These thoughts are at the forefront of ARTPOP, the performer's fourth album that has been not-so-quietly making its way around the Internet. To put it simply: If you are a fan of Lady Gaga, you will adore this album. If you find her antics ham-fisted or derivative, you won't. That's how it goes.
ARTPOP is the album Born This Way should have been: declarative; filled with dancefloor anthems and cutting-edge productions; and showcasing predatory darkness that she hints at in earlier efforts like "Teeth" or "Bad Romance." (In fact, "G.U.Y" could be the sequel to the latter, except instead of being informed by a McQueen-infused nightmare, it evokes Svedka-style robot minxes.) Thankfully, she has left her Boss-fueled, saxophone anthems to her previous album, and serves us steaming, syrupy stadium music. But, do Little Monsters want to hear her continue to ruminate on the machinations on fame, especially when the narratives her contemporaries are supplying feel much more universal?
It is this control that makes her missteps particularly painful. Gaga, and her massive ego, are front-and-center, even when she is sharing the song with a guest (of which there aren't many). "Donatella," the ode to the head of House Versace, sounds like a parody of the songwriter. "Venus" plays like a mix between Queen and David Bowie (Yay!) but, like, "Flash"-era Queen and "Dancing In The Streets"-era Bowie (Not yay!). The best part of the song is her howl-slash-asking, "Uranus? Don't you know my ass is famous!?!" Indeed.
Yet, it is officially incorrect to write Lady Gaga off as a master imitator (though that title can be given to any of the greats, from Madonna to The Rolling Stones), even if "Sexxx Dreams" could be Prince And The Revolution for the 21st Century. Madonna had great ideas and was able to nail a zeitgeist, develop them into her own moment, and repurpose them for the masses — but she has never been able to sit on a stage with her instrument and, well, nothing else. And, in a song like "Dope," where Gaga compares her need for someone to an addiction, she growls and plays a heart-aching ballad, allowing her operatic voice to soar. That, folks, is pretty unforgettable.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Gaga reflects on her Warholian fascination. "Instead of putting pop onto the canvas, we wanted to put the art onto the soup can," she explains. This, of course, is taking her whole performance into account, from the teeth to the outfits to the Marina Abromovic influence. She's trying. She's thinking. She's letting her imagination go over a 4x4 beat. But, to borrow her own metaphor, if you put art on a soup can, it still doesn't affect the flavor of the soup.
Or if all else fails, she could just do an acoustic album.