Lady Gaga
Showing posts with label Lady Gaga. Show all posts

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Review: Chromatica • Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga’s brand was founded on the outlandish. During her initial boom, she injected growth hormones into the idea of the frilly 21st century pop star: Her high-concept lyrics, music videos that rivaled established half-hour television series in runtime and plot, and overblown costumes distracted some from the underlying conventional talent. By the time she hit her stride, society had come to accept her as an ornate entertainer with higher ambitions than her peers. (Will anyone ever attempt something as ambitious as "Telephone" again? It’s been a decade, and nobody has put another prison break and mass poisoning to music yet.) Although she boasted a higher batting average than most, her unrestricted creativity channel meant she sometimes overshot her vision.

A few years into her career, the Gaga bubble burst: When tabloid celebrity culture began to fade, so did Gaga’s shock appeal. The campaign for her third studio record, ARTPOP, included a risqué duet with the already infamous R. Kelly, a performance piece that required a woman to vomit green liquid all over our favorite pop star’s chest on stage, and an odd nude howling ritual in the woods as a form of meditation – none of which stuck the landing with pop music audiences, who were then pivoting away from full-bodied dance-pop and into no-frills tropical house and trip-hop trends. When she retreated – first into jazz, then folk, then the Oscars – something was made clear: Although the woman is brilliant at damn near everything, society at large didn’t truly appreciate Gaga in her most natural state until it seemed to have been too late. Those fears can be put to rest with the release of Chromatica.

Her most streamlined release, Chromatica ushers Gaga’s pain to the dance floor via straightforward metaphor and gentrified Midwestern house music. From a poor relationship with psychotropic medication to media gossip, her turmoil doesn’t hijack the tracks: Uncomplicated production and crystalline melodies distract from the fact that pain is translated in a more transparent terms than we’re used to hearing from Gaga, even if she stumbles into a few tired tropes. "My name isn’t Alice, but I’ll keep looking for wonderland," she sings as the record’s opening line – and while it is probably the most offensively uninspired lyric here, the chic post-chorus is nearly infectious enough to forgive it. "Plastic Doll" provokes a similar conflict: She shouts (then howls) her way through a mounting melody line that deflects from a story line that Mattel would hate to hear rehashed again.

Gaga and her vocal collaborators provide personality to otherwise anonymous pulsations from producers BloodPop and Burns, who work hard to emulate the magic of both '90s house and Eurodance music with mostly successful results. Channeling the ferocious energy of disco-era belters, she uses her voice to stifle her pain: Her vocal delivery alone makes "Enigma" a record highlight, and album closer "Babylon" mandates she bring the attitude for its chanted chorus. (It must be noted that the robotic treatment below her main vocal line on "911" is also incredible.) Fellow pop stars Ariana Grande and Elton John, meanwhile, help unleash two of the record’s most potent tracks: “Rain on Me” is an absolute triumph of a warehouse rave banger, while John and Gaga allow their cries to be swallowed into thunderous instrumental breaks on “Sine From Above.”

Admittedly, Chromatica carries itself with less ambition than previous Lady Gaga records. Gaga scales back to dance music basics and smooths her cumulative level of service. While the record doesn’t enjoy any noticeable high spikes in quality as it plays out, there also isn’t a single unlikable song in the bunch. Ultimately, her approach works to the record’s benefit, as each song acts as a short burst in a never ending endorphin rush. "This is my dance floor I fought for," she asserts on "Free Woman" – and she doesn't leave her post for the entire 45 minutes of Chromatica. She seems ready to relinquish her worries, throw down some four-on-the-floor, and just dance once again, holding true to the promise she made to herself and her fans the very moment she hit the global stage.

Chromatica is available now under Interscope Records.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Favorite Songs of 2018 (Part Two)

Happy holidays and m(ariah)erry C(arey)hristmas, everyone. It is not only time for us all to get holly, jolly, merry, and bright, but also time for us to compile all of the tracks that made this year a bit more enjoyable. For reference, one musical act is allowed to have only one track on the countdown. Below is the second set of songs in the countdown; click the link to see part one, and check back for the rest of my list in the coming days.

20. "Anna Wintour" by Azealia Banks

It’s refreshing to hear someone who is in such frequent turmoil like Azealia Banks sound so exuberant, even if her happiness didn't last very long. Asserting itself atop the pyramid of Banks' most infectious tracks, "Anna Wintour" thumps with the immediacy and fabulousness of a supermodel strutting down the runway in sky-high heels until indulges in a supercharged chorus. Singing a part that was originally meant for a Mel B feature, Banks finesses her lines before overpowering them: "Then you show me, now I believe diamonds and dreams come true for girls like me. Now I feel in love, babe. I really know that your love is enough."

19. "Always Remember Us This Way" by Lady Gaga

The soundtrack to A Star is Born sees Lady Gaga in every form: The rah-rah Gaga, the "call me Joanne" Gaga, and the "I’ve been singing jazz since age 12" Gaga. "Always Remember Us This Way" is a beautiful ode to love, captivating from the moment the smoky first verse starts. And when put into context of the film, it’s a sucker punch to the gut. Anyone who says "Is That Alright?" or "I'll Never Love Again" is the ultimate wedding song from the film clearly hasn't given a good, strong listen to this one.

18. "My My My!" by Troye Sivan

The throbbing club track we all needed in twenty-gay-teen came from an unlikely contender. Following a quaint coming-of-age debut album, Troye Sivan snappedOn "My My My!," he collapses into a sexual trance, murmuring the track's title over a stuttered house track. Unlike the feelings of uncertainty that linger behind his early tracks about love, this track allows Sivan to entertain as an openly sexual being while paying homage to a gay genre of choice: huge, loud, larger-than-life house.

17. "MJ" by Now, Now

On "MJ," KC Dalager cries for help from her childhood musical hero – Michael Jackson, of course – in dealing with a failed relationship. "I know I'm not the only one who listened to you. Billie Jean, baby please, he's a criminal," she sings over a bouncy guitar line and a gulping vocal layer. Unlike many tracks that relies on childhood memories, "MJ" does not make nostalgia a crutch; rather, it loosely uses Michael as a mediator to channel her conflict toward.

16. "Apeshit" by The Carters

Jay-Z and Beyoncé rented The Lourve to shoot a music video for "Apeshit," the first track released jointly as The Carters. Much of their full-length endeavor isn't this pomp, but "Apeshit" is unbelievable lavish. Beyoncé owns this banger, continuing her winning streak from Lemonade and stunting her star power: "Hang one night with Yoncé, I'll make you famous. Have you ever seen a crowd going apeshit, rah!" Without a doubt, this is the definitive hype track of the year.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Favorite Songs of 2017 (Part Two)

It is not only time for us all to get holly, jolly, merry, and bright, but also time for us to compile all of the tracks that made this year a bit more enjoyable. For reference, one musical act is allowed to have only one track on my countdown. Click the hyperlink to read part one, and check back for the rest of my list in the coming days.

