Artpop (2013) Cheek to Cheek (2014)
Release date 6 November 2013
Artist Lady Gaga
|Released November 6, 2013 (2013-11-06)|
Producer Lady Gaga Paul "DJ White Shadow" Blair Zedd Hugo Leclercq Nick Monson Rick Rubin Giorgio Tuinfort Dino Zisis Infected Mushroom will.i.am David Guetta
Label Insomniac/Interscope Records
Nominations World Music Award for World’s Best Album
Genres Electronic dance music, Synthpop
Similar Lady Gaga albums, Electronic dance music albums
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Artpop (stylized as ARTPOP) is the third studio album by American singer Lady Gaga, released on November 6, 2013, by Streamline and Interscope Records. Gaga began planning the project in 2011, shortly after the launch of her second studio album, Born This Way. Work continued until 2013 while Gaga was traveling for her Born This Way Ball concert tour and recovering from surgery for an injury she had sustained while touring.
- Lady gaga aura
- Lady gaga aura audio
- Background and recording
- Conception and development
- Music and lyrics
- Release and artwork
- Critical reception
- Commercial performance
- Potential sequel
- Track listing
Gaga described Artpop as "a celebration and a poetic musical journey" and an exploration of the "reverse Warholian" phenomenon in pop culture. It displays an intentional "lack of maturity and responsibility" by comparison to the darker and anthemic nature of Born This Way. Gaga collaborated with longtime partners Paul "DJ White Shadow" Blair and RedOne and new partners Zedd and Madeon. The lyrical themes revolve around her personal views of fame, love, sex, feminism, self-empowerment, overcoming addiction, and reactions to media scrutiny; references include Greek and Roman mythology, and classic jazz and electronic musician Sun Ra. Artpop also features guest vocals from T.I., Too Short, Twista, and R. Kelly.
The release of Artpop was prefaced by a two-day album release party dubbed an "ArtRave". The album received generally mixed reviews from music critics, but was commercially successful, debuting at number one on the United States Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 258,000 copies, becoming Gaga's second consecutive number-one record in the United States and selling 757,000 copies. It also topped national record charts in five additional countries, and charted within the top ten in over twenty. Artpop was the ninth best seller album of 2013 with 2.3 million copies worldwide. It was included in several year-end lists by music critics and publications.
"Applause" was released as the lead single from Artpop on August 12, 2013, and was a critical and commercial success, charting within the top ten of more than twenty countries worldwide, peaking at number four on the US Billboard Hot 100. The second single "Do What U Want" was released on October 21, and peaked at number 13 in the United States. It was followed by promotional singles "Venus" and "Dope" shortly before the album's release. "G.U.Y." was the third and last single released from the album. Gaga promoted Artpop with several television appearances and performances, including her second Thanksgiving Day special. She also embarked on the ArtRave: The Artpop Ball tour in support of the album.
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Background and recording
Development of Artpop began shortly after the release of Born This Way (2011), and by the following year, the album's concepts were "beginning to flourish" as Gaga collaborated with producers Fernando Garibay and DJ White Shadow. Initial recording sessions for Artpop coincided with the Born This Way Ball: up to fifty songs were sketched out and considered for inclusion. By May 2012, the project was taking definite form, with co-manager Vincent Herbert promising "insane, great records" within its craft. Gaga herself admitted that she yearned to make audiences have "a really good time" with Artpop, engineering the album to mirror "a night at the club". "When you listen to it, it really flows nicely. It's really fun to pop in with your friends. I really wrote it for me and my friends to pop in from start to finish", she said in a 2013 interview for MTV. Meanwhile, the singer began presenting tracks to her record company and hoped to reveal the album's working title by September, a revelation that instead was announced one month in advance. The artist later claimed that Artpop was her first "real" effort that emulated a "phoenix rising from the ashes", reflecting her heightened confidence in writing material for the album compared to her previous efforts.
Gaga recruited Jeff Koons into the project in early 2013, but the two had previously met at a Metropolitan Museum of Art fashion event three years earlier, where Gaga provided a live performance. According to Koons, Gaga "just kind of grabbed ahold of me and gave me a big hug around my waist " and replied, "You know, Jeff, I've been such a fan of yours, and when I was a kid just hanging out in Central Park I would talk to my friends about your work." Following hip surgery in February 2013, the singer was forced into a six-month hiatus, during which she studied literature and music with the Haus of Gaga in addition to sharing "creative gifts". This stage allowed her to review and enhance her creative direction, which she admitted to be a meticulous "gazing process". "I have to gaze into the work for long periods of time for it to be good," adding that upon analyzing her ideas, she received "that wonderful feeling" which told her "that's the one".
