I was afraid that ARTPOP would fail my expectations. It's hard to record four awesome records in a row, and it was quite possible that numéro quatre would not only fail my expectations, but also fall flat in the public's face.
But then the entire record was revealed to the world, and Lady Gaga's passion shined through and lived up to the album's ambition.
Sure, it isn't perfect. That's expected with all music. Gaga's intentions sometimes blur in the lyrics, and she occasionally make second-hand imitations of the genres she dips into.
That said, when compared with Katy Perry's Prism, ARTPOP is in a whole other league. In fact, ARTPOP might just as well be the pop record of the year.
Aura: "Do you wanna see me naked, lover?" is the line that sets the stage for Gaga's vulnerability throughout the record. This seductive invitation is set to exotic synths that lays down a grimy and energetic opener.
Venus: This is the definition of a Gaga song. Produced by her, its convoluted shifts, triple entendres, and lesbian come-ons makes you wish that this was her second single. At "When you touch me, I die / Just a little inside", un petit mort hits the ears.
G.U.Y.: Gaga comes back in Earth, and brews a power-bottom anthem with more agency than a model mounting a toy car on her back. It's like "LoveGame", but evolved into a Greek demon. Listen as she penetrates you with her...catchy earworms.
Sexxx Dreams: The sex continues in a chill tale of a love affair that garners sympathy for Gaga's leachous character. Even when she reigns it in, Gaga manages a serenity while she juggles between the two sides of her, the good and the bad girl.
Jewels n' Drugs (feat. T.I., Too $hort, and Twista): Okay, it's not tip-top rapping. While Too $hort's steady delivery fails to hold integrity, DJ White Shadow's produces a trappy club-banger that makes you pump your hands again and again. Now, can we agree on what "slap honey onto your pancake" means?
MANiCURE: Makes you wish for more pop songs this rock-and-roll, right? This parlor-shop slammer might be another "Sexxx" lyrically, but the song's varied annotation, frantic catchiness, and magnificent guitar-solo outro makes it a highlight.
Do What U Want (feat. R. Kelly): This is the mid-tempo dance jam "Lose Yourself To Dance" should've been. As with "Jewels n' Drugs", there are definitely better R&B jams out there, but just as a pop hit, it became a dark horse worldwide. Let's see if it can grab the #1 "Applause" couldn't obtain.
ARTPOP: For the exact middle of the record, Gaga goes for a smooth-jazz soundscape instead of a flashing set-piece. It works. Enjoy the sublime production as she delivers heavily thematic material and purple prose.
Swine: At this point, the album loses a little momentum due to the verse's straightforward execution, but the party continues. "I know, I know, I know you want me" builds the tension, which is released in an earthquakey EDM break.
Donatella: Besides "G.U.Y.", this is a fan-favorite, according to Rock Genius' traffic stats. Gaga walks a fine line between praising Donatella Versace, and criticizing fashion industry culture, and she keeps balance.
Fashion!: Even as the pedestrian track of the bunch, it's full enough to prove that, yes, Gaga managed to put substance in fifteen songs. "Married to the night / We own the world" is a bit melodramatic, and the Will.I.Am/David Guetta collab fails expectations, but despite its flaws, "Fashion!" manages to be better than many Top 40 radio music.
Mary Jane Holland: Madeon's work on the wub-filled beat makes this track a bulls-eye. Throughout the song, Gaga hypes up the titular Mary Jane (aka marijuana) Of course, this id-filled fun sets up...
Dope: ...her best ballad by far. Her brokenness reflects in her stuffed vocals, in what is a personal reflection of her drug addiction. "Been hurting low, from living high for so long" is a simple but effective line that also fits with her relationship with fame. It might be hard to listen to, but this is Gaga at her most emotional, and it works.
Gypsy: Just as Little Monsters wipe tears from their cheeks, they're hit with this whammy. Personally, some of the emotion gets lost in the fast tempo, but knowing the general music-listening population, this might as well be a homerun hit.
Applause: ARTPOP's lead single fits the best here, as it's a light celebration after the tensions and conflicts Gaga overcame. Even now, her ecstatic "I live for the applause" rubs off in an irresistible radio smasher. It brings ARTPOP to the beginning, and establishes Gaga's reign.
By the way, she says "one second I'm a Koons", not "kunst".
As said before, ARTPOP isn't perfect, but mark my words, it's going to dominate the pop scene for a long, long time.
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