CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As a huge Lady Gaga fan, I'm surprised that the singer has finally managed to shock me. It's not a result of her fashion choices, a music video or a statement on a controversial issue. No, after five years, the pop star has shocked me by releasing an album that's a bit boring.
Her third studio album, "ARTPOP," shows Gaga tripping a little in her direction to find a new sound. While diehard fans like myself will find plenty to enjoy with the album, casual listeners are only going to find entertainment in a handful of tracks.
The opener, "Aura," is one of the weakest tracks on the album. Like every song on "ARTPOP," it tries something different, in this instance mixing Middle Eastern elements on a typical EDM (electronic dance music) song. Gaga suggests that in the tracks that follow, we'll "peak underneath the covers" and see the girl "behind the aura," but the album never truly reaches that potential.
"Venus," the first track Gaga herself has professionally produced, sounds like the result of a RuPaul-David Bowie collaboration. It's insanely fun and goofy. The lyrics are full of intergalactic puns that never seem witty ("Let's blast off to a whole new dimension/In your bedroom/Venus!") but fuel the track's camp factor. The chorus is extremely catchy, and kudos to Gaga for waiting more than three minutes to make a Uranus joke. Still, the song feels too long, and its second pre-chorus could have been cut.
"G.U.Y." (which stands for "Girl Under You") is a great track with a hilarious intro from Gaga as an audio tour guide. Its sex-filled lyrics are as smart as they are catchy and make this an album highlight.
Following it, and further exploring the theme of sex, is the aptly-titled "Sexxx Dreams," in which Gaga alternates speaking and singing lyrics as she addresses one lover in reality and one in fantasy. It's a jarring effect that creates a hazy, dream-like atmosphere, and the beats definitely make it a sexy track.
T.I., Too and Twista make an appearance on the album's weakest track, "Jewels N' Drugs," where Gaga feels more like a guest vocalist than any of the rappers.
Thankfully, R. Kelly comes along after the mediocre "MANiCURE" and duets with her on "Do What U Want," a sexy track reminiscent of a '90s R&B song. Gaga channels her inner Tina Turner and Christina Augilera to produce energetic, powerful vocals that contrast nicely with Kelly's smooth flow.
The Selena Gomez-esque title track feels like filler, but the rock inspired "Swine" is enjoyable, as is "Donatella" (which features great tongue-in-cheek lyrics and, along with "Venus," will be headed to a gay club near you). "Fashion!" is almost as forgettable as "Jewels N' Drugs," but "Mary Jane Holland" is a great song that adds some value to the album.
The final three tracks are some of the best, starting with the confessional piano ballad "Dope," where Gaga explores her history of drug addiction. With the focus on the fantastic piano melody and vocals that are just as raw as her lyrics, it's one of her best songs.
"Gypsy" is a great track that would have been a good closer. It explores the concept of fame once again, where Gaga expresses her love of the "gypsy life" she lives. While it's a good song -- and most likely a potential single -- it's getting a bit boring to hear her views on fame after five years.
"Applause," the final track and first single, is fantastic in every way. From its beats to its playful lyrics ("Pop culture was in art/Now art's in pop culture in me!"), it is more of what we're used to with Gaga.
Maybe that's not entirely a bad thing. Even though I appreciate that she took musical risks, "ARTPOP" feels like one gigantic, overproduced audio mess. If you haven't already jumped aboard the S.S. Gaga, "ARTPOP" isn't going to make you want to do so any time soon.With the album, Lady Gaga released an "ARTPOP" app. Read a review of it here.