25. "Say My Name" by Tove Styrke

Today's minimalist, bona fide pop Tove Styrke is certainly more than a stone's throw away from the idiosyncratic, left-field one of yesteryear, but I promise she's just as enjoyable. A drastic reinvention of her musical taste, the lightweight "Say My Name" is more traditionally appealing than the cool cuts on her sophomore record, Kiddo; A scrappy ukulele riff and electronic drum beat act as its backbone, while Styrke's lyrics and delivery come across as carefree and conversational.

24. "The Cure" by Lady Gaga

Did Lady Gaga jump on The Chainsmokers' electronic-lite train just before it departed the popularity station? Yep. A surprising departure from the back roads expedition that was her fourth studio album, Joanne, "The Cure" marks the first time Lady Gaga jumped on a trend rather than jump-started it. Did she nail it, though? You bet she did. Released when she replaced a very pregnant Beyoncé on the Coachella main stage, the track is understandably anthemic and just as infectious as you expect a Lady Gaga song to be.

23. "Need You" by Allie X feat. Valley Girl

Allie X came into her own this year, noticeably improving her craft and proving herself worthy of big league ranks in pop stardom; her Collxtion II spotlighted her versatility, bouncing from one inspiration to the next. Between her first and second "collxtion" releases, she learned how to craft a killer climax without yelping over a balls-to-the-wall instrumental burst – a skill she best exhibits on the vocoder-laden "Need You." The most notable element of its ambient backing track, a drumbeat nods along beneath her muddy puddle of robotic vocals.

22. "Top of the World" by Kimbra

In preparation for her third studio album, Kimbra continues to do what she does best: take an organic approach to electronic-influenced pop music. "Top of the World," the second cut from her upcoming third studio album, is a hypnotizing tribal-beat track that was co-produced by Skrillex. On the track, Kimbra shies from modesty to reflect on what she has earned as an artist – and everything there is yet to conquer. She sing-raps just slightly off-kilter, signaling vocoders in and out of the mix to haunting results, before the song resolves into a chanted hook.

21. "Magnetic" by Chlöe Howl

Man, this may be the year's most underrated pop gem. On "Magnetic," singer-songwriter Chlöe Howl barrels over a spellbinding track that sweeps listeners in a sea of sound. It pulsates below her commanding pipes as she unleashes a melody that is impossible not to yell alongside in the car, no matter how much damage may have been done to your vocal cords in the process. After having fallen from pop culture's consciousness a few years ago, this track is a triumphant return.

Friday, December 16, 2016

50 Favorite Songs of 2016 (Part Three)

30. "Punchline" by Josef Salvat

Josef Salvat has a thing for slow-burning, extended release climaxes – and I'm totally okay with that. "Punchline," a clear standout from his debut album, opens with the fragility of a piano run before building to a breathtaking haze of vengeful guitars and drums. Salvat evolves emotionally throughout, killing away his self-blame upon realization of his former relationship's true foundation.

29. "Boyfriend" by Tegan and Sara

Tegan and Sara are very much pop now, but they haven't lost the passive-aggressiveness that allowed them to thrive in the pop-punk space that they dwelled in for so long – and that's what makes this such a great tune. It backhands the false standard to have a "man" and a "woman" archetype in lesbian and gay couples with the eye-rolling, "You treat me like your boyfriend, and you trust me like a, like a very best friend." The irritation of the matter, though, is glossed over with spiked synths and a bouncy vocal delivery, almost as to distract from the inner urge to scream.

28. "Moth to the Flame" by Chairlift

It's quite hard to wrap my mind around the fact that "Moth to the Flame," while lacking Chairlift's typically blatant experimental touch, was an afterthought to the duo's third album, found in the bowels of Caroline Polachek's hard drive as a "dummy song." Built on the admittedly cliché expression for the relentless gravitation towards a bad influence, it's the second cousin to modern house music that thrives in the power of lyrical repetition over a dancing synth groove, interrupted by a declarative plea: "He's just that kind of man, mama." 

27. "Dancing on Glass" by St. Lucia

Okay, so listen: The chorus of this song is kind of everything. The jubilant hook springs into action with gusto, spurring a certain essence of optimism among its lyrics that point blame at an unhealthy chase for perfection and self-fulfilling excellence for clouding the raw human experience. I feel like I'm on top of the world when it slams into place each and every time.

26. "Conscious" by Broods

The goal of Broods' sophomore album is to show us exactly what the Kiwi duo can do. It's filled with adventurous power pop – a far stretch from the quaint little retreat of Evergreen. If there is a culmination point to the set, it is easily found at its closing and title track. Closing with spirals of bulky, gritty synthesizers and vocal howls, "Conscious" would make for the perfect closer to a sold-out stadium show. Oh, and that staccato "wake me up and keep me conscious" bit haunts listeners even after the track has closed.

25. "Us" by Anna of the North

In line with Anna of the North's minimalist synthpop template, "Us" blends spurs of electronic dance into her ever-important sonic aesthetic standards. The production works in coordination with her pastel-tone, paper-thin voice to craft an encompassing, yet not overpowering, soundscape.

24. "Think Twice" by Emily Vaughn

What a hidden gem this track is. When a friend sent me the link to this track, I was hooked instantly. Emily Vaughn's smooth vocals are countered with a snapping drum machine and deep crashes of a chunky synth line as she claps back to an ex who destroyed a relationship and has now realized that he messed up – big time.

23. "True Disaster" by Tove Lo

Minimalist club vibes are kind of Tove Lo's thing now, but that's certainly not a bad thing. This track revels in its grimy atmosphere and rapid drumbeats before its chorus comes to life, pulsating like a rush of lust-induced adrenaline. Never have I heard somebody exclaim, "I'm going to get hurt!" in such anticipation, but Lo is a different kind of girl: While she dives headfirst into a relationship knowing damn well how things are going to end, the sheer anticipation of its demise is all part of the fun.

22. "Good Grief" by Bastille

Bastille's "Good Grief" fits its name, juxtaposing bright, upbeat alternative rock production with lyrics covering the mind's unexpected reactions to saddening situations. Upon its release, it signaled the slight shift in sonic direction to come with their sophomore album: a lessened reliance on the deep bellows of melancholy production and an implementation of more organic elements in the mix without the loss of identity.

21. "A-Yo" by Lady Gaga

Alright, so I was a Joanne skeptic upon for my first few listens. I'll admit it; I'm guilty as charged. But I grew to like it quite a bit as time drove forward – especially "A-Yo." Leave it to Lady Gaga to create a 21st century party track without the staples of a 21st century party track: no prominent synthesizers, no automated drums, and no mad electronic breakdown. Instead, she settles for hand claps and a raw but raring vocal performance – and executes the style like a champ.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Joanne | Lady Gaga

When Lady Gaga's "Just Dance" topped the charts just shy of eight years ago, it was a pioneer of the popular music standards to come, irreversibly implementing electronic dance music into the pop landscape. Hand-in-hand with Britney Spears circa Circus revival and the Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga ushered in an era of domination for synth-driven club music on the Billboard Hot 100 that opened the door for acts like Kesha and Teenage Dream-era Katy Perry. She was an unstoppable force in popular music then, but little did we know that less than a decade later, Lady Gaga would be done with both the Billboard charts and the high-energy pop music that she popularized.

