A&E — 10 November 2013
Travis Danner
Editor in chief

If this what Lady Gaga sounds like off weed, perhaps she needs to get back on that stick-icky quickly.

“ARTPOP,” Mother Monster’s latest is bombastic, extremely well produced and hyper-sexual— but dammit if it isn’t also crazy self-serious. Which is a shame, because there’s a lot to like here, musically. This is almost certain to be her biggest selling-album yet and is destined to be the biggest selling LP of the year. It’s also missing something, some ingredient that held her previous work together so well.

For an artist who is supposed to be entering her prime, “ARTPOP” comes off as pretty lazy. It’s the sound of an artist who has found her niche— sex, clothes and lip service to her Little Monster following, and has grown content with living there.

With that all being said, let’s something out of the way right now— “Applause” the first single off the album, is a ripper. It’s a piece of pure pop awesome— catchy, driving and the kind of track that’s likely to make concert-goers go effing-crazy when Gaga inevitably goes on tour in support of “ARTPOP.”

The problem is it’s the last track and one has to navigate a lot of subpar material to get there.

Tracks like “G.U.Y.” illustrate a lot of what’s wrong here. The production is explosive with swirling piano and synth parts, booming bass and enough momentum to carry the usual Gaga energy. But then she starts doing a lot more of that talk-sing thing she normally does and the production goes to waste. She just sounds bored.

There are a lot of wasted opportunities for really kick-ass hooks all throughout these 15 tracks.

There are a few cameos that fall flat, as well.

“Jewels N’ Drugs” features a trio of rappers, which is appropriate given the song’s attempt at duplicating the sound of millions of mediocre hip-hop tracks which inexplicably rule the Rap game today. TI and Twista do their thing and eh. Again, they’re mediocre.

Too Short shows up, and anyone with a pulse should get excited hearing one of the greatest MCs alive, but as they say in the movie “Usual Suspects”— like that, he’s gone.

He does work in his favorite word before he goes. For those who know what that is, just listen carefully— it may be the lightest moment on the record.

Speaking of cameos, R. Kelly shows up on the track “Do What U Want” where Gaga sings “do what you want with my body.” Given his reputation, she may want to rethink that stance.

The whole album just feels like it should have been a lot more fun that it really is. In “Donatella,” there are some attempts at humor as Gaga takes the affect of a shallow, fashion-obessed Val-gal. The problem is it’s not particularly clever or funny— something Lady G has excelled at in the past.

A couple of late tracks do their best to redeem what came before— “Swine” has some really pleasing synth-tones plus interesting lyrics and “Dope” is a ballad that showcases just how talented Gaga is as a singer.

“Dope” is ostensibly about quitting her supposed 20-joint-a-day pot habit, but ends up more as a pretty touching tribute to her fans, her “little monsters.”

I hope the song leads her to try something very different for her next LP— maybe a stripped-down, Gaga and piano album or maybe a Queen-esque rock opera.

Really anything else because the old-formula sounds very tired and needs to be put to rest for awhile.

Rating: **1/2 out of *****

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