Article | Avant-garde, Lady Gaga and ambition: on the legacy of ARTPOP
There is something undeniably emblematic when we think of Lady Gaga.
Starting his career in 2008, the alter-ego of Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta came to life with the thunderous ‘The Fame’, her debut album that not only broke countless records, but put a young singer-songwriter just 22 years old in the spotlight with a stylistic and phonographic perception that diverged from the usual pop we were used to. Just over a year later, Gaga would plunge into her imperial era, with the bombastic kick of ‘The Fame Monster’ (and singles like “Alejandro”, “Bad Romance” and “Telephone”) and extending until the beginning of 2013 with the fruits harvested from ‘Born This Way’ (one of the best albums of all time).
But what happens after we reach the top? Well, usually, the answer to that question is the fall. And, with the release of ‘ARTPOP’ in November, seven years ago, not only the media, but also the fans would fall for an artist who dared to escape the comforts and think “outside the box”, extending her art to territories not yet explored and that would go against the who had already introduced us. Of course, the infamous third compilation of Lady Gaga’s originals is far from being unknown or having fallen into the ruins of her attempts at revitalization – in fact, few people have even heard of her name. Nearly a decade later (and basically every time another cycle is completed), ‘ARTPOP’ back into the mouths of the people as if it never came out.
The explanation is quite simple, honestly: the album is considered, with a blatant mistake, a stain on the performer’s career – either because it was massacred by the specialized critics at the time of its release, or because it did not achieve the commercial success it promised (selling almost five times less than its predecessor, despite reaching number one on the Billboard charts). Condemned for its explicit content, for its constant apology for drugs and for the knowledge of one’s own body – and even for a metaphorical and too passionate lyricism that made the verses “incomprehensible” -, the CD was unfairly abandoned to be recognized years later, with an extensive legacy that shows its faces to the present day (even more considering the strong return of musicians to EDM and 80s synth-pop in 2020, such as Dua Lipa and The Weeknd).
“Lady Gaga is dead” with her “disappointing album” were the headlines that made websites around the world in 2013 – perhaps because most critics did not imagine that Gaga would go to such lengths to seek a unique identity. After all, she had already suffered ridiculous accusations of plagiarism with “Born This Way” and even a boycott of the church for the rampant use of Catholic mythology in “Alejandro” and “Judas” (the latter being purposely released on a Good Friday). To expect the obvious from the most interesting and audacious artist of the century was to expect snakes to grow wings – and ‘ARTPOP’ came to prove her genius, placing her as a creator, a thought-provoking director ahead of her time and who would later be revered as a revitalizer of classic styles between the 1970s and 1990s.
Gaga has always been heavily criticized by the media – and perhaps her perverted responses and her social conscience, which has also made her the biggest LGBTQ+ icon today, have allowed journalists and personalities to judge her for her extravagant clothes, the poignancy of musical verses and the impactful ones. sound narratives that promoted the “embracing of being”. In 2013, she went further: she continued to invest in anthems of self-acceptance and empowerment through topics considered taboo by an overly conservative society that did not allow women to speak openly about their desires and fetishes. “When I lay in bed, I touch myself and think of you” is the phrase that sums up everything Gaga has had the luxury of saying, suffering reprisal or not: the drunken sensuality of “Sexxx Dreams”the intimate viscerality of “Aura” and the narcotic power of “Dope” they are reflections of an artist who found the truth and found herself with her own voice.
Anyway, ‘ARTPOP’ faced problems along the way – and such obstacles contributed to the album and the era itself not being treated with the caution they deserved. On the one hand, there was an artistic boycott of the production company; on the other, a questionable collaboration with R. Kelly, “Do What U Want” (not in terms of conception or outcome, but after allegations of abuse against the rapper forced Gaga to remove the track from the work). Not to mention the countless promises never fulfilled by the artist, including a necessary continuation with discarded tracks that would enhance this synesthetic journey in an incredible and flawless way (“Brooklyn Nights” remains a fan favorite and is even featured by the artist at certain shows).
The musical iteration gained cult status and embraced a legion of fans who once destroyed the work of someone who was just looking for a new side of his passionate personality. Unlike previous attacks, Gaga plunged headlong into the deconstruction of the image solidified in the previous decade, as well as Andy Warhol and Sun Ra (which serve as a reference for the aesthetic architecture in question). The critical positivism of “Applause” and surrender to mainstream culture with “Donatella” and “Fashion!”embedded in a pastiche that mentions herself and those who influenced her career, gain a dimension beyond what is seen in the foreground – and that are broken down to other tracks, such as the futuristic “Venus” and the oneiric title track.
The performer may have created monstrous expectations by posting on her Twitter that the millennium album was coming – but I don’t blame her: listeners expected something totally different from what was released and, falling into premeditated frustration, maybe they didn’t understand the concept because behind the crude method of “Swine” it’s from “Mary Jane Holland”. The album is a revolution, like it or not: Lady Gaga has reached the end of a cycle and opened the doors to a multifaceted future that, as she herself announces, “could be anything”.
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