In a lot of ways, Lady Gaga is the opposite of a typical pop superstar. Whereas most elicit crazed devotion from their fans or a collective “I just don’t get it” shrug from those who aren’t feeling it, Gaga’s baroque pop creations are built to provoke.
Bottom line: either you love it, or you think it’s insane, unlistenable gibberish. There isn’t a lot of space in between, which, we suspect, is exactly how Gaga likes it. So, what has the critical response been to what is arguably the most polarizing work of her five year career, ARTPOP ?
Well, pretty much that, with some critics saying it’s another piece of intergalactic Gaga magic and others labeling it as indulgent, bloated and regressive.
Here’s a roundup of what critics are saying:
An Explosion Of Sound And Action
“It’s a (nearly) nonstop disco blast, with beats that pound, synths that dart and vocals that fire like a blowtorch. Of course, Lady Gaga has never done things in a small, or God forbid, subtle, way. But her third and latest CD … outdistances even the star’s previous flair for overstatement.” On a disc that finds her exploring her own fame more deeply than ever lyrically, the music broadens her sound, “offering increasingly disruptive and innovative EDM beats, plus fresh forays into R&B, hip hop and even soul,” according to the New York Daily News, whose critic finds her chemistry with rappers T.I., Too $hort and Twista (“Jewels N’ Drugs”) and R. Kelly (“Do What U Want”) to be lacking. “As it turns out, Gaga’s new music owes a lot more to pop than to art. It’s catchier than it is deep, with songs more eager to knock you out than to bore far inside.” — Jim Farber, New York Daily News
Shape-Shifting At Record Speed, But Is She Evolving?
“With their Hollywood-gothic imagery and rousing beats, most of the songs here would fit right in on The Fame or Born This Way. They hit enjoyable but well-worn sonic marks, from the synth-swaddled choruses of ’Aura’ and ’Sexxx Dreams’ to the barroom ivory-tickling of ’Gypsy.’ And they deal in tropes and metaphors that have become standbys in Gaga’s canon: Love is a drug (’Dope’) , artifice is truth (’Fashion!’), and fame is a religion in which shamelessness is next to godliness (’Applause’) … As always, Gaga is a whiz at strong melodic lines, like the swooping hook on ’Gypsy.’ She’s a clever comic who’s delightfully willing to be the butt of her own jokes. (’I know that Mom and Dad think I’m a mess/But it’s all right because I am rich as piss,’ she cracks on the pot ode ’Mary Jane Holland.’) As pop, the album is a well-executed and entertaining tour of Gaga’s tried-and-true tricks. But as art, it falls short when it comes to one basic function: making an impression.” — Adam Markovitz, Entertainment Weekly
The Shows Will Be Epic, But Are The Songs?
“Lady Gaga’s latest extravagant exploration of her own fame, fabulousness and fearlessness is undeniably relentless, but that doesn’t mean it’s consistently entertaining.” Praising the “breathless disco pace” and “sexy lyrical stance” of opener “Aura,” USA Today dubs the songs on ARTPOP, “a sturdy vehicle for her delightfully over-the-top stage shows, and in small doses, they’ll fuel the Little Monsters on the dance floor. But given the scarcity of sing-along choruses, the rhythmic pounding and the absence of nuance in her powerhouse voice, the overall effect is exhausting if you’re listening to the album all the way through.” The upsides are the added new colors in Gaga’s repertoire, including the soul of “Do What U Want,” the EDM throb of “G.U.Y.” and her hip-hop verbal sparring on “Jewels N’ Drugs.” None of that, however, distracts form lyrics that focus on the “exploits of an empowered, sexy siren who wrestles with fame.” — Jerry Shriver, USA Today
“When Gaga balances these skyward designs [of the album’s accompanying app] with dynamic songwriting — when she successfully mixes the ’art’ with the ’pop,’ if you will — the results are often euphoric. ’Dope’ and ’Gypsy’ are compelling accounts of personal hell and heaven on the back half of the album, and when the midway run of the seductive ’Sex Dreams,’ boisterous ’Jewels N’ Drugs,’ effervescent ’MANiCURE’ and slithering ’Do What U Want’ takes hold, it’s a long-player experience unlike anything a pop fan will hear this year. Of course, some of the more convoluted tracks sputter out before Gaga can carry her vision through, but even the weakest moments on ARTPOP are so carefully built and ardently imagined that one cannot help but admire the effort … Coherently channeling R&B, techno, disco and rock music as a pop artist while discussing sex, drugs, lust, God, fame and creativity, Lady Gaga has offered fans her most sonically and lyrically diverse album to date.” — Jason Lipshutz, Billboard