Lady Gaga’s highly anticipated and intensely over hyped 4th record “ARTPOP” hit the shelves in November of last year, but was making controversial waves throughout the industry as early as August with its lead single “Applause” under performing in comparison to her previous works.
Gaga is one of those artists that is way too over exposed. From her flashy outfits to strong social viewpoints and ridiculously elaborate costumes, she had all of this backlash coming. Was she prepared for it? Not really. Does she have good enough material & talent to weather the storm? Maybe.
Jumping off of the Born This Way train was never going to be an easy feat for the controversial starlet, seeing as how it sold over a million copies in its first week and spawned a massive world wide tour and quite a few radio hits. Gaga needed to go away for a while. And so she did. But she didn’t go away for long enough, and here are a few reasons why ARTPOP didn’t work out for her.
1. US Mainstream Radio Wasn’t Ready For Applause
Applause has a really unique sound. It’s not something you’re drawn to the first time that you hear it. It was a bold choice for a leading single, and it sounded nothing like anything on the radio at the time- this can go one of two ways. It can become a massive surprise success (see, Royals by Lorde) or, it can flop and put a damper on the excitement for an upcoming album (see, Applause.) I think that Gaga got a little cocky, and she thought she could do whatever she wanted because she had the public wrapped around her little finger. Sadly, Applause opened Gaga up to some harsh criticism- and while the song wasn’t bad, it definitely wasn’t as summer or radio friendly as her competitor Katy Perry’s Roar. This lead to an unfortunate comparison between the two, which brings me straight into my next point.
2. Katy Perry – Prism
Katy Perry had gone away for a little bit. She hadn’t been seen since her 3D movie that went down extremely well, and had come back doing more or less the same thing with even more positive energy & a simple fun loving message to match. Gaga wasn’t looking for sales, or record breaking numbers- she wanted to change the game. Had there been no good musical alternative, ARTPOP and it’s interesting boundary pushing themes would have flourished. But Gaga stepped in with a brand new (and quite heavy/difficult to understand) message right as Katy Perry cooked up Prism to absolute radio perfection, and the competition eclipsed the material and the message of ARTPOP. It got lost in translation, and Gaga’s star power turned against her- with critics questioning the longevity of her career, rather than delving into the motifs of the new material.
3. The Message Wasn’t Instantly Clear
The hybrid combination of artistic influence and pop culture was only evident in the elusive name of the album, and hardly presented itself at all through Applause. The first track from the album was confusing & misleading, had she lead with G.U.Y and put out that incredible pop culture heavy video to begin with- we might be standing in a more positive light when it comes to ARTPOP and its commercial success. Jeff Koons designs & seashell bikinis were a strange and not necessarily cohesive concept to promote an album with.
4. The Marketing Was Extremely Sloppy
Promo for ARTPOP was all over the place. It was apparent that her split with long time manager Troy Carter came at a really unfortunate time, a time where Gaga needed a little bit of guidance and support- and it seems like her team made a few big changes rather hastily. Her team scrambled to get a decent second single out as soon as they could in order to push sales for ARTPOP, and Gaga weirdly decided upon Venus. A broken tune that she definitely harped on a LOT about (even shooting a music video that was never seen) it eventually never made it to the airwaves, and Do What U Want was chosen instead. While it was a good, catchy radio song- R Kelly was really unnecessary on this record, and a music video was never made in time to make a splash. Then there was the whole weird Christina Aguilera duet, her single choice has basically been a giant mess. But she made a come back with G.U.Y so let’s hope that’s a sign of good things to come.
Regardless of all the aformentioned problems with ARTPOP, that doesn’t detract from the fact that it was actual a very solid body of work. It was far more cohesive & introspective than Born This Way, and seems to have stylistic direction that flows semi fluidly throughout the piece. So while ARTPOP wasn’t necessarily a commercial success, it’s definitely a learning curve that Gaga needed in her career. After being on top for so long, the queen was starting to get a little complacent. This semi failure will only push her to become more ambitious and artistic with her vision- and we can’t wait to see what she’ll do with the Artpop Ball.