Thursday, 10 December 2015

Lady Gaga - Artpop (2013)

So far as I've been concerned up until very recently, Lady Gaga was just wossername who brought us Poker Face, a song comprised entirely of choruses which sounded like it had been recorded on an expensive phone. It came on the radio at work to bring pleasure only in the knowledge that we at least weren't tuned to the station which played Chelsea Dagger by the fucking Fratellis every seven bleeding minutes. More recently I joined one of those facebook groups you hear about, specifically one in which members post a piccy of the cover of whatever they're listening to at the time, then we all say how we like it too, or we think it's shite, or how our next door neighbour once bummed the drummer or whatever. It's fun, but not without its annoyances, one of which is provided by the doubtless absolutely lovely and well intentioned guy who posts a picture of whatever he's listening to embellished with photocopied paper dollies of famous pop stars stood around the record cover along with a tattyfilarious script of their conversation.

ELVIS PRESLEY: Hey guys, I see Dave's checking out the first Doobie Brothers album.
BARBARA STREISAND: That's a pretty ropey looking copy.
BRITNEY SPEARS: Yeah, I hope he didn't pay too much for it.
ELVIS PRESLEY: Well, the Clash told me it was something he found in his dad's loft, so I guess he didn't pay anything.
BRITNEY SPEARS: Is that right?
THE CLASH: Don't ask us. We were still in the pub.
JOHNNY CASH: I think you mean me. People are always getting us confused.

No. I don't know why either, but to get to the point, our man recently posted a photograph of this Lady Gaga album as subject of imaginary debate amongst cut-out pictures of top poppers. Fuck's sake, I muttered darkly to myself, even more disgusted than usual; and then went off for a listen to some of the album on YouTube just to confirm that it was as shit as I thought it would be. Somehow it wasn't, at least it didn't sound that way on that particular morning, and so I wondered if I perhaps had Lady Gaga all wrong. After all, of the musical artists I rate most highly, my initial impression of almost every last one has usually been what the fuck is this shit?

Weirdly, whatever that not actually terrible track may have been, it sounds completely different on the actual disc, and completely different to the point that I'm not even sure which one it was. More annoyingly, Artpop is Madonna for people who post videos of themselves talking about their top five favourite Manga characters on YouTube and is about as good as I had a feeling it would be, at least in so much as it probably sounds amazing if you're under thirty and fucking stupid...

Nope. Not apologising for that one, and I don't care if I've just turned into my dad frowning at the Sex Pistols - young people are shit. Theoretically they can't all be shit, but I don't seem to have encountered too many exceptions to the rule: useless fuckers forever fiddling with their phones and texting about how all music is pointless now, not like the good old classic rock days of Oasis and Muse, or Andrew Lloyd Webber and Elton John, and old people are always going on about books but you can't learn nuffink from books because that ain't life and there's nuffink wrong with games because some of them have got really good stories now blah blah fucking blah - fuck you, kids. All of you. Develop some fucking discretion.

Sadly, Artpop is post-music, just the sonic extension of a larger, more substantial memeplex incorporating visuals, ringtones, sneakers, YouTube, and marketing strategy. It means well and it tries hard to deliver an authentic experience, but even with the best intention, it remains a McDonald's Fruit Bag™ at heart. I'm trying to pinpoint just what it is that fails to work, that lets the side down, but there's so much going on, and so much which sounds like it should work without actually succeeding that it's hard to identify any one specific turd in the musical swimming pool. Of course, being post-music, it all sounds like it was recorded on a phone, full of flourishes which never could have arisen prior to our developing the ability to move waveforms around on a screen. I'm a huge fan of weirdy electronic techno, and yet what happens here all feels too smooth and easily achieved, and it might almost resemble the Severed Heads -  ordinarily a recommendation - but for the problem that musically it only really does one thing, and it does it over and over. Everything sounds like a crescendo, like a musical analogy of the worst of modern cinema - the tender interlude from The Fast and the Furious again and again and again, all soft focus and a single tear forming in the corner of an unnaturally enlarged cinematic eye whilst five orchestras shit themselves in unison just in case that blind guy living on Pluto missed the point of it being an emotional moment.

I could live with this if Artpop had some dimension other than the celebration of its own artificiality, its own failure to resemble anything occurring in nature, but the rest of the sentence, had I bothered to spell it out, probably depends on how much you care about Andy Warhol, which personally I never did. The sexuality is up front and lurid, better done than the perpetually gurning Miley Cyrus forever holding her flaps apart and inviting you to take a lick, but still ultimately as clinical and calculating as any vagina airbrushed and clean shaven in the name of selling beer, guns, or cigarettes. I quite like sexy music, but properly sexy music rarely spells it out, and Gaga doesn't have the voice to pull it off, in either sense of the expression. She's decent, but then doubtless so are many other X-Factor contestants, and she only seems to do two things, either gushing operatically over musical crescendos or that wearyingly stern now I'm going to shove this up your arse, you naughty boy voice; excepting some bluesy effort towards the end of the disc to which she just isn't well suited. For fuck's sake woman, put some clothes on. We've seen enough.

Artpop is an advert for car insurance, a soundtrack for people who think that the fashion industry is important, techno which misses the great innovation of techno having been its rejection of personality. Artpop probably isn't quite so terrible as I've made it sound, but for something which tries so hard, it's surprising how little it really does.

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