10 things we learned from hearing ARTPOP
On Tuesday, Lady Gaga's new album ARTPOP – the first since 2011's Born This Way and her recent time off from pop following a hip injury – will be streaming in full via a mobile phone company's website, six days before its official release date. Last week a bunch of journalists – including yours truly – were crammed into a studio in central London to hear the whole thing once at ear-splitting volume. Below are the 10 things that became immediately apparent, including stuff involving sex, weed, mistaken forays into trap and massive bloody choruses.
ARTPOP could mean anything
In fact, she says as much herself on the title track: "My artpop could mean anything." In a way, that idea of making bold statements with little substance behind them has been her biggest issue post-Born This Way, when she attempted to heal the world of its confidence issues through the medium of song. It's easy to forget amongst the clatter that she's just a pop star, and I mean that in the most brilliant sense of that job title. By calling the album ARTPOP she appears to have set the bar too high in terms of concept, and if her point is to celebrate the vacuousness and malleability of it all then perhaps it should have been called POPART.
She still know how to write an amazing chorus
But, one thing Lady Gaga isn't is stupid and ARTPOP stays very true to the second part of that awkward compound word. Almost every song comes with at least five hooks and two choruses, sometimes crowbarred into the song's jackhammer production (Aura's lovely "do you want to see me naked" pre-chorus, Venus's "When you touch me I die, just a little inside" bit), or finessed with all the grace of the woman who wrote one of pop's greatest moments, Bad Romance, on a tour bus in the middle of the night. Sexxx Dreams and the R Kelly-assisted Do What U Want are both futuristic, electro-tooled R&B slow jams with delicious choruses, while Gypsy – the only song here to feature input from long-term collaborator RedOne – is an epic narrative about fame and loneliness bolted onto an Edge of Gloryesque electropop rush that features a brilliant vocal riff that's up there with "p-p-p-poker face".
Lady Gaga enjoys having sex
As well as metaphorical and sometimes literal drugs, ARTPOP focuses a lot on sex and how enjoyable it can be. G.U.Y stands for Girl Under You and opens with a spoken word bit about "Eros, god of sexual desire", while Sexxx Dreams features the line: "When I lay in bed I touch myself when I think of you." There's also an amazing bit in the latter song where she says "I can't believe I'm telling you this, but I've had a couple of drinks" and it sounds like it was covertly recorded during a drunken game of truth or dare. MANiCURE (ie cured by a man in a sex way), meanwhile, includes the line: "Touch me in the dark, put your hands all over my body parts." The sex chat is a nice change from the more heavy-handed stuff and also a nice reminder that she's a person with urges who gets drunk and does things she might regret in the morning, but is having a nice time doing them.
She should steer clear of trap
Jewels N Drugs was introduced at Gaga's recent iTunes gig with a lengthy speech about how she's not going to be limited to just one musical genre thank you very much. Unfortunately, it's an example of why she should probably steer clear of trap. It opens with the sounds of an orchestra tuning up, then suddenly lurches into the sort of dated, drum-clap-heavy beat that's plagued hip-hop for the last five years and features not one but three rappers (TI, Too $hort and Twista). It's basically about how she doesn't want a man's jewels, but she would like their drugs, and would have made an interesting curio but probably should have been left off the album.
Being famous can be difficult
As well as DOPE, there are a couple of other songs that deal with the problems of being a famous singer of songs. Applause is about the not-exactly-relatable rush of people clapping for you and how hard it was when she couldn't get that fix because of her hip operation, while the excellent Do What U Want could easily be read as a love song and also about critics and internet "haters" ("Write what you want, say what you want 'bout me, if you're wondering know that I'm not sorry"). To be honest, R Kelly's verse is solely about sex and features the line "I can be the drink in your cup". Gypsy deals with the loneliness of fame in a much more direct way and is built around the hook, "I don't want to be alone forever, but I love the gypsy life". By the end, however, she seems to have found some sort of compromise as she sings "see the world with me", before listing the countries she could take her man (presumably on her next world tour).
oop they didnt lie about her doin trap tho