Thought pieces about la Gaga run into the tens of thousands so let’s keep this light and short.
Having spent the year pushing ARTPOP as the embodiment of reinvention/regeneration/revolution, it’s not surprising that the whole thing ended up being somewhat underwhelming. Far removed from the top-of-the-mountain flag planter it was said to be, ARTPOP is an album of one or two success stories being gabbled about in the foothills among the cafe and car-park. As much as you think that “Do What U Want” or even “Sexx Dreams” are good songs, they’re fairly middling in reality, particularly the former despite its radio airplay saturation. I don’t want to know how R Kelly would react to such a request as ‘do what you want to my body,” thanks all the same, no matter how shocking (or ARTy or POPy) the song is supposed to be.
HOWEVER, and it’s a big however because my English teacher always told me to avoid starting sentences with ‘but’, the lead single “Applause” promised so much and delivered in spades. Slightly darker than previous singles and sung with a more mature, deeper register than previous singles, “Applause” packs a truly tough pop smack around the senses, its melody and message doing everything “Born This Way” did without having to wrap itself in rainbow flags and poppers screaming “I LIKE GAY MEN YOU KNOW”
Waving her Kunst around the place (oh, sorry, her Koons, it’s all those short dresses you know), Gaga delivered in “Applause” a track that was both riposte to, and celebration of, her maligned reputation, keeping the obvious nods to the pop influences from the past (cough, Bedroom Stories, aitchoo) with the shock-tactic heart of America’s take on 21st century electronic dance. Influencing at least one funny parody (and a fair amount of not so, but that’s YouTube for you), the song retains a freshness that hasn’t been true of Gaga’s up and down output since “Telephone”. For much of the year, pure pop has struggled against the tide of continued love affairs with turning songs into flat, robotic drawls, so for proving that it can be done without five different melodies being crunched together by an Excel spreadsheet and a Speak-n-Spell, let’s….applaud. The rest of ARTPOP may be utter bobbins (seriously, check out the pro-cannabis Mary Jane something-or-other, there’s more chance of catching a trout in a rock pool than finding a melody in there), “Applause” is one of the definite hits of the year.