Her fifth studio album is her baby: she protects it, she shields it, and she holds it close. She has taken to Twitter to flip the metaphoric bird to any nay-sayers to her newest musical direction, including The Chainsmokers and The New York Times' music critic Jon Caramanica, in 140 characters or less. She hasn't bothered with traditional promotion, opting for a short, intimate promotional tour fueled by a Bud Light sponsorship and a few radio interviews. There's a clear refusal to let this album become her biggest commercial success. While she traditionally has treated all of her albums with this mother-bird mindset, Joanne is different. It takes an unprecedented leap of faith, displaying a bold confidence that Lady Gaga can retain popularity – and the idiosyncrasies that set her apart – despite a complete change of venue, from dance club to dive bar.

Gaga's reaction aside, Caramanica wasn't out of line for referring to her baby as an overcorrection from the fluorescent playground that was ARTPOP. When her boldface electronic dance experimentation was met with lukewarm reception, she retreated to the arms of Tony Bennett as his singing-jazz-since-she-was-four partner-in-crime. And it worked: without the distractions, people saw the real talent within. So onward bound she went, abandoning the complex outfits and opting for elegance as she took to the small screen on American Horror Story: Hotel and to the awards show circuit with "Til It Happens to You," a traditional pop-rock track penned for campus rape documentary The Hunting Ground. And wouldn't you know it: it was still working. So in pursuit of continued success beyond the expectation of just another radio hit or two, Joanne refutes everything Gaga once was; it is as organic and as orthodox as she has ever been.

Of course, she's not the first artist of her caliber to break the walls of pop star expectations this year: Rihanna swerved expectations with Anti, making an unexpected turn towards her first album free of any clear-cut hits, and still struck success. And in hindsight, it was abrupt but natural progression: if the past few years have proven anything, it's that the demand for Gaga's generation of singles-heavy, pure-pop divas is pretty well dead. Existing crowds of fans carried the latest Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani efforts to moderate success, while the next line of pop girls (namely Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande) have worked urban touches into their pop tracks to stay on top. Gaga, though, has taken to the waters Rihanna already tested by delivering a relatively consistent, left-of-center body of work. But whereas Rihanna took to hazy R&B, Gaga has taken her own natural trajectory, throwing rock, country, and pop into a paint shaker and pouring out a gritty coat of backroads tavern aesthetic.

With Mark Ronson's rock and funk influences dominating any signs of BloodPop's 21st century handiwork throughout, Joanne doesn't even remotely exemplify the modern definition of pop music. Now, that's not to say rock 'n rodeo Gaga isn't incapable of the infectious hooks that made her famous; "A-Yo" competes with the best of them, and that "Tap down those boots while I beat around, let's funk downtown" ditty from her third-generation ode to self-servicing, "Dancin' in Circles," is unbelievably hypnotizing. But there are times that musicality takes the backseat in attempts to force the 'totally not pop' vibes and straightforward lyrical symbolism to resonate, especially on her country-leaning tracks. It's a shocking change of pace for Lady Gaga, whose back catalog is packed with thick forests of intricate, nearly incomprehensible metaphors. While it could be argued that her complex lyrical content was the fatal flaw of ARTPOP, this album may be her most two-dimensional: no references to Jeff Koons, hookers, or the planet Venus. Strange, yeah? It's actually a bit refreshing, if we're being honest.

Seeing that she rid herself of the lyrical (and most other) antics, it seems that Gaga knows what made people listen in the past year or two: the fact that she had a voice, and a powerful one, at that. Her focus here, though, becomes projection and support as inflection falls by the wayside. Spare the title track, where a lighter, nasally tone prevails, she rolls full-speed ahead – and that works quite well on amplified pop-rock tracks in the vein of "Diamond Heart" and "Perfect Illusion" – but at a few points in the road, her lead foot comes at a price. That flaw doesn't become any more obvious than on "Hey Girl," during which she carries a conversation with proven vocal siren Florence Welch, who manages to upstage Gaga thanks to conscious restraint of her maximalist tendencies. This sacrifice is a small one, however, considering the artistic growth otherwise.

A far stretch from the disco-glam, post-Bowie antics of The Fame, this album has no place in the discography of a Top 40 artist. But perhaps that's the point; although it is not what we all particularly expected, or maybe even wanted, from Lady Gaga, her career was never built on delivering material that fulfills expectations. After following her for this long, it's easy to parallel being a Gaga listener to being the parent of a stubborn, fickle-minded child: she does as she wishes, and we, the listening public, just have to accept and love her regardless of the phase she's in. But let's be glad that Gaga is a child with versatile talents, because she does stick the landing on this album. It has its imperfections – it's consistently loud and shows signs of some growing pains – but it's nothing if not raw, honest, and 100 percent Lady Gaga.

Joanne is available now under Interscope Records.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Singles Summary: September 2015

Disclosure feat. Lorde // "Magnets"
Caracal, Island

Lana Del Rey // "Music to Watch Boys To"
Honeymoon, Interscope

Foxes // "Better Love"
All I Need, Sony UK / Sign of the Times

Selena Gomez // "Same Old Love"
Revival, Interscope

Ellie Goulding // "On My Mind"
Delirium, Interscope

Lady Gaga // "Til It Happens to You"
from 'The Hunting Ground' documentary, Interscope

Sia // "Alive"
This is Acting, RCA

Tinashe // "Party Favors"
Joyride, RCA

Bleona // "Take You Over"
*This was a Twitter request addition

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cheek to Cheek | Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga


Around the world, pop music journalists, both professional and amateur alike, are stuck between a rock and a hard place thanks to Lady Gaga. We are currently at a stalemate between "who are we to critique a jazz album?" and "we have to review this because it's Gaga." While we have been fervently awaiting a new set from Gaga, jazz was expected to be a side project rather than a full-fledged follow-up to her last pop album. (Correction: some of us have been anxiously waiting for this album; everyone else is just caught up in the fact that ARTPOP moved a smaller number of units than Katy Perry's Prism.) However, she's not driving into this new musical world alone and has instead partnered with jazz veteran Tony Bennett for Cheek to Cheek.

The power duo of Bennett and Gaga (whom Tony lovingly calls "Lady") first partnered for their rendition of "The Lady is a Tramp" for Bennett's 2011 Duets II album. After their success with that piece, the two went on to hand-pick some of the most influential pieces of American jazz music to record for this collaborative album. Song selections include the lead single, "Anything Goes," and the highly-anticipated "Lush Life." Also preceding the release of the album were "Can't Give You Anything But Love," "Nature Boy," and an hour long special on the Home Shopping Network that was essentially fifty percent interview footage and fifty percent shameless promotion by a blonde representative from the network ("And no matter how many copies you buy tonight, guess what! You pay shipping once. So you can get one, or you can get ten, you could get twenty, and you only pay shipping one time.")

