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Criticism | Lady Gaga builds an ode to sex and creativity with the underrated ARTPOP

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Originally published March 28, 2019.

“ARTPOP” is perhaps Lady Gaga’s most controversial album yet. Not only to move away completely from the dance pop and electro rock typical of his previous albums, endorsed by a more metallic assault on “ Born This Way ”, but by speaking openly about subjects considered taboo by society. the most conservative and the most backward. It’s no coincidence that, upon her release, the singer ironically said she was going to revolutionize the music scene – and she did it in a way, not because of the track building of album, since they all start from the same base, but rather because they raise issues that are discussed by people, but not publicly. It’s also not surprising that the album became a critical failure and was recently rediscovered as one of the singer’s most underrated.

Centered entirely on synthpop, a more visceral and electronic version of classic pop, the album itself is about passionate crimes, sex, drugs and, in all its breadth, creativity. In several groups, Gaga uses her reputation and the growing criticism of her style and identity changes to show that she is an artist in her own right, a participant in the entertainment industry who values ​​originality and, in at the same time, talks to the fans, she talks to herself too. It is not surprising that after the release of “The Fame Monster”, the singer preferred to use personal events for more and more intimate creations.

“Aura” is the song that opens the album. Starting from the techniques of Western musical influences, mainly the presence of mariachis, Gaga speaks of her own creativity, which is protected by a metaphorical veil that also serves as a refuge for her artistic aura. It is not for nothing that this madness emerges countless times due to the dissonant laughs at the beginning and the use of electronic voice changers in some parts, giving an approach to electronic dance music that not only makes the interesting piece to analyze, but also engaging. . And while that brutality is viewed with some caution here in the lead single, “Applause,” there is a great maturation of Gaga herself, which pays homage to her fans – the Little Monsters – and embraces the applause she receives. she receives such affection, not caring about the harsh criticisms he has received in his career.

The creativity championed tooth and nail by the singer is not limited only to her personality, but also spreads to those who have always participated in her life and allowed her to become the icon that she is today. One can say, then, that the extension of his personality rests on the very irreverent and completely shocking costumes which he uses, greeted with a huge ovation in the incredible compositions of “Fashion!” and “Donatella”: while one speaks with grandiloquence of the work of designers and their materialist capacity for translation, of the desires most inherent in human beings, the other develops as an acid critic of the world in which models are submitted to bring the dreamlike closer to mere mortals (“You only ate one salad today; bakery,” she says at one point on the second track).

Drugs are also an important part of this phase of Gaga, especially marijuana. At various times, it is possible to see how the calming properties of this plant made it possible to understand the songs of the singer far beyond the surface – a sincere and clear apology. “Mary Jane Holland” uses one of the countless synonyms for the drug and even talks about the unfounded taboo about it that accompanies older generations (“I know mom and dad find me a complete mess”); “Jewels N ‘Drugs”, in turn, brings this to a more elitist world, steeped in bartering and the use of heavier products by those who manage to acquire them. Even “Dope” is used as the base of the herb, although it has a much more emotional melodic focus, saying the lyrical self needs the love of someone who has snubbed at the expense of the intoxicating and fleeting sensation. that drugs guarantee it.

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“ARTPOP” is also a human record; he’s about people, how their influence, both psychologically and physically, contributes to Gaga’s approval as a person. Be desperate for “a cure” in front of someone who promised to love you and then abandoned you, in “MANiCURE”, or simply by choosing to spend a single night with a lover who can take you on the most diverse adventures, like “Gypsy”, she values ​​the company and doesn’t like to be lonely. This topic, although it is not seen with bad eyes, is not so openly commented on because it is associated with moments of weakness, which until today have been condemned by part of the established society. in the patriarchy.

But it is with the undeniable expressionism of “Swine” that this entrepreneurial desire reaches a frightening level. In a schizophrenic and very heavy synthetic rhythm, both keyboard chords and crescent chords positioned profusely in the musical construction, the piece is essentially about sexual abuse, the same that the singer undergoes by a producer while she was only 19 years old. She doesn’t care about anything else at that point on the album, and prides herself on saying what was stuck in her throat for a long time cruelly.

Maybe the top of the album comes with her empowerment. It’s a fact of the matter to say that female artists who speak openly about their sexuality are seen as depraved – and Gaga not only decides to move through these troubled waters, but also creates countless tributaries so that artists later can do. the same, including Miley Cyrus. and, most recently, Selena Gomez. In her artistic trilogy, the supreme musical that includes “Artpop”, “Venus” and “GUY”, the singer allows herself to make several references to avant-garde movements from around the world, in search of inspiration from Andy Warhol and in the Greco-Roman culture to create a sexual microcosm totally devoid of prejudice. While accepting her condition as a being in need of the pleasures of the flesh, she also longs for mastery of the situation, to be able to come and go when she wants and choose with whom and with how much she wants to be (“I want the power to leave you, I want control of this love ”). Gaga is not talking about obsession, but about personal power that is extremely important to human survival.

It all culminates with “Do What U Want,” one of the radio hit singles. Here she is fully aware that her body belongs to the other, but not her heart, mind and agency. Seeking a benchmark of domination and submission already seen in his previous album, this track also opens up a possible consequence of the acceptance of sex as the engine of different moments in everyday life, including an appreciation of the impossible and betrayal. of the dream in “Sexxx Dreams”.

“ARTPOP” is an essentially irreverent work. Its comprehensiveness represents a critical and unorthodox ability for Lady Gaga, and the negativity it received about its release only shows how important the work is to a much-needed release for those in hiding. His viscerality, his rawness and his unconventional musicality are points which, in addition to marking a radical change in his career, would allow a future self-reflection which, at some point in life, would reach us all.

Rating per track:

#Aura – 4/5 #Venus – 5/5 #GUY – 5/5 #Sexxx Dreams – 4/5 #Jewels N ‘Drugs – 3.5 / 5 #MANiCURE – 4.5 / 5 #Do What U Want – 3.5 / 5 #ARTPOP – 4,5 / 5 #Swine – 4/5 #Donatella -5/5 #Fashion! – 4/5 #Mary Jane Holland – 4/5 #Dope – 5/5 #Gypsy – 5/5 #Applause – 4.5 / 5

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