It’s a decent pop record – camp, silly, witty, ridiculous –but that’s it. Where exactly is the art?
I’m beginning to feel like Lady Gaga is a joke I just don’t get. That vast chasm between the conceptual game she talks (and wears) and her actual songs is fostering a growing, irritating suspicion that I don’t understand the punchline. It’s not that the idea behind album three is hard to grasp, and it’s outlined clearly in ‘Applause’: “Pop culture was in art, now art’s in pop culture in MEEEE”. So: we’ve had pop art, and now, with its sleeve designed by artist Jeff Koons, celebrator of hollow kitsch, we have ‘Artpop’. But when you actually listen to the thing, you have to ask, where exactly is the art in it?
While it’s stronger than the messy ‘Born This Way’, ‘Artpop’ feels little more culture-quaking than a good collection of fun, silly, well-crafted pop songs. ‘Swine’ is a romping, ridiculous synth blart, Gaga barking, “You’re just a pig inside a human body/Squealer, oh you’re so disgusting”. ‘Venus’ is silly Barbarella sci-fi disco, camping it up to the edge of the solar system (complete with Uranus puns), while ‘Sexxx Dreams’ deploys Princey falsetto over Daft Punk disco-rush.
When things try to get more ‘serious’, they go awry. The point she’s trying to make by tying in her points about the gloriously hollow lure of fame with references to the burqa on ‘Aura’ remains vague, as it does on the Amsterdam red light district sleaze of ‘Mary Jane Holland’, which closes with what sounds like Gaga sparking up a fat one. Sonically, the album freshens up Gaga’s glammy, industrial romp with the gloss of Daft Punk’s ‘Discovery’ (whose wildly arpeggiating guitars are all over this) and brostep boshing. It’s a decent pop record. That’s it.
But maybe that’s the whole idea. If pop art is Gaga’s muse, well, it thrives on the banal, commercial and ironically inane. Maybe ‘Artpop’ is no more than a row of sonic Campbell’s soup tins, an inscrutable, semi-serious joke: as she puts it on the slow and purringly sexy title track, “My artpop could mean anything”. Maybe we should all just stop worrying about a higher meaning and learn to love Gaga as the witty berk she is. Or did I miss something?