The album is such a refreshing change of pace for Lady Gaga, especially the completely raw vocals throughout the album. This is perhaps the purest form of the Lady's vocals we've been graced with in studio quality since "Speechless," which was released as Gaga was still in the dawn of her career. While perhaps big band instrumentals weren't the expected backing to these great vocals, I'm just glad to hear Gaga at her full potential. From her highest belts to lowest croons, she delivers a quality sound that complements the smooth delivery from her vocal counterpart, Bennett. I can't promise that this is an album that pop music lovers are going to play constantly for the next six weeks, but it is an album that everyone can easily fall in love with. Bennett and the Lady's timeless pieces will provide the perfect serene atmosphere for a warm bubble bath or perhaps a quiet Sunday drive. At the same time, Cheek to Cheek formally reveals that Lady Gaga is much more than your average pop star.

Cheek to Cheek will be available September 23 under Interscope Records and Columbia Records in both standard and deluxe formats. Exclusive versions can be at Target department stores and the online Home Shopping Network store.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Brand new track from Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga's 'Cheek To Cheek' released!

Calling jazz fans and Little Monsters alike! Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett have quickly dropped the first studio track from their upcoming joint album Cheek To Cheek, which is speculated to be formally announced tomorrow on the Today Show on NBC. On the song, titled "Anything Goes," Gaga shows off a side of herself that was first seen in her first collaboration with Tony Bennett, "The Lady is a Tramp." The two duet beautifully, as we can expect to see on the rest of the album, while we also get a beautiful jazz instrumental break.

Listen to a snippet of the song below to hear the coveted "JazzGa." The track is available for digital download on iTunes now.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Playlist: June 2014

This year, the month of June contains both my high school graduation and my eighteenth birthday - two very large milestones. So, most of my playlist this month is filled with inspirational songs I've associated with growing older and starting a new chapter in my life!

Anything Could Happen | Ellie Goulding
This song has been like my theme song this year. I used some of its lyrics as a senior quote, used it in my final senior project, and even wrote an entire editorial over my personal correlations with the song. It's a song that makes life seem like an open door. The upbeat synths, happy squeals of "eh, eh, eh, eh" in the chorus, and carefree lyrics just make this the perfect pick-me-up song when life gets confusing.

Here's To Never Growing Up | Avril Lavigne
This is going to sound crazy, but Avril Lavigne has always been a giant guilty pleasure of mine. Her newer material is overly immature for her age, but it's also the type of music that carries its youthful feeling directly to listeners. "Here's To Never Growing Up" is a perfect example of that; it just makes me want to go out and do stupid things with my friends and not give a damn about it.

Gypsy | Lady Gaga
I think it's a pretty well known fact that "Gypsy" is one of the best songs off of Lady Gaga's ARTPOP, and its lyrical content is pretty relevant here. I've spent a lot of time recently wondering where I want to go off to after college is over, and I've come to the conclusion I want to roam a bit by myself before settling down. Hopefully I love gypsy life and embrace it for just short while. After all, "I don't want to be alone forever, but I can be tonight."

Youth | Foxes
So, leading up to my graduation from high school, all of my underclassmen friends simply treated me like I was dying; they hugged me, cried, and said their final goodbyes. I'm not a fan of this whole feeling; we'll still be friends after this! This song exemplifies that I'm not going anywhere; my best years are still ahead of me and I'll still see my friends on the weekends. So, "Don't tell me our youth is running out / We've only just begun." 

Pompeii | Bastille
Although "Pompeii" tells the story of the demise of a city, I have metaphorically paired it with the end of my high school career. The place I have grown so accustomed to is being taken from me, but I'm going to pretend everything is the same. I may be going to a local university instead of a high school, but other than that, nothing much else is going to change in my life. As Dan Smith sings, "But if you close your eyes / Does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?"

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Playlist: April 2014

I've decided to add a new feature to my humble little blog: a monthly playlist of what I'm addicted to listening to. Expect songs from my favorite artists, some random outliers, and of course some older songs for nostalgia, too. (My favorite songs from my favorite artists usually change on a bi-weekly basis, so expect to see that happen a lot.) Perhaps this feature will help everyone discover some great new music, too! Enjoy!

"Latch" | Disclosure feat. Sam Smith

Although they have just arrived on the scene, Disclosure is turning a page in the book of electronic music and making sure their name is in big, bold letters. Both "Latch" and "White Noise" are prime examples of what kind of a punch they pack with their debut album Settle, and Sam Smith's smooth vocals put the icing on the cake in this track. How Disclosure hasn't blown up on the radio yet, I have no clue.

"Dare (La La La)" | Shakira

Shakira's new self-titled record has plenty of acoustic tracks on it, peaking through the track listing like a ray of electronic sunshine is "Dare (La La La)." Is is loaded with cliché Dr. Luke production styles? Yes. But does it sound absolutely killer? Yes. Any fan of pop music should eat this song up because this song could fill a dance floor faster than "Cupid Shuffle." The lyrics are really generic, but I don't even care.

"Beating Heart" | Ellie Goulding

Ellie Goulding is one of the only reasons that I actually was excited for the movie Divergent to premiere. Between the beautiful score tracks she did and "Beating Heart," it is like Ellie overload. "Beating Heart" is the best song that she has done for a soundtrack thus far; the lyrics and her vocal tone are so beautiful. The lyrics "I want to make the best of what is left, hold tight" always ring through my head.

"G.U.Y." | Lady Gaga

Of course Lady Gaga has to make an appearance on this list. Now that she out of hiding and back to performing, she also managed to drop "G.U.Y." as the next single from ARTPOP. The song features a killer production from Zedd and strong vocals from Gaga. With its sexed up lyrics and dance beat, "G.U.Y." is sure to be a hit with pop radio stations. Check out the new video below, too!

"Price Tag" | Jessie J feat. B.o.B

This one actually came about as we began rehearsing this song for an upcoming choir concert. Jessie J had such a strange yet unique funk about her during her debut years; she looked manufactured without feeling or sounding like a product of a record label. Between this song and "Domino," Jessie J had my head constantly bobbing to the radio when she arrived in the United States.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Spring Albums to Watch For In 2014

I feel like 2014 is going to be a great year for music. Debuts from indie artists like Azealia Banks, Foxes, Banks, and Karmin, and new material from Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, Foster the People, and Tony Bennett. Of course, some of those haven't been completely confirmed yet, but I have created a list of those albums that have already been confirmed by artists and record labels to look forward to this spring. I will create a new list later on for summer albums that will be coming soon enough!

Glorious | Foxes (May 9)
Sadly, this is an album that has already had its release date pushed back once (from March 3 to May 9) and I don't think I can wait much longer for it. Foxes first caught my heart in Zedd's "Clarity" and my love has only grown from there thanks to her great solo work like "Youth" and "Let Go For Tonight." With her great indie pop sound, I'm sure I will love this album when it is finally released. It's going to be absolutely glorious.

Supermodel | Foster The People (March 18)
Foster The People caught the attention of radio listeners a few years back with "Pumped Up Kicks." Torches was a pretty good debut album, and I can already hear improvement in the band in their new indie rock single "Coming of Age." The cover of the album is a cool little mosaic; much different from the strange cartoon monsters on the cover of Torches. I'm definitely excited to see what the band is planning of their big comeback.

