[Music] Lady Gaga – Artpop (review)


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.

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[Prose] An Act of Kindness

It was moments such as this that Rose found herself cursing her own habitual kindness. After all, who else could be to blame? Perhaps if she had complimented her flatmate’s new weave with just a little less enthusiasm, said flatmate wouldn’t have felt it necessary to bury her tear-streaked face in her lap in a possible bid to ensure the two could get further acquainted. She probably thinks most Irish people have never seen a weave before, Rose thought to herself. But to Sonny’s credit, anyone bearing witness to how Rose had bounded up and down the communal area of their flat upon spying her friend’s majestic mane would most likely have surmised the same thing.

And yet as Sonny continued to weep in violent convulsions, Rose reasoned that perhaps she was overthinking things. Maybe her friend was legitimately upset. It certainly wasn’t unheard of for Sonny to get a bit emotional after a few drinks. Indeed, by the time they found their Christmas holidays were approaching, it had been a task for anyone in Rose’s flat to recall a night out that didn’t end in an emotional breakdown for poor Sonny. But Rose had hoped this semester would be different. It was her first night back in Cardiff, and she had high hopes – although these were slowly being dowsed by the flash-flood of tears that lay before her. She hadn’t exactly enjoyed her time back in Ireland. As she began to tear up at the departure gate earlier that day, she hoped her father would interpret it as a sign of regret, that maybe Rose felt she had made a mistake in crossing the Irish sea. Not to the extent that she should be pained by this embryonic patriotism – Mr. O’Shea would never wish such turmoil upon his only daughter – but that maybe in four years time, with her degree wrapped up and thoughts of greener grass fading, she might come back home. She had never given him a particular reason to think this wouldn’t be the case, but the truth was she deplored her homeland. She walked the streets of Cork city like a tourist. When she caught up with her high school friends, it was as if they now spoke a different language. She should have been content knowing that those she cared about were perfectly happy to settle within a half a mile of where they all used to play hopscotch together. But throughout each coffee date, all Rose’s foggy mind could do was wonder how her friends could go each day without catching their reflection in the mirror and resenting both themselves and their brazen lack of ambition. While she walked through the airport’s duty free shops, Rose wiped one last tear from her eye, knowing this fit to be the closest she had ever come to vocalising these thoughts.

Rose decided to re-evaluate the situation. What she found curious was that Sonny’s episodes rarely struck during pre-drinks – she usually waited until they were on a dance floor entrenched with their sweaty, grinding peers to have her soul-crushing epiphanies – so why should tonight be any different? She felt it was worth investigating, so she patted Sonny on the head to get her attention. A few seconds had passed before Rose realised she hadn’t accounted for the newly applied blanket of Russian hair that was cushioning her impact. She tried again.

“Sonny? Babe…?” She attempted to sound as motherly as possible, putting her deep, syrupy timbre to good use. Sonny grunted drowsily. Rose propped her up next to her on the bed like a drunken ventriloquist doll. As she saw Sonny’s eyes wander from her own to the many French film posters that adorned her bedroom wall, she knew this interrogation could take a while. She caught Sonny by the shoulders and looked her straight in the eye.

“Sonny! Please. Tell me what’s wrong.” For a moment, Rose thought she had lost her for good. Her eye contact wavered. She winced her eyes shut and rested them on the heel of her palms. But this digression lasted only a moment. After a few seconds, Sonny had regained eye contact, and began to answer the question at hand.

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