‘Applause’ in order for Gaga’s latest
Based on the first single, the tired, hook-less “Applause,” I was ready to tear Lady Gaga apart for “Artpop.” I had this whole narrative planned out in my head about how she had squandered her promise, lost her sense of composition in pop production and was trying to steal legitimacy from the art world by doing naked yoga with Marina Abramovic.
But then I listened to the record. And its maximum ridiculousness disarmed me. Come on – the thing starts with a ukulele that leads into epic Western guitar (think the soundtrack to any Tarantino film) with Gaga singing about murdering people. Apparently, Gaga’s idea of art is more Ed Wood (“Plan Nine from Outer Space”) than Picasso. The “Aura” video even consists of clips from “Machete Kills,” a film made by the contemporary king of B-movie cheese, Robert Rodriguez, that conveniently features Gaga in her first high-profile acting role.
The “Mystery Science Theater 3000” theme continues with the ultra-weird “Venus,” which is like Ace of Base in outer space and includes lyrics like “Take me to your planet, take me to your Venus.” The alien references reminded me of Katy Perry’s “E.T.” and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Area 52.” What is it with pop stars and aliens these days? I mean, the connection does make sense – celebrities do live on their own planet – but if this trend continues, someone should tell the paranoid nerds covered in tinfoil to come out of their mom’s basement and hit the dance floor. Lady Gaga’s made it OK, guys!
Things only get more bizarre with the third track, “G.U.Y.,” which begins with an in-flight announcement to space cadets about the tantric powers of the music. The whole song hinges on the wordplay of the title, which means “girl under you,” and leads to the inevitable, head-scratching chorus, “I wanna be that G.U.Y.” Wait, what? Well, at least after that, she says, “Touch me, touch me, don’t be sweet/ love me love me, please retweet,” it all makes sense (nope). Regardless, it’s a heck of a good time and it’s nice to see a star continue to poke fun at gender roles.
Despite her best efforts, however, which include a dub-rap (!), a serviceable Bowie rip-off, “Fashion!,” and some Meat Loaf bombast, “Dope,” Gaga can’t keep up the crazy all the way to the end. “Artpop,” which is certainly more “pop” than “art,” is a mixed bag. But what Gaga album isn’t? And point me to a pop record released this year that is more of a raucous mess than this one. At least I know I’m laughing with her. Well, maybe.