Shakira | Shakira (March 25)
The Queen of Latin American Music is back, this time following the trend of eponymous titles for albums. (Evanescence, Avril Lavigne, Beyoncé, DEMI... The list goes on and on.) The album was proceeded by the ultra-catchy "Can't Remember To Forget You," complete with a sexy music video featuring Rihanna. With rumored writing and production collaborations with Fernando Garibay and Sia Furler, I'm sure Sharkira will be coming back better than ever.

Head or Heart | Christina Perri (April 1)
Christina Perri found herself in a great place a few years ago with the release of "Jar of Hearts" and "A Thousand Years," but has maintained a very low-key image. Perri quietly released "Human" as the first single from Head or Heart and debuted a slightly new image, complete with a new brunette hair color. She has kept this album campaign so quiet, in fact, that I didn't even know the little gem "Human" was even out until a few days ago.

Pulses | Karmin (March 25)
Like Foxes' Glorious, Karmin's debut album has seen delays in release for a while. They were able to drop a quick EP featuring their breakthrough single "Brokenhearted" before slightly changing their image to a crisp, clean, modern look. It's kind of refreshing. I loved the sound of "Acapella," the lead single to Pulses, even though there's an annoying typo in the title (it's a cappella, people). "I Want It All" is pretty good, as well!

Cheek to Cheek | Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga (March 18?)
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga were automatically a match made in Heaven in their cover of "The Lady Is A Tramp." In fact, they blended so well that they decided to create a whole album of jazz bits under a collaborative effort. The album release date changes in each interview with Bennett, and Gaga has been completely mute on the subject for a while, but I still cannot contain my excitement!

Ultraviolence | Lana Del Rey (May 1?)
After feeling discouraged about the music industry for a while due to criticism of her performing abilities during the campaign for her debut album Born To Die, Lana Del Rey finally announced she would return to the scene with her next record, Ultraviolence. Rumor has it that Emile Haynie, Rick Nowels, and Dan Heath are all working with her on the album; they have all worked to create masterpieces with Del Rey before.

Broke With Expensive Taste | Azealia Banks (March?)
Alright, so this is an album we may never get. Azealia Banks captivated me with her club beats in her 1991 extended play, but has failed to deliver her debut album yet. However, it isn't her fault this time around; her label rejected two tracks off of the final copy she sent in. Once she can get things handled, I'm sure she'll be out and coming for blood.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Do What U Want | Lady Gaga feat. Christina Aguilera

Rating: ★★★★★

Well, just when you thought Lady Gaga had pulled out all of the stops in ARTPOP's promotional schedule, she shocks us all once again, now opting to shadow over her current single "Do What U Want" with... well... "Do What U Want."

"Do What U Want" was originally marketed with rapper R. Kelly, just as it appears on the track listing of ARTPOP, but as of the last live performance of the song, R. Kelly has been axed and replaced by none other than Christina Aguilera, despite a seemingly rocky past between her and Gaga.

This version marks a fourth for the song: a live solo version, the R. Kelly dub, a (terrible) Rick Ross remix, and now the Legend X duet. Minus the Rick Ross remix, which I've tried to banish from my memory, each version has been great. R. Kelly's verse takes a more sexual road, offering up a flirtatious relationship ("You're the Marilyn, I'm the president / And I'd love to hear you sing, girl"). 

Meanwhile, the solo and Christina Aguilera edits share the same lyrics in the second verse, going back to the original root meaning of the songs, when Gaga was struggling to make it through each show with her broken hip and was still dealing with constant tabloid rumors ("My bones hurt from all the shows / But I don't feel the pain because I'm a pro" and "My body belongs to you when I'm on stage").

I must say, when I first heard of this duet possibly being a happening thing, I was appalled. I even texted my friend (who is a massive Christina Aguilera fan) and had a giant meltdown, afraid that Aguilera would use her awful sing-growl technique all over the song to ruin it. I was not here for that at all. However, once I heard it, I found that DJ White Shadow did a great job at toning down Aguilera's inner tiger. The production helps emphasize that nice blend between her and Gaga and overall I think the duet will help the song.

Lady Gaga has been completely silent on this version of "Do What U Want" thus far. The song was released as a single two months ago and still doesn't have a music video yet, and Gaga seems completely unsure on what she's doing with the song. I can't help feel like the music video delay and this new Christina Aguilera duet is partially thanks to Interscope's promotional team. 

Promoting such a controversial figure like R. Kelly is much more challenging than promoting Christina Aguilera, who has seemed to be recently kicking life into everybody's career except her own (say hello to Pitbull and A Great Big World and goodbye to Bionic and Lotus). But will this version of "Do What U Want" perhaps ride off of the Legend X wave created by "Say Something" and help boost the song overall? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

10 Best Albums of 2013

Here we go, everyone! It's time for another countdown post for 2013. First, it was all about the best singles of the year, but now we're going to talk about full-length albums as a whole. Sadly, Beyoncé's new self-titled album wasn't able to be included on the list, because I had already wrote most of this post before she surprise-released it. I'm sure it would have made it somewhere in the top ten, but I just haven't had enough time to listen to it all and analyze it.

10. Music From Baz Luhrmann's Film 'The Great Gatsby' | Various Artists

In terms of soundtracks, I'm not usually the biggest fan. They're usually not exactly of high-quality, but both The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Great Gatsby had outstanding soundtrack albums this year. Personally, I was excited for Music From Baz Luhrmann's Film 'The Great Gatsby' ever since Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful" was announced and released as the lead single to the album. The song blew me away, especially the Dan Heath orchestral version, and I was further impressed with songs from Sia, Florence + The Machine, Emeli Sandé, and Gotye. With such great artists all on one disc, what is there not to love?

9. Bangerz | Miley Cyrus

As I said before in my last post, the Top 20 Singles of 2013, I'm completely aware that Miley Cyrus has gone off the deep end this year, but when you take all of the crazy antics away, you can still find some alright music from her, and obviously Bangerz is proof of that. Don't shoot me, but... I actually like the album cover for the standard edition of Bangerz. I love the 1980s Miami Vice vibes; it looks so retro. And Cyrus is covering the majority of her body in the cover, which is another plus. 

I'm not saying Bangerz is perfect, because it is far from it, but it has some good bops on it. "SMS (Bangerz)," which features Siri Britney Spears, is a likeable trainwreck. It's messy, it has the stupidest lyrics ever written, and it doesn't make any sense, but I can't stop listening to it on repeat. I've found myself walking down the hallways at school randomly saying "Bangerz, bangerz / Fuckin' bangerz" and I seriously cannot control it. And let's not forget both of the legendary singles from the album, "We Can't Stop" and "Wrecking Ball," and two of the best ballads on the album, "Adore You" and "Someone Else." However, with messes like "4x4" and "#GetItRight," the album gets dragged down by haphazard filler tracks.

