The mission of some art, particularly the modern kind, is to provoke – to present outlandish concepts, explore untraditional ideas, challenge traditional norms – and leave you searching for answers.
If that is the goal of Lady Gaga’s fourth album, “Artpop,” then she’s already got a success on her hands. If the goal, however, is to entertain, then she fails, though at least she does it in her typical spectacular fashion.
“My artpop could mean anything, anything, I try to sell myself, but I am really laughing because I love the music and not the bling,” Gaga sings in a near monotone voice, backed by futuristic electrobeat, on the title track. And there lies the ultimate problem: For all its lofty goals, “ArtPop” the album comes off as vapid artifice, with Gaga relying on familiar dance grooves and nonsensical lyrics that may be provocative but convey very little.
“Donatella” paints the picture of a narcissistic, skin-deep model. There’s no storytelling there, and while the electrogroove is racing with energy, the disconnect with the lyrics makes it ultimately fall flat.
The few moments that resonate are when it seems like we’re hearing something that gives us true emotion from Gaga. On the melancholy ballad “Dope,” Gaga soars as she admits her failings but begs for one more chance from her loved one, singing, “I need you more than dope.” It’s powerful and touching, and is truly heart-stirring.
But rarely do we get that kind of heartfelt sentiment. Instead “Artpop” draws from familiar themes we’ve already heard on “Born This Way” and “The Fame,” and it sounds like someone who is stuck very much in the same place artistically – ironic, given how badly Gaga wants to be seen as an artist.