First off, let me just say I'm a huge fan of Lady Gaga. She first garnered my attention when she attended the LGBT Equality March on Washington back in 2009. Initially, I was impressed right off the bat, and I was later blown away by the subsequent release of her album Born This Way -- as well as her ensuing onslaught of publicity for the cause LGBT equality. So I was looking forward to her new album ARTPOP with anticipation but sadly I have been surprisingly disappointed. There are definitely a few tracks on the album that are praiseworthy but on the whole the album seems to be missing some essential ingredient.
Chris Bosman of Consequence of Sound gave what I consider quite an astute assessment with his review of the album:
At her peak, her mishmash of European dance music, American pop, '80s Madonna, glam Bowie, hair metal, Giorgio Moroder and The Killers sounded both reverently referential and ahead of its time. The hype that combination commands is always followed by the expectation of further exploration. Instead, Gaga has added only a few by-the-numbers modern elements to that initial formula... That refusal to experiment as wildly as she once did reads as fear, and a pop star who's afraid ends up sounding like the once-weird Lady Gaga does on ARTPOP: boring and normal.
After reading Bosman's review it hit me -- I know what's missing. ARTPOP needs more Madonna!
The Gaga/Madonna feud has been well documented ever since the similarities between the two artists and their music were first commented upon. And one need only listen to Gaga's recent appearance on the Howard Stern Show to know that she is still feeling the sting of accusations that she copies Madonna. In fact, Gaga literally lays all of her problems at Madonna's feet, telling Stern, "And, you know, the whole thing is really rooted in Madonna. That's sort of the center of it and no one has really said that or admitted to it." Gaga's continued rants about Madonna only serve to show just how much of that criticism Gaga has taken to heart. And so on ARTPOP it seems clear that Gaga made a conscience effort to move away from Madonna and add other musical influences to her repertoire and the album suffered because of it. It's kind of like trying to bake a sweet cake whose recipe calls for sugar -- but you decide to change things up and go with a sugar substitute instead -- and then are surprised when the cake doesn't taste as good.