8. Secondhand Rapture | MS MR

Secondhand Rapture is the hardly-publicized yet high-quality debut by indie band MS MR. The duo has created a bit of buzz with lead single "Hurricane," but has yet to majorly break through on a bigger caliber. "Hurricane" gives a great insight to the rest of the album: some indie pop with some twisted lyrics. I especially enjoy the lyrics of the chorus of the lead single: "Welcome to the inner workings of my mind / So dark and foul I can't disguise / Can't disguise / Nights like this I become afraid / Of the darkness in my heart / Hurricane." Other highlights include "Fantasy" and "Dark Doo Wop," with the latter including some more intriguing lyrics: "If we're gonna die, bury us alive / If they're searching for us they'll find us side by side" and "This world is gonna burn, burn burn burn / As long as we're going down / Baby you should stick around."

7. Prism | Katy Perry

Prism was meant to be Katy Perry's "fucking dark" return, but was somehow contorted to a bright album full of posies and a stray "Dark Horse" or two. I think most of the "fucking dark" comments came when she was still bitter about her divorce from Russell Brand, but she obviously got over it because she seems pretty happy now. Most of the album sounds somewhat bland, recycle the same sounds over and over from song to song, but it's still listenable. 

Believe it or not, there are actually a few diamonds in the rough. I can't believe I'm saying this, but "Unconditionally" did not deserve to flop so hard when compared to Perry's other singles. It can easily be added to the fairly short list of truly genius Katy Perry songs: "E.T.," "Unconditionally," and "Dark Horse." Speaking of which, "Dark Horse" gives way to a new trippy sound on Prism, while "Walking On Air" brings in strong 1980s vibes. The album nods back a few decades for "Walking On Air" and "Birthday," and brings in a more of a spiritual sound on "Legendary Lovers." It's an alright album, but I can still see room for improvement.

6. Stars Dance | Selena Gomez

This year, we saw a new Selena Gomez: one that isn't backed-up by the Scene. However, her debut solo album, Stars Dance, is better overall than any of the albums by Selena Gomez & The Scene. As we all know, Stars Dance contains the legendary "Come & Get It," but even with that single under its belt, the album seemed front-loaded with all of the truly great songs. The Baja party that is "Like a Champion" and the dubstep-inspired title track join the impressive lead single in the first half of the album.  While the second half of the album was decent, it just wasn't as explosive as the first for some reason. But it was still a pretty decent album and was one foot ahead of the albums of both of her Disney counterparts.

5. Avril Lavigne | Avril Lavigne

This year, the real curve-ball was Avril Lavigne; I didn't really expect it to be so good. I was surprising debating between giving it a three or a four star review, but ended on a three star note because of her seemingly bi-polar attempts with her career. Surprisingly, I actually really like Avril Lavigne (minus "Bad Girl" and the lyrical aspect of "Hello Kitty") and I wouldn't be lying if I said it is one of my favorite albums yet from the "motherfucking princess."

I can tell that it's going to be a great album to listen to in the summer; why it was released in mid-November, I have no clue. A lot of the songs just give me visions of driving down a country road at dusk in the middle of July. Two of the songs in the track listing even reference the season: "Bitchin' Summer" and "Sippin' on Sunshine." If I had to describe the album in any other words, I would definitely use "fun." There's no other way to put it; Avril Lavigne is just a fun album, and sometimes all I need is fun little pick-me-up during the  day, and "Here's To Never Growing Up" and "17" do just the trick.

4. Trouble | Natalia Kills

Natalia Kills let it all out with Trouble. Her debut album was a major synthpop album, but this release focuses on a dark sound that I instantly fell in love with. This album makes it obvious that Kills has suffered in her life; from what we can tell through the music, in her childhood life there were alcohol and drug problems, domestic abuse, run-ins with the police, and family torn apart by an imprisoned father. She poured every single one of the memories into this album and it shows. When an artist puts so much feeling into a piece of work, it's easy to tell because the quality goes through the roof. 

Songs like "Saturday Night" directly profile the abuse between her mother and father ("Mama, you’re beautiful tonight / Movie star hair and that black eye / You can’t even notice it when you smile so hard through a heart felt lie"), while "Daddy's Girl" clarify her confused feelings towards her abusive father ("I'll keep your secrets, I'll never tell / You know I'll ride with you right through the fire of hell / They got your number, but you're safe with me / Even if they lock you up and throw away the key"). The album is undoubtedly the most cohesive albums of the year, perhaps even the decade, and every song is quality piece of work that adds a new piece to a beautiful puzzle.

3. Pure Heroine | Lorde

Now, here is a girl that started with nothing and somehow ended up with everything using just her voice a simple beat from a drum machine. All she had to utter was "I've never seen a diamond in the flesh," and suddenly she can buy a diamond bigger than the state of Texas. "Tennis Court" flew around the Internet while "Royals" dominated the radio, leading for a total domination from Lorde. The lyrics of all of the songs from Pure Heroine are pretty deep; it's surprising to know that a girl who is younger than me came up with all of these concepts. Predictably, the lyrics are extremely relatable to teenagers like myself (especially those of us from relatively small towns), which makes me like her so much more. Like Natalia Kills' Trouble, this album is very cohesive and flows well from song to song and it's actually weird to only listen to one song out of the album and then skip the rest. The whole album is so perfect together that I don't know why anybody would want to only buy or listen to just a few of the songs.

2. Halcyon Days | Ellie Goulding

To be honest, Halcyon Days really caught me off guard this summer, as I was just growing into the sound of the original Halcyon album and finally truly starting to appreciate it. I'm really glad I did stumble upon this one, because it really accelerated my love for Ellie Goulding. Although the ten new tracks cannot be purchased as a separate album, but are instead bundled together with Halcyon, I made my review only over the Halcyon Days portion of the album. I love how the sound is separated between dark sounds on the first album ("Figure 8," "Don't Say A Word," "Hanging On"), while the new tracks explore a slightly-happier yet similar electronic sound ("Goodness Gracious," "You, My Everything"). 

What I really love about Halcyon Days is that Goulding still isn't trying to be anybody who she's not; that's how all of her albums have been thus far. She's just... being Ellie Goulding. There's no forced character behind the music, nor is she trying to impress anybody. She's just making music that she likes and sharing it with everybody. Goulding was once quoted saying, "I like simplicity, which is why I'm not afraid of pop or dance music. I just look for the hook, the center. And it can be the words or the melody, just the one thing that can relate to everyone." I love this quote because she's not trying to be anymore than she actually is, but she's completely underestimating herself because Halcyon Days can easily be considered a masterpiece on my list. I mean, any album that contains a song as strong as "Hearts Without Chains" gets a top-notch grade from my standpoint.

1. ARTPOP | Lady Gaga

It's quite obvious that ARTPOP has smashed all of its competitors this year. Fans have been waiting for this album since Born This Way but absolutely nobody expected such a genius era plot: To combine concepts of classic and modern art with pop music. The album cover hit me like a Sour Patch Kid; at first I hated it, but soon afterwards it grew to be one of my favorite covers from Lady Gaga. She's pumping a bigger meaning into pop music, which is something extremely challenging to do, but it's Lady fucking Gaga... She can do as she wants. She has literally built an empire around herself full of fans that she can't disappoint, and thus far, she has really delivered.

