“Do What U Want” and “Gypsy” are the only good songs here. The former rides in on a synth wave propulsion of ginormous proportions and features the best singing on the album, courtesy of Christina Aguilera, who growls throughout in a more believable sexuality than Lady Gaga herself offers on that song or in the three sex song block from “Venus” through “Sexxx Dreams” (because “Sex Dreams” wasn’t sexxxy enough; I get the feeling that Lady Laga’s definition of sexuality is derived from porn, and that’s sad). Unfortunately, there’s about a minute of wasted space the moment R. Kelly begins his melodyless crooning and the music is stripped down to a basic beat underneath it so there’s nothing to distract (my hand twitches for the skip button the moment he says “I could be the drink in your cup”). Meanwhile, the latter moves effortlessly from ballad to club-anthem; each time Lady Gaga sings “Tonight,” I can imagine her (or myself) in the middle of the club with her (/my) arms spread, one foot tapping out the beat and irises consumed by MDMA-induced blackness; her most transportative song since “Just Dance” and though Lady Gaga’s teleportation abilities extend only to clubs, it’s still a skill.
Elsewhere, “Jewels N’ Drugs” has a merciless trap rap beat but all three featured rappers are years behind their prime (if they had one at all to begin with; see Too $hort’s non-existant flow for more details); it gets points for the neat-o string break when Gaga sings “This family is stupid attractive” at the 1:19 mark but it loses points for Twista’s awkward promotion of Lady Gaga that neither fits the flow or rhyme scheme. And the choruses of “G.U.Y.” and “Applause” do connect, though the former tries hard to be smart and falls flat on its face (“You’ll be my G.I.R.L. / Guy, I’m romance and love to hold you” makes no sense) and overall, the song sounds like a Prince ripoff. Meanwhile, the verses of “Applause” are indicative of the failures of ARTPOP and Lady Gaga as a whole, not to mention how the song just ends instead of ending (should’ve closed with “Gypsy”). These three songs are minor highlights.
And as a whole, this is just fucking ugly music, almost completely devoid of melody while produced and mixed obnoxiously. And I guess it’s to be expected since music is a reflection/expression of the artist and Lady Gaga has a fucking ugly personality. She’s vapid, she’s paper-thin, she’s calculating, she’s guilty of pandering, her contradictory and baffling statements on feminism suggest she’s stupid, she’s reduced music – an aural experience – into image – a visual experience, and her image is that of a second-hand Elton John who got her hands on an Alexander McQueen catalog and had enough money to afford the items therein (to wit: she bought one outfit that cost her $133,000 and fuck her). Opener “Aura” is as obnoxious and natural as you’d expect a Lady Gaga-Infected Mushroom collaboration to be; “Venus” is garbage up until the bridge where it becomes shit instead (hint: she makes a joke out of Uranus); “Sexxx Dreams” does that annoying spoken word and beatless bridge that pop songs often rely on (because they’re easy) that needs to join the dodo birds in extinction; “Artpop” is good only for the melody in its hook repeated to form a chorus, and sounds even more of a Prince ripoff than “G.U.Y.”; “Dope” has this synth farting throughout, but impressed Forbesenough to make a triple-part article in defense of the album because it was spare or something.
Whatever: the fact that this album dropped 81% in sales after the first week from 258,000 copies to barely over 50,000 and the critical reviews that all barely-qualify-as-lukewarm both suggest that the only people who give a shit about her are her fans.