So Artpop, Lady Gaga's third full-length studio album was just streaming yesterday, and I got to listen to it. With The Fame, Gaga broke mainstream radio with a huge jab to other pioneers of the same genre, before establishing herself with Born This Way, which albeit inconsistent and rather streamlined, was still a pretty impressive album with the likes of the title track, The Edge of Glory and You And I. Can Artpop dazzle, impress and showcase Gaga's direction and prove to be a return to form?
So Applause was the first taste of this album, and to my disbelief, I did not like the single one bit. It produced too much noise, too much loud vocals that really overcame each other to a bad regime that really came up with nothing but just an over-bated song. While I may have grown into it since the album's stream, it may not be that bad a song but it'll always be skipped if possible when it's on shuffle on my songs list. Then comes second single Do What U Want featuring R. Kelly, a smash pop single that features powerful Gaga and R. Kelly vocals that will have you swooning on your feet, with big epic production just stacked behind the duo's vocal performance. It's one of the best singles Gaga has released so far, and to even have R. Kelly on it is pretty much amazing, especially an artist who has been long forgotten - almost.
The whole album possesses big, huge-sounding production that features the likes of Zedd, Rick Rubin and Will.I.Am, which surprisingly doesn't really revel in what they do best. For Rubin's produced Dope track, there wasn't any big electronic guitar riffs but rather a piano ballad that brings up the emotional scale to a whole new level. Zedd's production on Venus also doesn't feel like what he does best, though the track overall just maximizes the duo's potential. Fashion!, produced by Will.I.Am has the veins of a 70's and 80's song, especially the start but Gaga once again owns the music with spectacular energy.
The same can be said for the other songs like the track's opener, with funky guitars that reminisces of Nile Rodgers. The production on this track fills almost too much that it overshadows Gaga's vocals almost slightly too much. Still, the choruses on Artpop brims with confidence and smites the album with bright opulent sounds. G.U.Y., which stands for Guy Under You, also features a rather intricate performance by Gaga, and also reminds me of Alejandro, Paparazzi from Born This Way and The Fame respectively, with the former more so. Then the next duo of songs aren't really spectacular for me: Sexxx Dreams and Jewels n' Drugs which features rappers T.I., Twista and Too Short. The former track doesn't really carry on the tradition of the past few songs and lack the vocal prowess Gaga delivers, while the hip-hop collaboration inspired track for the latter doesn't seem all the well amazing nor even with the rappers just moderate and the instrumentals or production doesn't seem to live up to the hype. With that so, until Artpop, the album is really solid, with my favourite track Manicure the powerhouse pop track that explodes upon impact. Then the second half of the song just feels uninteresting, exhausting and rather, feel heard of before.
Swine's lyrics are too much drastic that I don't know what to feel. Donatella has a flat-out streamlined chorus, while the track suffers from the over-produced beats that holds it down. Mary Jane Holland is also the same with Donatella, and feels bled with passion, uninspiring and doesn't have the punch that the rest of the album has. It sort of just feels like a worn-out track.
Then, the album picks up with Dope and Gypsy, two of the album's best tracks that brings out Gaga's vocal powers with such intensity that feels unmatched on her previous albums (maybe You And I). Dope is just fantastically written, while Gypsy is the whole package. With that said, the previous four tracks except for Fashion!, feels worn-out and their strength don't exactly help them all with sometimes blurry production and not lifting vocals. Otherwise, the album is probably the best Gaga has in her career so far.
The only problem that really injures and wounds the album is the production. Overrated, overheard and ridiculously loud, it not only wears down the album but it wears down the listener. Gaga's perpetual sound may seem divinity but with tracks that bleed insane dance pounds, is not as good as any other pop sound on the radio. It is probably the only major flaw I see in the album.
8.5/10: Artpop is a smash hit with beautiful, uplifting, memorable and sometimes powerful vocals that will restore pride in the little monster's hearts. With that said, the album suffers terribly due to the over-use of production, which makes the tracks worn out, sometimes bleak, sometimes exhausting and also insufficient. That said, Artpop is a great album albeit flaws in production value. If you're counting on a good pop album, this one will not just grab you by the ear, but the sound it makes is as loud as a siren blaring out on your headphones. Grab Artpop; you won't miss a thing with this album.
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.