It succeeds thanks to...
1. Interesting creative foils. David Guetta, Zedd and French producer Madeon, along with RedOne and DJ White Shadow, sculpt Artpop’s robotic electro, throbbing EDM and artsy new wave.
2. New influences. Although the song “G.U.Y.” is a sonic cousin to “Paparazzi,” Artpop has fresh flourishes—an Andrew Lloyd Webber strut here, squelching Jazzercise there and even a Sun Ra-via-Zombie Zombie sample on “Venus.”
3. “Do What U Want.” This R. Kelly-featuring shimmering slow jam is seductive and clever.
4. The hook in “Sexxx Dreams.” The song is Madonna circa Erotica, but the coquettish tone of the hook is pure ’80s softcore seduction.
5. “Dope.” A throwback to Gaga’s early days, this sparse piano song is heavy with regret, longing and anguish.
It falls short because...
1. Not enough Gaga. In a recent Billboard article, a source quotes Gaga saying, “People torched me for speaking my mind on Born This Way. I just want to make hit pop songs [with Artpop].” But emotional honesty has always elevated her music—and this is a weaker record without it.
2. It’s no fun. Without more of Gaga’s perspective, Artpop feels stiff rather than spirited.
3. “Jewels n’ Drugs.” Gaga sounds out of her element on this ominous hip-hop cut, which features guests T.I., Too $hort and Twista.
4. Vapid lyrics. With lyrics full of chatter about manicures, fashion and Donatella Versace (?), it’s hard to believe Gaga when she sings, “I just love the music, not the bling.”
5. No emotional resonance. Look beneath the surface, and you won’t find much depth or actual substance.