Those picking up Lady Gaga’s latest in the hope of finding balls bigger than the one sported on the cover will be reassured by the opening moments of “Aura”, Artpop’s demented preamble. “I killed my former and / left her in the trunk on Highway 10,” she sings over a hastily strummed guitar, as if reciting the prologue to a direct-to-DVD Kill Bill rip-off. The track soon builds into a cacophony of laughter, then to an operatic breakdown of the its title, before finally morphing into the sticky electro-pop for which Mother Monster is best known, an aesthetic she maintains for the much of the record’s duration.
“I’m not a wandering slave / I am a woman of choice!” she rather justifiably belts. While its more provocatively titled demo “Burqa” may have caused a stir when it first leaked back in August, Gaga has shown some serious cojones – and perhaps just a smidgen of ignorance – in her keeping of the imagery of the burqa central to the song. “Do you wanna see the girl who lives behind the aura? Behind the curtain, behind the burqa?” The sentiment of using said garment not as a tool to absolve oneself from the pressures of sexual objectification but rather as a minor obstacle in Gaga’s quest to slay the notion of female modesty once and for all is a divisive one, but it’s nice to know that the presence of that gaudy blue orb was not an act of overcompensation.
The record is allegedly the lovechild of the two unlikely bedfellows of its title, although it seems rather incongruous for a woman who has always approached her pop career as if it were at bonafide art form to suddenly create a distinction between the two. In practice, Gaga’s concept is less of a perfect marriage between art and pop than it is a botched blind date that ends after one drink. The ‘union’ has little effect on the music itself, with its impact peaking with the album’s striking artwork, care of Jeff Koons, while each of Artpop’s subsequent achievements can be attributed to its adherence to the demands of its second syllable.