I’ve heard a fair bit of grousing about this album, Gaga’s latest, but I thought it was a quite excellent dance-pop record. The album is definitely long; I did get the deluxe edition, which had three remixes of Applause tacked onto the end (and only one of the remixes was really any good) and that put the CD at up around seventy-five minutes. But even without those three tracks, there are some songs here that I might have cut in order to make a tighter album. Jewels N’ Drugs, which features three interminable guest raps and Mary Jane Holland in particular could be easily dumped. Maybe Sexxx Dreams too, though it is a kicky little tune. But when the album works, I think it really works. Opening track Aura and second track Venus are both explosive & hook laden pieces of electro-pop. Manicure has a stripped down thumping beat and an exciting shouted chorus. Gypsy & Applause end the album proper on a real high note; Gaga does a great Bowie on Applause. My two favorite tracks on the record couldn’t be more dissimilar. Swine is a straight up raver, the hardest track on the album I’d say, and one of the angriest Gaga’s ever produced, a song that paints leering men as the repulsive swine of the title. The other, Dope, is a quiet, piano based ballad of a drug addict on the road to recovery; Gaga delivers the heck out of this track, singing in a slurred, emotionally ravaged voice. I don’t know, I feel like it’s becoming fashionable to think Gaga’s played out, but I don’t think she is; she still has something to say in her lyrical content and her vocal abilities are past questioning. Is she occasionally a little too weird? Sure. Will she ever do anything as good as Bad Romance or Poker Face again? Probably not. But Artpop is what she’s up to now and that’s fine with me. 3 ½ stars.
tl;dr – mostly exciting and excellent electro-pop record could stand to be tighter, but when it wows, it really wows. 3 ½ stars.