I will be the first to say I love Lady Gaga. When she debuted in 2008, her brazen pop hits and unique style set her apart from other pop starlets like Britney Spears and Kelly Clarkson. She was different. She was exciting. She was utterly shocking. Coming out of the gate, she wowed the world, straight and gay alike, with hits like "Just Dance" and "Poker Face." She was undoubtably the pop star that everyone jumped on board with because she was so unique and seemingly embraced being weird and different. I attended her first world tour and was in awe of the Broadway-style show she put on. It was a concert like no other -- an actual theatrical show of sorts that featured not only amazing dancing but live vocals -- something many popstars can not achieve (or at least achieve well) in concerts. When Born This Way came out, Lady Gaga continued to prove that she could not only put out great music but that her music could reach the masses with a message. She continued to shock and awe with her crazy outfits -- the meat dress, the vessel, the futuristic headwear -- it was all so shocking that the world had no choice but to embrace her and her music.
But how long can the shocking sustain? With Lady Gaga's new album ARTPOP, she continues to try to shock but it all somehow falls flat. I believe it all began with her video for the first single off the album: "Applause." It was so incredibly over-the-top and outrageous that it seemed forced and dated. In an age when Miley Cyrus and Nikki Minaj parade around in next to nothing, Lady Gaga's brand of "shocking" seems almost dated. Popstars like Lady Gaga need to keep their look and music fresh and different, however when they constantly tell you that what they have in store for the world next is "shocking" or "different" they had better put their money where their mouths are or it seems like a stunt, which is exactly what it seems like ARTPOP is. Nothing about ARTPOP sounds incredibly different than her previous outings but because we live in a world that is always looking for next best thing and ARTPOP was manufactured to shock and awe it doesn't live up to its hype -- a hype that was branded by Lady Gaga herself.
It's almost as if Lady Gaga is so content with shocking us that she believes that she needs to continue to do so in order to entertain us. In early hits like "Boys, Boys, Boys" and "Just Dance" her lyrics were simple with catchy pop melodies. Now, it seems as though Lady Gaga needs you to know exactly not only who she is -- but how famous she is in order to entertain. Lyrics in "Venus" include: "Don't you know my ass is famous?" and in "Donatella" lyrics include: "I'm blond, I'm skinny, I'm rich and I'm a bit of a bitch" What made Lady Gaga so relatable is gone. She was the fun party girl with the outrageous costumes and now it's almost as if she is trying to shove her fame and celebrity down your throat. While her drug references in "Dope" and "Mary Jane Holland" could be shocking to some, now they just seem like dated references that are manufactured to try to shock you especially when just last month, Miley Cyrus released an album where she basically sang a song about a vibrator. Coming from a 20-year-old, that's something that could be viewed as something truly shocking. ARTPOP sounds like a futuristic joyride, which would be fun, if Lady Gaga were doing something different. This album tries so hard to shock that it almost seems attention seeking. Sure, there are some genuinely great songs -- "Gypsy" is an amazing coming-of-age song embracing her gypsy-like lifestyle and "MANiCure" is a fun, uptempo dance track, much of ARTPOP sounds like more of the same odd tracks from Born This Way with a new beat.
Katy Perry has excelled recently with Prism because she has toned down her image and put out a truly great pop album. I haven't given up on Gaga, but perhaps it's time for her to take a page out of Katy's book and tone it down a bit. The shocking is no longer shocking -- perhaps it's time to go back to the basics and the reason we all embraced her in the first place. Quality pop and dance hits that transcend over time like "Just Dance" a song that is so catchy and unforgettable, that in twenty years, people will still play be playing it at weddings. I have a hard time thinking that anyone is going to remember any of these nearly forgettable tracks past New Years.