ARTPOP: An Otherworldly Guidebook to Lady Gaga's World of Weird
Like the cover of her last album Born This Way, Lady Gaga may be half machine. More likely is that she's transforming into the pop alien-robot she has been selling herself as since The Fame, and for the first time, she has released an album that feels like most streamlined expression of who she is as a pop artist.
See also: What to Expect From Lady Gaga's ARTPOP
Gaga sings on the album's title track--a fluid and dreamy song that arrives at the halfway point--that her "ARTPOP could mean anything." Like a well-deserved intermission between the busier beats of the songs before and after it, "Artpop" does its best to blend in with the others, but provides that lyric as the most accurate testimony to who Gaga continues to be: an ambiguous creature whose only consistency is that her style, sound, and story will be inconsistent. At the New York ARTPOP pop-up gallery that opened the same day her album dropped, the array of personas are displayed on several mannequins that give an idea of just how many personae she has cycled through. Surrounded by images from her latest era, it's like they are simultaneously shrouding and encompassing all those pasts. Like David Bowie and Madonna before her, she will keep reinventing herself.
The album begins with "Aura," a jolting track that begins with the type of intro that could soundtrack a showdown in a Tarantino film and appropriately used in previews for her feature film debut in Robert Rodriguez's Machete Kills. The lyrics themselves are her equivalent to Bowie's "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide," announcing the death of her former selves as she enters--though he was leaving--a spacey new era. Appropriately, the Sun Ra quoting "Venus" follows and may be her oddest deconstruction of the pop song yet as she sings lyrics like "Aphrodite lady seashell bikini" followed by an effectively blase delivery of the song's title. In all its pagan glory, "Venus" is catchy and nonsensical while still touting the most common lyrical tropes of pop and Gaga by singing about sex and love.
Pagan robot pop star continues as "Venus" births "G.U.Y. (Girl Under You)," a little '80s-level futuristic ditty beefed up by a gritty beat during the verses that opens up to a lighter sound during the choruses before breaking down to some recitation of numbers in German a la the also catchy and nonsensical "Scheiße" off Born This Way. "Sexxx Dreams," a slurring and alluring song, may be her least metaphorical off the album with trap beat-driven "Jewels n' Drugs" being its only competition. The latter feels like the most out of place and Gaga is outshined on the track by guests, T.I., Too Short, and Twista, who mesh their verses more effectively with the beat than her cabaret vocals are able to.