review roundup

Lady Gaga Review Roundup: What the Hell Does ARTPOP Even Mean?

Ever since the title for Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP (out today) was announced last August, fans and critics alike have taken wild and educated guesses as to its meaning. Now, with the actual album in our hands, what do we make of the title? Here is a roundup of what various reviews are saying about ARTPOP:

“Naming an album ARTPOP implies a certain drama-club-kid flair, a willingness to take one’s devotion to the pop ideal as seriously as a cocaine-induced heart attack. “I just love the music, not the bling,” Gaga protests on the title track — a claim that seems a bit disingenuous, given the narrative arc of her career up to this point. If anything, her primary message since she shed the Stefani Germanotta stage persona has been something like “Fame is a thing that is important in 21st-century society.” Not the deepest statement, but also not that unique to the new millennium, as evidenced by the ad hoc cohort she’s assembled in the run-up to this album’s release: The steely-eyed Abramović, the pop fantasist Jeff Koons, and the perpetually icky Terry Richardson have all prioritized the artist (i.e., themselves) over the art.” — Maura Johnston, Spin

“‘Art culture’ is a hollow phrase, at least when used as a counterpoint to ‘pop culture.’ Pop culture is art culture — our society is obsessed with art and its creators. The distinction between art culture and pop culture is the same as that between ‘high’ art and ‘low’ art — a distinction made as a way of signaling certain bona fides about education and class. Needless to say it’s exhausting and snobbish in nature and unfriendly to someone whose art is crafted to appeal to the masses. In fact, talking about her art in such terms places Gaga very much in step with her peers. Describing pop music as art isn’t daring or revolutionary. It’s popular.” — Rich Juzwiak, Gawker

“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

“At her peak, her mishmash of European dance music, American pop, ’80s Madonna, glam Bowie, hair metal, Giorgio Moroder, and The Killers sounded both reverently referential and ahead of its time. The hype that combination commands is always followed by the expectation of further exploration. Instead, Gaga has added only a few by-the-numbers modern elements to that initial formula: some Skrillex-lite dubstep on the awkward “Swine”, a Brandon Flowers imitation on “Gypsy”, and the aforementioned rap-ready “Jewels N’ Drugs”. That refusal to experiment as wildly as she once did reads as fear, and a pop star who’s afraid ends up sounding like the once-weird Lady Gaga does on ARTPOP: boring and normal.” — Chris Bosman, Consequence of Sound

“‘My ARTPOP could mean anything,’ she sings at one point, no more willing than ever to align herself with a single viewpoint. It’s a mind-set borne out by the rest of the album’s shifts in tone and perspective — which doesn’t mean she’s equally convincing in all her guises.” — Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times

“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. ARTPOP is imperfect, but so is its creator. It is a complicated album that should be applauded (pun intended) for inspiring interpretation, as well as telling fans that it’s also okay to just dance.” — Jason Lipshutz, Billboard

“Inevitably, we all knew this day would come. There would come a moment when her intellect would get the best of her, and in following her desire to create capital-A “Art” within the confines of the four-minute pop song, she’d get lost inside her own universe, crafting a world that only she could see, leaving her audience out in the cold. Tragically, this time has come, and it takes the form of a very confused album called ARTPOP.” — Evan Sawdey, Pop Matters

“‘My ARTPOP can mean anything,’ Gaga croons on song No. 8. Unfortunately, here it just translates to a boring title track.” — John Walker, MTV Buzzworthy

“All Gaga’s talk of art and pop combining in some heretofore unimaginably radical way boils down to Jeff Koons designing the cover, and a track called Venus, which manages to pack in references to the Botticelli painting, outer space and cosmic jazzer Sun Ra (whose song Rocket Number Nine is used as source material, via leftfield French synth-rock act Zombie Zombie). The bloopy title track boasts the great reveal that “my Artpop could mean anything” and the impression of a pop star scrambling, post-hoc, towards coherence never goes away. Illusion, masks, bareness, posing: all are exercised as ideas, without Gaga really settling on a preference.” — Kitty Empire, Guardian

“There are glimmers of cleverness — a few songs appear to worship at the altar of high fashion, but could just as easily be snarky commentary. Gaga got where she is by working every angle, both inside her music and in the culture. Sometimes it’s cool when you can’t tell the circus from the sideshow, but with this album, I couldn’t shake the sense that the “art” of ARTPOP is much more evident in the marketing than in the music.” — Tom Moon, NPR

“The album takes off with the otherworldly electronica of ‘Aura,’ enticing listeners with the question, ‘Do you wanna see the girl who lives behind the aura?,’ hinting that ARTPOP will use this so-called melding of ‘art’ and ‘pop’ to offer a deeper look at the artist so often hidden beneath those vices. Instead, the album succumbs to them, masking kernels of at least a half dozen stellar pop songs in the overworked pompousness and titillation of what Lady Gaga considers ‘art.’” — Kevin Fallon, the Daily Beast

“The pitch sounds like a fussy regurgitation of old ideas on the surface, which it is, but erase from existence those pop stars who dressed up cannibalised ideas in fancy togs and pop might be a duller place. This is ARTPOP’s contradiction: though simpler than its presentation seems to promise, it has enough fun splatter-gunning ideas to make sure some of it sticks.” — Kevin Harley, the Independent

“On the title song, Gaga aims for some ambiguity, hinting at the album that could have been. ‘My ARTPOP could mean anything,’ she sings. And sometimes it doesn’t mean anything at all.” — Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune

What Critics Are Saying About Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP