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Items | Avant-garde, Lady Gaga and ambition: on ARTPOP’s legacy



There’s undeniably something iconic when you think of Lady Gaga.

Beginning her career in 2008, Stefani’s alter-ego, Joanne Angelina Germanotta, came to life with the thunderous ‘The Fame’, her debut album that not only broke countless records, but put a young songwriter center stage. -composer-performer of only 22 years old. in the spotlight with a stylistic and phonographic perception that deviated from the usual pop we were used to. Just over a year later, Gaga plunged into her imperial era, with the resounding kickoff of “The Fame Monster” (and singles like “Alejandro”, “Bad Romance” and “Telephone”) and s ‘extending to early 2013. with the fruits of ‘Born This Way’ (one of the best albums of all time).

But what happens after reaching the top? Well, usually the answer to that question is the fall. And, with the release of ‘ARTPOP’ in November, seven years ago, not only the media, but also the fans would fall dead on an artist who dared to escape comfort and think “outside the box”, extending her art not yet explored and it would go against what has already been presented to us. Of course, Lady Gaga’s infamous third compilation of originals is far from unknown or fallen into disrepair from her attempts at revitalization – in fact, few people have even heard of her name. Nearly a decade later (and basically every time another cycle is completed), ‘ARTPOP’ returns to audiences’ mouths as if it had never been released.

The explanation is quite simple, honestly: the album is considered, by a blatant error, as a stain on the performer’s career – either because it was massacred by specialized critics at the time of its release, or because it failed to achieve the commercial success it promised (selling almost five times less than its predecessor, despite reaching number one on the Billboard charts). Condemned for its explicit content, for its constant apology for drugs and the knowledge of one’s own body – and even for a metaphorical and overly passionate lyricism which made the verses “incomprehensible” -, the CD was unjustly abandoned to be recognized for years. later, with a vast legacy showing its faces to this day (even more so given the strong comeback of musicians towards EDM and ’80s synth-pop in 2020, like Dua Lipa and The Weeknd).

‘Lady Gaga is dead’ with her ‘disappointing album’ were the headlines that circled websites around the world in 2013 – perhaps because most critics didn’t imagine Gaga would go so far to search a single identity. After all, she had already suffered ridiculous accusations of plagiarism with “Born This Way” and even a church boycott for the rampant use of Catholic mythology in “Alejandro” and “Judas” (the latter deliberately published on Good Friday). To expect evidence from the most interesting and daring artist of the century was to expect snakes to grow wings – and ‘ARTPOP’ came to prove her genius, placing her as a creator, a filmmaker in ahead of its time and thought-provoking later to be revered as a revival of classic styles between 1970 and 1990.

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Gaga has always been heavily criticized by the media – and perhaps her wicked responses and social conscience, which have also made her the biggest LGBTQ+ icon today, have allowed journalists and personalities to judge her for her extravagant clothing, the poignancy of the musical verses, and the most impactful, the sonic narratives that encouraged “acceptance of being”. In 2013, she went further: she continued to invest in hymns to self-acceptance and empowerment through subjects considered taboo by an overly conservative society that did not allow women to speak openly about their desires and fetishes. “When I’m in bed, I touch myself and think of you” is the phrase that sums up everything Gaga had the luxury to say, retaliation or not: the drunken sensuality of “Sexxx Dreams”, the intimate viscerality of ” Aura” and the narcotic power of “Dope” are a reflection of an artist who found the truth and rediscovered her own voice.

Either way, ‘ARTPOP’ encountered problems along the way – and such hurdles contributed to the album and the era itself not being treated with the caution they deserved. On the one hand, there was an artistic boycott of the production company; on the other, a questionable collaboration with R. Kelly, “Do What U Want” (not in terms of design or result, but after allegations of abuse against the rapper forced Gaga to remove the track from the work). Not to mention the artist’s countless never-fulfilled promises, including a much-needed follow-up with dropped tracks that would spice up this synesthetic journey in an incredible and flawless way (“Brooklyn Nights” remains a fan favorite and is even featured by l artist in some shows).

The musical iteration has achieved cult status and embraced a legion of fans who once destroyed the work of someone who was just looking for a new side to their passionate personality. Unlike previous ventures, Gaga has plunged headlong into deconstructing the solidified image over the past decade, much like Andy Warhol and Sun Ra (who serve as a benchmark for the aesthetic architecture in question). The critical positivism of “Applause” and the abandonment to mainstream culture with “Donatella” and “Fashion!”, anchored in a pastiche that mentions herself and those who influenced her career, gain a dimension beyond the foreground – and which breaks down into other tracks, such as the futuristic “Venus” and the dreamy title track.

The performer may have created monstrous expectations by posting on her Twitter that the millennium album was coming – but I don’t blame her: listeners were expecting something totally different from what was released and, falling in premeditated frustration, perhaps they didn’t understand the concept car behind the raw method of “Swine” and “Mary Jane Holland.” The album is a revolution, whether we like it or not: Lady Gaga has come to the end of a cycle and has opened the doors to a multi-faceted future which, as she herself announces, ” could be anything”.

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