The best parts of ARTPOP are the amazing beats and the completely hidden symbolism behind most of the songs. "Do What U Want" was inspired by tabloids writing about Lady Gaga's weight gain while on tour with the aborted Born This Way Ball, "Applause" was written about her love for performance and the connection with her fans, and "Dope" was meant to act as a confessional to her fans and family about her looming drug addiction. With productions from DJ White Shadow, Zedd, Madeon, and even Lady Gaga herself, the album really hit a home run in terms of quality. And if anybody tries to deny that this album is meaningless garbage, make them listen to "G.U.Y." and "Gypsy." They'll retract their comment immediately.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

ARTPOP | Lady Gaga

Rating: ★★★★★

In the past two years, Lady Gaga has been through a lot. She released Born This Way, released her first fragrance line, went on tour, and most notably, broke her hip during that tour. Now she's finally back in the public eye and ready to take over the world of pop music once again. It's been over two long and agonizing years in the making, but Lady Gaga has finally dropped her new album, ARTPOP. 

Because of my overwhelming excitement for this album, I decided it would be best if I did a track-by-track review; there's too much to talk about to not do such an extensive review. So, this is going to be a very long but a very thorough review compared to all of my other writings on this blog.

"Aura" not only opens the album, but was also the first ever song that fans got to hear from the album, as an early demo leaked in full online in early August. The song opens with a strange western spiel, sounding similar to "Americano" from Born This Way. It then runs into a massive explosion of electronic madness and lyrics like "I'm not a wandering slave, I am a woman of choice" and "Enigma popstar is fun, she wear burqa for fashion / It's not a statement as much as just a move of passion."

It was the opening number to the iTunes Festival, and was released in a lyric video format in October to promote the film that Lady Gaga starred in, Machete Kills. The original demo was nearly identical to the mastered copy, minus the remastered vocals and the altered vocal lines in the verses. For some reason, "Aura" has never clicked with completely. I like it, but I don't love it as much as I want to.

The first promotional single for ARTPOP is "Venus," which was released on October 28. It was originally supposed to be the second single from the album, but "Do What U Want" took its place instead. "Venus" was the first song Lady Gaga produced completely on her own, and considering that fact, the song turned out phenomenally. The chorus is an electronic euphoria, complete with pounding synths, drum kit, and appealing vocal harmonies. Meanwhile, the bridge mindlessly names off the planets (plus Pluto, which isn’t a planet anymore, Gaga!) and serves as a gateway to the immature yet inevitable Uranus joke.

On the October 14 edition of the fan-created webshow, Radio ARTPOP, Lady Gaga and the newest member of the Haus of Gaga, Emma, released a twelve-second snippet of "G.U.Y.," the next song on the track listing. Of course, I had one of many meltdowns on this day, as Lady Gaga had finally shown that this album was going to be full of the bumping electronic tracks I wanted from her. The snippet gave us a taste of the final moments of the pre-chorus and building, before unleashing the monstrous explosion that is the chorus. Meanwhile, Lady Gaga sings "Let me be that girl under you that makes you cry / I wanna be that G.U.Y."

Lady Gaga and Zedd did an outstanding job on this song, with the mind-boggling chorus breakdown, the dark synths, and the lyrics that really put the brain to work. Like a few other songs on this album, "G.U.Y." seems like it is about sex (or in this case, the erotic soundtrack to a video about sexual positions), but actual nods towards Lady Gaga's desire to take control of a relationship instead allowing a guy to do all the work and have all of the power. This is one of the highlights of ARTPOP; if you want to show somebody what Lady Gaga is really made of, make them listen to this song.

The lust-filled lyrics continue in the appropriately-named "Sexxx Dreams." (Yes, all three 'x's are necessary.) When I first heard this title, I abhorred it, but once I heard the song when it was premiered at the iTunes Festival, it turned out to be one of my favorites. This song takes a smooth 1980s vibe and carries dirty lyrics like "When I lay in bed I touch myself and I think of you" and "Damn you were in my sex dreams / Making love in my sex dreams." At one point, Gaga cuts to an extremely brief line of spoken text to reflect her hormonal state: "I can't believe I'm telling you this, but I've had a couple of drinks and oh my God..." The song is so seductive that there is no way to deny that I love it. I obviously can't go around telling people "Oh my gosh I love the song 'Sexxx Dreams' with three 'x's because it's so sexy sounding," but that's really my true reasoning behind loving this song.

Now, onto a song that I'm still lukewarm on, "Jewels N' Drugs" holds the key to Gaga's success with urban audiences. However, the song was poorly executed; it's got three rappers (two of which are completely irrelevant and don't even sound good), and its lyrics are just messy. "Slap honey onto your pancake / We know how to make a lot of money." Yes, you read that correctly. You don't have to re-read it. SLAP HONEY ONTO YOUR PANCAKE? Ugh, Gaga, you're killing me here. That lines beats out a verse of "Donatella" for the worst lyric line on the album.

And back to the three rappers... Really? We need three rappers here? Twista, the only one with a tolerable verse, wouldn't have been sufficient? Or even better, we could have gotten Azealia Banks back in the track listing with "Ratchet." I'm sure that would have been one-hundred times better than the travesty that is "Jewels N' Drugs," even if Banks has "a bad attitude." This whole song makes me want to bang my head against a wall. I'll listen to it if I'm listening to the album all the way through, but I would never skip right to it purposely.

Skipping over the misstep that is "Jewels N' Drugs," Gaga throws herself into a classic rock-inspired bit called "MANiCURE." She rips into each verse with a vocal tone reminiscent of the sounds of Joan Jett, while she wails "I'm gonna be manicured / You wanna be manicured / Ma-ma-ma-manicure / She wanna be manicured" in each chorus. To fit in with the flow of the rest of the album, DJ White Shadow pulls the classic rock sounds into a trippy breakdown at the very end, which worked really well. The song isn't really single-worthy, but it's a nice album track.

"Do What U Want," which features R. Kelly, makes its appearance next. With this song, I love how, once again, she is able to mask a giant meaning behind seemingly shallow lyrics about sex. While she sings "You can’t have my heart / And you won't use my mind but / Do what you want with my body" over a seductive 1980s-esque instrumental, she's actually making subtle jabs towards her critics. That obviously took a lot of thought; its not just another disposable pop song. 

Sitting directly in the middle of ARTPOP, the title track seems like the overall focus of the album, finally bringing art and pop together: "We could, we could belong together / ARTPOP." "ARTPOP" was one of the songs I was looking forward to the most on the album, and with its alien-like backing tracks and the technological beeps and noises, it turned out to be everything I wanted and more. Even the lyrics of the song are some of her best, including my favorite, "A hybrid can withstand these things / My heart can beat with bricks and strings / My ARTPOP could mean anything."

