The “Artpop deserved better” debate, which has sparked think articles, memes, and Twitter dialogues equally, is easily accessible on the internet. A poorly received third record for a pop icon with 13 Grammys, two Golden Globes, and an Academy Award would generally be a footnote in an otherwise illustrious career. But not all musicians are Lady Gaga, and not all albums are Artpop.
With her 2013 avant-garde album, Gaga aimed to bridge the gap between the pop and art worlds through electronic-influenced music and an album cover by Jeff Koons that featured a naked sculpture of the singer next to the famous Renaissance artwork The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. Despite having ambitious goals, Artpop was unable to match Born This Way’s enormous commercial success. Before a 2021 fan-led effort, motivated by Gaga’s promise of an unpublished second volume, propelled the record to No. 2 on iTunes, its technicolour tracks had disappeared from Gaga’s tour set lists, and she had later commented in a tongue-in-cheek tweet that she “[didn’t] recall Artpop.” She responded to its rebirth by writing, “We always believed it was ahead of its time. Years later, it turns out that artists occasionally are aware. Additionally, small creatures do.
Rightly so, it was early. Future-oriented subgenres like hyperpop and a house revival have all gained popularity in the ten years since the debut of Artpop. The album’s adrenaline rush of EDM, synthpop, and trap today reads less otherworldly than pioneering, but Artpop hasn’t just remained in the cultural debate because of changing trends or an unreleased part two. The project’s author as well as its devoted followers continue to be moved by the project’s genuine emotion and unbridled passion.
Producer Nick Monson, who collaborated on Artpop with DJ White Shadow and Dino Zisis, remarked, “Gaga is just like the rest of us.” “You delve into the music during those darker types of circumstances, and that’s exactly what she did. And I believe it is clear. The record undoubtedly captured Gaga at a pivotal time in her life. Her world-trotting Born This Way Ball was abruptly put on hold in early 2013, and days before its release, Beyoncé and her longtime manager Troy Carter parted over “creative issues.”
“Applause,” a Europop-influenced homage to Gaga’s love of performing, served as Artpop’s debut single. Producer DJ White Shadow referred to it as “the silver spoon that rammed the medicine down everyone’s throat.” The expansiveness of the remaining songs is exemplified by the cosmic title tune, where she sings, “My artpop might mean anything.” Although Gaga encourages listeners to assign their own interpretations to the album, practically every track is driven by a longing for the singer to take control of her identity and sexuality. On fan favourites like “G.U.Y.” and “Venus,” as well as on “Swine,” a song about recovering from the anguish of sexual assault, she invokes the powers of Roman gods to make her point. Even the more hedonistic aspects of the album are controlled with an iron fist, as in the song “Donatella,” in which Gaga sings, “I’m blonde, I’m slim, I’m rich / And I’m a little bit of a bitch,” through a cloud of Marlboro Red smoke.
Monson recalled the orders she gave the musicians when they first entered the room: “I remember her instructing the guitar player to play violent, or play like you’re on a beach with bombs coming out of the sky.” In the back room of Los Angeles’ Record Plant, he recalled developing “Venus” “from the bottom up,” blasting the beat at unbearable volumes over two restless nights. She spent a lot of time on the bassline because she wanted it to be perfect, he added. “In the studio, it was full mermaid, full strobe light, full technicolour.”
The album’s advertising cycle was influenced by Gaga’s careful and experimental approach to Artpop, starting with a brand-new tattoo in 2012 that featured the album’s name. Later, she unveiled a mobile application that made the bold claim that it would “introduce ARTculture into POP in a reverse Warholian expedition.” Before hosting a crazy Christmas special with the Muppets, she sported “the world’s first flying garment” during an album release concert among pieces by Jeff Koons and Marina Abramovi. Even during a performance of “Swine” at SXSW, performance artist Millie Brown puked on her.
In the studio, it was full mermaid, full strobe light, and full technicolour
Despite Gaga’s commitment to the idea, the general public’s perception of Artpop looked to be lacking, and as some of the record’s more contentious moments emerged, their opinion of it grew sour. The title of “Gypsy,” a ballad-turned-disco anthem about the performer’s nomadic lifestyle, drew criticism, and the R. Kelly collaboration “Do What U Want” was eventually taken down from streaming services due to allegations of sexual abuse against the rapper in the 2019 documentary Surving R. Kelly. When the documentary was released, Gaga stated, “I stand behind these ladies 100%, believe them, know they are hurting and in agony, and feel strongly that their voice should be heard and taken seriously.
Kelly’s participation was a last-minute choice that both Gaga and DJ White Shadow regret, as the song was “fully done” before to Kelly’s addition, according to White Shadow. He said to MTV News, “I wish we would’ve released the song without him, because it was still my favourite song [on the album] without him. I’ll try if I can revive the demo for the 10-year for that one, maybe.
According to DJ White Shadow, one of the album’s most ardent supporters, the mechanics of publishing a sequel are very complicated. He claimed that it was equivalent to building a fourth pyramid. We’d have Artpop Part 8 if it were only [Gaga, me, and the fans] involved. However, he is optimistic that Gaga’s expansive plan may be extended. “I believe she is present… We do have some things we can do, even if it’s not exactly what you think it’s going to be,” he remarked, repeating an Instagram promise he made that he “would have something special” for the fans in time for the record’s 10th anniversary.
Although Gaga acknowledged in 2019 that the support of the fans was very significant during that time, she has yet to confirm or reject that there would be another excursion to the Artpop realm. She said on Twitter, “Making this album was like heart surgery; I was in anguish and desperation, pouring my heart into electronic music that slammed harder than any medicine I could discover. In fact, Gaga’s blog writings from 2013 seemed to imply there was more going on behind the scenes than we knew, making references to allegations of financial difficulties and being taken advantage of by former members of her entourage.
It’s possible that the Lady Gaga of 2023 won’t be the same as her 27-year-old predecessor, who wore extravagant wigs and waxed lyrical about “putting art onto the soup can.” She nonetheless represents a lady who has gained knowledge about the business, popularity, and producing art over the course of ten years. Ten years later, Monson said that she was content with her accomplishment. What about Act Two? Monson remarked, “I would be very, very surprised if she doesn’t give the people something if they want it. But please don’t harass the poor woman.