In addition to Interscope notifying mainstream media outlets on upcoming releases for Artpop in July 2013, Gaga announced plans for a multimedia application software which "combines music, art, fashion, and technology with a new interactive worldwide community". Relative Wave, the architects behind Björk's multimedia app for Biophilia (2011), took nearly a year to develop the Artpop app. Some dismissed the project as an elaborate ploy to inflate album sales, under the assumption Billboard would count a downloaded track as a complete unit. Billboard editorial director Bill Werde later addressed these concerns on July 31, 2013:
As we understand, Gaga fans will get [the] Artpop app for free and can buy the album [through the] app. Albums purchased this way would count on Billboard charts, however, [speculation that the purchase of a single track through the app would count as an album sold is not true]... [also], concerns about self-reported data by Gaga's [team] seem unfounded – sales will be fulfilled and reported by existing digital retailers... [and], for those who may ask: This is obviously different from Jay Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail / Samsung [deal] which—via an app—gave [his album] for free [and] had no option for fans to buy.
In October 2013, a fan asked Gaga why the song "Brooklyn Nights" was not on the album. She replied: "I wanted to spend more time on it. It will come out [via] the app sometime during the album cycle".
Conception and development
Gaga described Artpop as "a celebration and a poetic musical journey" that displayed a "lack of maturity and responsibility", contrary to the dark, anthemic nature of Born This Way, and ultimately subscribing to what she called a "reverse Warholian" formula. She told V magazine in an August 2013 interview that she underwent a "cosmetic experience with words" as she examined potential names for the project. "Popart" was initially favored as a prime candidate, but as Gaga questioned "the cultural implication of the words", and the title's evolution post-release, she soon found a "nice ring" to "Artpop".
With Artpop, Gaga attempts to inject vulnerability into her work: Pierrot and Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus painting have both been cited as muses of Gaga's creative vision. The singer admitted to being increasingly self-conscious at the apex of the Born This Way era, and when asked about the decision to refine her image, she responded:
For Artpop, I, in the most metaphorical explanation, stood in front of a mirror and I took off the wig and I took off the makeup and I unzipped the outfit and I put a black cap on my head and I covered my body in a black catsuit and I looked in the mirror and I said: 'OK, now you need to show them you can be brilliant without that.' And that's what Artpop is all about. Because I knew that if I wanted to grow, if I really wanted to innovate from the inside, I had to do something that was almost impossible for me.
The album's themes primarily revolve around fame, sex, and empowerment, whilst briefly exploring gender roles and marijuana. Spencer Kornhaber from The Atlantic saw Artpop as an "attention-freak's manifesto", and interpreted the album's exploration into carnal desire as a facet of the broader idea of "owning up to one's own desire for attention". Aizlewood felt songs such as "Do What U Want" and "Dope" highlighted Gaga's "curiously submissive" tendencies as a lyricist. Jason Lipshutz from Billboard commented that the album "naturally abides" to her "far-reaching ambition" to "re-think the 'pop album' as an entity". Jerry Shiver from USA Today observed the lyrics to foretell "the exploits of an empowered, sexy siren who wrestles with fame", something he expected from Gaga. John Pareles from The New York Times argued that with Artpop, Gaga reasserted "her need for the love of her audience and announced her new pivot to align herself with the [visual] art world".
Music and lyrics
Artpop was described as "coherently channeling R&B, techno, disco and rock music" by Billboard. Its electronic landscape was initially tailored for Born This Way before Gaga and Garibay opted for a rock-influenced sound. Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine claimed the singer "continues to be a student" of Madonna as she mirrors Confessions on a Dance Floor and "Holiday" with songs such as "Applause" and "Fashion!", and furthermore heard Artpop as a pastiche of Gaga's previous efforts. Adam Markovitz from Entertainment Weekly concurred, writing that "most of the songs here would fit right in" with The Fame and Born This Way. Mof Gimmers from The Quietus noticed a "tremendous juggernaut of pop" within the album's frame, while Helen Brown from The Daily Telegraph quipped "it's like wandering drunk around a vast, labyrinthine club, and peering into a disorienting series of darkened rooms in which she tries on various musical genres as if they were hats" in reference to the album's busy soundscape. Ben Kelly of Attitude described Artpop as a "relentless odyssey of electronic sounds" pierced by "strong melodic refrains". John Aizlewood from London Evening Standard said it was built to inspire "hair-waving, body-shaking routines at stadium shows", pinpointing "stentorian keyboards, clattering electro-percussion and thumping backbeats" as the bedrock of the album's production.