"ARTPOP" was one of the seven songs to be premiered at the iTunes Festival in September and I had a small meltdown over it when I first heard it. The strong live vocals were completely out of place on the song and it left me begging for the studio version. Finally, on the October 21, Lady Gaga and Emma released a minute and half long snippet of the song on Radio ARTPOP. Upon hearing it, I had another meltdown, but a joyful one at that time. The studio version meets every one of my expectations, and I'm glad to finally have it to listen on repeat for hours on end.

"Swine," the next track on the album, was also premiered at the iTunes Festival performance and was the reasoning behind Gaga renaming her portion of the show to Swinefest. The song is DJ White Shadow's first big attempt at a hardcore electronic sound and I can honestly say that he did the job justice. The build-up is bit extended out and the breakdown could have been a bit more explosive, but for being his first go at a job that is usually left up to David Guetta and Zedd, he did well. He did add some personal touches to it, though, including editing Gaga's voice to sound like that of Porky Pig towards the end of the song.

Oh, and then there's "Donatella." To be honest, I'm still not completely sure how to feel about this song. The chorus is another killer Zedd fist-bumper, while the verses should have been aborted before the release of the song. Those verses are absolutely dreadful; the second verse includes the lyrics "Walk down the runway, but don't puke / It's okay / You just had a salad today." The words "puke" and "salad" are almost as awkward as Azealia Banks dropping "chocolate croissants" in "1991." A large portion of the song is composed of a talk-singing method that Britney Spears made famous, which turns into this fit of screams in the chorus: "Donatella [...] I'm a rich bitch, I'm the upper-class."

"Fashion!" introduces and David Guetta on writing credits, which many people say was a mistake. Normally, I would be saying the same, but Lady Gaga is always in complete control of her work and she would know what sounds good and what does not; I doubt she'd let ruin her album with his vile works. (Yes, I went there.) The song is fine from my standpoint, minus the point when's voice makes an appearance and the ending notes when Lady Gaga slides in and out of tune.

The second of three drug-related songs, "Mary Jane Holland," acts as Lady Gaga's weed confessional. To be blunt (no pun intended), she's freely telling people she likes marijuana. I can't find any other way of viewing the lyrics of the song, and although I don't agree with the message at all, the overall sound of the song is nice. Madeon did a nice job on the song; it's like a chilled-out combination of heavy rock and electronic dance music. I do like the lyrics "Cause I love, love, cause I love, love / You better than, you better than / My darkest sin," but I'm obviously not the biggest fan of "When I ignite the flames and put you in my mouth / The grass heats up my insides and my brunette starts to sprout."

After "Mary Jane Holland" comes "Dope," the rewritten version of the song "I Wanna Be With You" that was performed at the iTunes Festival in September. However, the song has now transformed into a emotional ballad that acts as a confessional to her fans. Lady Gaga has noted that this is her most heartfelt song on the album because she's using to it finally admit that she is a drug addict and to apologize to everyone for that fact. “My heart would break without you / Might not awake without you,” she sings, with a half-drunken but heartfelt slur. “I’m sorry and I love you […] I need you more than dope.”

Even with all of the fist-bumpers out there, "Gypsy," a strong and emotional power ballad, has turned out to be my favorite from the album. It starts with some simple piano chords and Lady Gaga singing "Sometimes a story has no end / Sometimes I think that we can just be friends," and it eventually builds into this vocal explosion of "Pack up your bags and we can chase the sunset / Bust the rear-view and fire up the jets 'cause it's you and me / Baby, for life" and "I'm, I'm, I'm / I'm, I'm, I'm / A gypsy, gypsy, gypsy, I'm." However, my favorite lyrics come from the pre-chorus: "I don't want to be alone for ever, but I can be tonight." The song throws me into this giant range of emotions that I can't seem to control, and yet I truly love it.

And finally, closing out the album is "Applause," the lead single released from ARTPOP. I've loved it since the beginning and it still hasn't gotten old. That overwhelming electropop sound and the exciting and loud chorus make the song so infectious, while the Koons reference ("One second, I'm a Koons / Then, suddenly the Koons is me") finally makes sense now that we've gotten the cover for album featuring the giant blue Gazing Ball created by Jeff Koons.

Speaking of the cover, I had some very mixed feelings about it for a while but I eventually fell in love with it, especially the beautifully-crafted sculpture created by Koons. When I first saw the cover, I couldn't get over how busy it was; the cut up images, the bright pink font, a reflective blue ball, the amazing sculpture in the middle of it all; I just couldn't process it all. After four or five looks at the cover, I began to take a liking to it.

The contorted font that can hardly be rendered as "Lady Gaga" and "ARTPOP" shows that Lady Gaga is an icon... a global icon. If one were to see just see the sculpture, almost immediately someone would be able to identify Lady Gaga; titles or textual indications are no longer needed to properly recognize that her. That's something that not many people can say about themselves.

As a whole, ARTPOP shines above the rest of Gaga's discography in almost every department... except those lyrics. No longer is Gaga playing Mother Monster with this album; The "You're beautiful in your way" train has left the station and the "Touch me, touch me, don't be sweet" bandwagon has just arrived. ARTPOP focuses primarily on sex, but what kind of pop music isn't about sex today?

"G.U.Y.," "MANiCURE," and "Sexxx Dreams" are just a few of the songs that just ooze those lusty lyrics: "Touch me, touch me, don't be shy / I'm in charge like a G.U.Y. / I'll lay down, face up this time," "Touch me, in the dark / Put your hands all over my body parts / Throw me, on the bed / Squeeze, tease, and please do what I said," "Last night, damn you were in my sex dreams / Doing really nasty things." Must I say more?

Personally, I'm not bothered by the lyrics, but many people have noticed and disliked the change in Gaga's writing style. I mean, if you plan on letting your child listen to the album, I would highly consider the edited version if I was in your shoes, but teenagers and young adults should be fine with the album and its explicit lyrics. The elderly? Well, probably not. (Or, at least it would be awkward for their grandchildren. Sorry, grandma, but this album just isn't for you.)

Now, if you'd like a comparison of ARTPOP to the rest of Lady Gaga's discography, I can give you a really quick description: Take the complexity of Born This Way and magnify the electronic undertones of The Fame, combine them together, and you've got yourself ARTPOP. 

With every album, Lady Gaga has evolved and improved. I always wondered how she would be able to top The Fame Monster... Then Born This Way came out, and I started to wonder how she was going find room for improvement... And now I'm completely unsure how she's ever going to out-do ARTPOP. Sure, some of the songs are pretty explicit and full of sex and drug references, but that's the name of the game in the pop music industry anymore. However, Lady Gaga is able to mask some meanings underneath all of that; something Katy Perry and Rihanna have yet to master.

Regardless of what anybody else says, ARTPOP is undeniably an improvement from her past works. There was only one dud out of the fifteen new songs but it isn't bad enough to drag down the entire album; she has released worse tracks in her career (*cough*"Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)"*cough*). In fact, despite any problems I may have found in the album, this is my favorite release from Lady Gaga to date, so she obviously must be doing something right.
© Aural Fixation
Maira Gall