album opener, “Aura,” channels Middle Eastern strings and raging hammer beats. “G.U.Y.” and “Donatella” each have Zedd’s signature sound. Expect “G.U.Y.” on the radio sometime in the next year; it’s a catchy, sex-filled manifesto of Gaga’s desires.

Up-and-coming French DJ, Madeon, makes an appearance with three songs on the album. His best track is an anthem to cannabis: “Mary Jane Hollard,” where Gaga howls that her biggest sin is “Russian hookers and cheap gin” over heavy, but spacious, beats. Madeon also co-produced “Venus,” a wacky track that bounces genres but has the most catchy chorus on “ARTPOP.” However, Madeon falls flat on “Gypsy,” an “Edge Of Glory” remake that makes you gag after a first listen.

Rick Rubin, famous for his work with the Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jay-Z, produced “Dope,” a ballad that has effective, simple production alongside harsh lyrics. David Guetta and team up with Gaga on “Fashion!,” the biggest letdown on the album. With two thumping dance producers, you’d be surprised by the lackluster sound that makes “Fashion!” the most skippable track on the album.

There are four vocal collaborations on the album. “Jewels n’ Drugs,” features rap verses from T.I., Too Short and Twista and overall, seems messy and out of place. “Do What U Want” has accompaniment with the pipes of R. Kelly and plays up Gaga’s strengths with catchy lyrics and pop-friendly experimentation.

Overall, “ARTPOP” is impressive. It simply catches your attention and is certainly a contender for one of the best pop albums of the year.

The only concern I have for Gaga is her future. Will she be able to pull fresh production and lyrics on themes that are starting to get routine? It’s an important question for her longevity. However, songs about sleep-induced sexual fantasies, seashells and dope are enough to keep us holding onto pop music’s largest juggernaut.