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Track-by-track reaction: Lady Gaga, 'ArtPop'

November 06, 2013|By Matt Pais | RedEye music editor

I’m not a Lady Gaga fan. Let’s just put that on the record.

Lately, though, it doesn’t seem like many Little Monsters care much about the pop star’s new “ArtPop” either, if the album’s apparent lack of buzz is any indication. Maybe people have tired of the intense message-peddling that makes Gaga seem like a product rather than a sincere icon for self-esteem and community. Maybe even fans have finally agreed that the gimmicky nature of an artist who, say, plans to perform in space in 2015 is all a big ruse to distract from the weakness of the material.

Or maybe that’s just in my head. So let’s keep that going as I share what’s going through my head as I listen to Gaga’s new record. I give each track a chance, I promise.

“Aura”
Is this acoustic guitar supposed to be the soundtrack to her minor turn in “Machete Kills”? Did she say, “I killed my farmer?” Now it’s a pounding dance track; forget the acoustic guitar. “Do you want to see me naked, lover?” Why would your lover say no? “Do you want to see the girl who lives behind the aura?” What is that referring to? The heavy production reminds me of Justice. You can’t just write a chorus and call it a confession. This song is all over the place.

“Venus”
This sounds like being on another planet, which works. Here’s the terrible, weird singing. Intense drums are an improvement. “When you touch me I die just a little inside; I wonder if this could be love.” Probably not with the whole little death thing. I support the dance-y, percussive refrain of “Take me to your planet” but she’s not actually singing about anything. She mentions other planets; after Uranus she belts, “Don’t you know my ass is famous!” Yes, unfortunately I do.

“G.U.Y.”
An introduction mentions Greek gods and prepares to guide us through new and exciting positions. “I want to be the girl under you.” OK, that gets right to the point. “Love me love me please retweet.” You cannot be serious. Gaga does some gender reversal here but isn’t as empowering when singing, “I’m best when I’m in love, and I’m in love with you.” Fine, just don’t mention Twitter again.

“Sexxx Dreams”
This sounds like an intense trek down a dark hallway. It’s sexier than the last song. “I can’t help my mind from going there.” I know. “When I lay in bed I touch myself and think of you.” Ooh. This is the album’s first effective use of an ‘80s sound. Gaga’s delivery is breathy and features actual singing without pushing too hard. This is the best/only tolerable song so far. Can’t hear the second and third x in the title.

“Jewels ‘N Drugs (featuring T.I., Too Short, Twista)”
This sounds like any other song featuring gratuitous rap guests. High-pitched squeaks don’t help. “Don’t want your jewels, I want your drugs; don’t want your money want your love.” I think I see a pattern here. “I admit that my habit’s expensive, and you may find it quite offensive.” Brilliant rhyme. There’s too much going on here. Now Twista raps very quickly. How novel.

“MANiCURE”
Mentions of lipstick and curling hair make my attention wander. Clapping along is always fun though. I imagine this video taking place in a hair salon. “Touch me in the dark, put your hands all over my body parts.” More genius lyricism, clearly. This could work in a terrible musical. Can I really take nine more songs of this? The wicka-wicka guitar breakdown is good, the song might be OK if Gaga would get out of here.

“Do What U Want (featuring R. Kelly)”
In the background someone says, “Turn the mic up,” I think it was Lonely Island. Sounds like Gaga’s strutting. It’s effective. Her voice is forceful like it should be. I’ll take her Michael Jackson impression over the regular Gaga. R. Kelly’s verse is sexy, a good choice of guest. “Let’s slow it dooowwn.” Awww yeah. “You can’t have my heart and you won’t use my mind, but do what you want with my body.” Gaga embraces sexuality while submitting. Better.

“ARTPOP”
More space beeping. Where’s Beaker from the Muppets? I want to make beeping noises along with it. “My artpop could mean anything.” If you mean anything, you mean nothing. Squealing in the background creeps me out. Who decided that these sounds worked well together? Are there lasers in this room? Is someone sitting on a keyboard? Is Gaga running in place while singing?

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