There’s a reason that people sing in the shower. Many think it’s because the steam warms up your throat and relaxes the vocal chords making it easier for you to hit those high notes. Others think it’s because small hollow areas give the perfect acoustic presentation. Me?
I believe it’s because music is best appreciated bollocks naked.
It helps of course that I live in a gorgeous apartment where someone very bright indeed plumbed in a kick ass sound system with the ability to isolate sound in every room. Showering has never been the same since I discovered the joy of ceiling speakers with adjustable bass. (It also means you no longer have to whistle when sitting on the porcelain throne).
It seems strangely appropriate that I would choose the Leopold Place wet room for my first listen to ArtPop, Lady Gaga’s much anticipated fourth album.
Now, let’s address the elephant in the room before we move any further. I have been massively underwhelmed by Gaga’s 2013 so far. I’ve been disappointed by her live performances and disheartened by the various aggressive personalities she’s presented on social media in the run up to this album. But I am an old fashioned queen. I thrive on tragedy and love nothing more than a brilliant comeback to form, and the Lady herself stated last month; “this is the album of the millennium”. Brave words from someone on the back of one of her poorest chart performances from a lead single. Still, I’m sure you’ll agree that Applause is a grower, not a shower and indeed it’s been bum-fucking me around dance floors for most of the summer.
So back to ArtPop.
Like my shower, it takes a little time to warm.
Aura, the opening track is ambitious. A less ballsy artist might have put it third of fourth in the running order. But this is art. The song is her creative manifesto. It’s experimental and slightly off the wall. If Pop Art is the commercialisation of beauty with Warhol’s iconic print imagery then Art Pop could be Pollock, it needs a bit of attention, but sooner or later, you’ll realise its genius.
The vocals in the opening minute are aggressive and vocoder heavy. It’s a bit of a Marmite moment. Maybe it’s too off the wall for pop royalty? But then it comes; a shit hot chorus with LG’s creamy smooth vocals. It’s instantly recognisable and hits home like a solid kick in the chuff. It’s art. But it’s Gaga’s art. It feels comfortable. You can relax now. She’s not taking it in a prog-rock direction.
Venus is the first track she’s fully produced. She sang a little bit of it on X Factor last week. The worst part. Maybe she’d forgotten to take her St John’s Wort that morning, as what came across as fairly bleak on ITV is actually a stormer of a pop song. This is making me happy. I’m looking forward to the rest.
The shower is hot now so I decide to get naked.
Just in time for G.U.Y and X Dreams. Both are pop brilliance and of course, if I’d spent a couple of years getting poked by Taylor Kinney I’d more than happily tell the world I enjoy being the girl under him. It’s enough to make a lady blush. By the end of this sexy hot mess I’m surprised to find I have a VERY clean peen.
Frothing up and paying attention to other parts of my body is easier during Jewels N’ Drugs. It a rare misstep into hip-hop and a little heavy with the guest stars. I’ve not really heard of any of them, but perhaps they’re part of a cartel that might ‘end dat bitch if this don’t end up on da record’. I reflect that this could have been a perfect place for Princess Die to sit within the body of work, but sadly, it’s not on the track listing….maybe a secret track or being saved for the deluxe edition?
Thankfully MANiCURE, Do What U Want and ARTPOP are glorious returns to form and have the euro trash brilliance of her past hits. I’m sceptical about R Kelly and what he brings to the table. Any time I hear his name I think of that old gag about buying his CD and the cellophane packaging with the sticker saying ‘Keep this wrapper away from children’.
Swine takes the bpm up a notch or two and is very reminiscent of Born This Way’s Germanic anthem Scheiße. ‘Squeal out, squeal out, squeal out you’re so disgusting’ she declares to her pig. Charlotte’s Web this is not. But it’s brilliantly tacky and what it lacks in lyrical brilliance, it makes up for in lyrical un-brilliance.
I’ve been dancing so much in the shower I have soap in my eyes and mouth. Spitting seems appropriate as I head into what is now, the highlight of this CD so far for me; Donatella. Yes, it’s a musical ode to the woman Joan Rivers once said looks like she belongs on the door of an African mud hut. But it’s acers, and deserves a second listen so much I wrap myself in a towel and flick back.
Fashion is yet another smart ode to the material glamour of celebrity and feels strangely familiar. It’s also one of the only tracks that closes with some sort of synthesized kazoo. Mary Jane Holland, DOPE and Gypsy for me represent more of the same and to be perfectly honest I’m starting to prune up a little bit and think perhaps this wasn’t the greatest idea. I step out of the shower and shave my head and sculpt my beard. Is it safe to be holding a razor while listening to DOPE? It’s really emotional. Or whiney. I can’t decide.
Just in time for Applause I’m fully shaved and back in the shower for a final lather and application of baby oil. I know right now you’re thinking I must look like one of those Herb Ritts models carrying tyres on the Athena posters. The truth is I look more like one of those swans that got caught in an oil spill. Still, music is an escape and I feel fantastic.
Fully dressed now some hours later I’ve reflected on the ArtPop experience and overall I’m pretty impressed. True, at moments there are some significant failures and lyrically I can’t help but thinking she would have been better suited paying attention to her draftsmanship over the avant-garde if what she really was after was a fine-art result. Still, her pop brush has broad strokes and is far reaching in its efforts. Besides, we all know her real collateral is in her role in society, what she stands for and what she means to her fans.
Tomorrow, we hear from some of her biggest!