Lady Gaga starts romance with the world of fine art
Updated: 2013-11-17 07:13
(The New York Times)
In "Artpop," her third full-length studio album, Lady Gaga pivots to align herself with the art world, singing, "Pop culture was in art, now art's in pop culture, in me."
My misgivings started then. Wasn't she an artist already?
Lady Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, has certainly worked like one, mingling the generalized and the personal, the accessible and the inexplicable, the attention-getting and the head-scratching, the market-savvy and the strange. As strong as her commercial imperatives were, they only emboldened her eccentric streak.
"Pop culture was in art, now art's in pop culture, in me," Lady Gaga declares on her new album. Inez & Vinoodh
Lady Gaga didn't separate pop culture and art when she emerged. Like the best pop stars, she made the mass media her gallery space. Atop her music in video clips and public appearances, she piled on a nonstop fashion show and a public image that expanded to embrace misfit, outcast, unappreciated and sexually nonconformist "little monsters," as she named her fans.
But "Artpop," released November 11, positions her in a more rarefied zone: with performance and gallery artists.
The cover of "Artpop" is a sculpture of a blond Lady Gaga cupping her breasts and holding a big shiny blue sphere between her legs. It's by the pop artist Jeff Koons. It's a portrait of a pop star by an art star - but it's stiff and detached.
Lady Gaga has also announced collaborations with avant-garde elders like the theater artist Robert Wilson and the performance artist Marina Abramovic. On her Facebook page, Lady Gaga wrote that "Artpop" would be released with an app that she described as "a musical and visual engineering system that combines music, art, fashion and technology with a new interactive worldwide community - 'the auras.'"
The music on "Artpop" isn't as convoluted. "My artpop could mean anything," Lady Gaga sings in the title song, and most of the time, it means putting the four-on-the-floor thrust of mainstream club music behind the kind of big pop hooks that made her a superstar.
Lady Gaga conquered the world with "The Fame," her 2008 album of rocked-up dance tunes, and its EP sequel, "The Fame Monster," in 2009. Then her 2011 "Born This Way" made its predecessors sound temperate.
Now with "Artpop," Lady Gaga turns oddly defensive.
In the title song, she dismisses the notion of a commercial downturn, singing, "I tried to sell myself but I am really laughing/Because I just love the music not the bling."
For much of the album, "Artpop" also seems to be working off a checklist that Lady Gaga chants in "Aura": "tech dance sex art pop." Not on the checklist, but definitely on the agenda for trademark reinforcement, are songs about clothes.
What's missing from too much of "Artpop" is Lady Gaga's old conviction that pop, in its 21st-century configuration as music plus video plus social media plus celebrity, could tell every story she wanted to tell. Her stage spectaculars have already built arty superstructures on her songs. Validation from the fine-arts world shouldn't matter anywhere nearly as much as stirring the passions of the little monsters.
The New York Times
(China Daily 11/17/2013 page11)