Release and artwork
In August 2012, after getting a matching tattoo, Gaga announced on Facebook and Twitter that the record would be titled Artpop, and stated that she would prefer it capitalized for stylization. It was originally expected to be released in early 2013, but was indefinitely postponed after Gaga developed synovitis and a labral tear to her hip that required surgical correction, for which Gaga cancelled the remainder of her Born This Way Ball. In July 2013, Gaga confirmed that Artpop would be released on November 11, 2013 in the United States, in the traditional CD and digital mediums, in addition to an application developed by the Haus of Gaga technology division, TechHaus. The app was made compatible with both Android and iOS-running mobile devices, and featured bonus content. It was the third album-app to be released in mainstream commercial markets, the first two being Björk's Biophilia (2011) and Jay-Z's Magna Carta... Holy Grail (2013). The album and app pre-order was initially supposed to begin on September 1, 2013, however, Gaga later announced on her Facebook page that "due to public anticipation", pre-orders for the album and the app would be moved up to August 19, 2013. This was later changed to August 12 to coincide with the early release of "Applause".
On October 7, 2013, Gaga unveiled the album cover on Clear Channel billboards around the world. Created by Jeff Koons, the image features a nude sculpture of Gaga with a blue gazing ball in front of her. The background consists of art works including The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, which inspired Gaga's image through the creation of Artpop, including in her music video for "Applause" and the VMA performance of the song. Koons explained the meaning of the cover to MTV:
"With the cover, I wanted to have Gaga there as a sculpture, as a three-dimensional type of form and with the gazing ball, because the gazing ball really does become kind of the symbol for everything — and this aspect of reflection that when you come across something like a gazing ball, it affirms you, it affirms your existence and then from that affirmation, you start to want more. There's a transcendence that takes place and eventually it really leads you to everything. So that aspect's there. But I didn't want Gaga there just kind of isolated, so in the background there's [Gian Lorenzo] Bernini's 'Apollo and Daphne' — and that's the work where Apollo chases Daphne and she turns into a tree. And so there's just glimpses of Daphne's face and of Apollo. Apollo is the god of music and whenever Apollo would perform music he would transcend, he would change; his being would become more feminine. And that's the transcendence that you can experience through art and life. Your being can change, your possibilities can change, your perimeters can change. And also in this triangular shapes that go out is Botticelli's 'The Birth of Venus,' presenting Gaga of course in the role of Venus — of the nature of the continuation of life's energy and the pursuit and the enjoyment of aesthetics and of beauty. And of the desire to continually have transcendence."
Will Gompertz from NME wrote that "this is a classic cover. When you're listing the 100 best covers of the 21st century, this will be right up there. Typographically it's an AA+, visually it's AAA". Later, Gaga also revealed on her Facebook page that "the first 500,000 physical copies of Artpop are crafted with LADY GAGA + ARTPOP cut out of hot pink metallic foil + silver foil. The foiling represents the true design of the cover as imagined by Koons, who hand collaged the typography himself." The track listing was unveiled in a series of fan posts retweeted by Gaga with pictures of a painted mural made by fans outside of a recording studio in Los Angeles where Artpop was being completed on October 9, 2013. Originally, the track listing was supposed to be unveiled on September 29, 2013. In a Twitter post, she said the track list was late due to two songs fighting for the twelfth place on the album.
In January 2014, China's Ministry of Culture approved the uncensored release of Artpop in China, making the album her first to be released in the country after she was blacklisted by the government for inappropriate music in 2011. However, to avoid further controversy with the release, the cover art for the Chinese release was altered to feature Gaga's legs covered in fishnet stockings, with the blue gazing ball enlarged to cover her exposed breasts.
On December 25, 2012, Gaga announced a documentary celebrating "life, the creation of Artpop + you", which she described as a gift to her fans. The documentary was directed by Terry Richardson, a previous collaborator on the photography book, Lady Gaga x Terry Richardson, but was unreleased. A public announcement, posted on July 12, 2013, revealed plans for an "ArtRave" event the night before the release of Artpop, unveiling projects Gaga had been working on in collaboration with the Haus of Gaga, Dutch photographer duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, avant-garde theater director Robert Wilson, performance artist Marina Abramović and artist Jeff Koons. Its accompanying image features the singer covering her bare breasts with her arms—with her forearm "Artpop" tattoo in plain sight—and wearing a visor designed by London College of Fashion alumna Isabell Yalda Hellysaz. Another promotional image sees Gaga with long brown hair, sporting a pair of spectacles, and sitting completely naked on a chair crafted from motherboards as she displays her unicorn thigh tattoo.
Gaga opened the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards with a performance of "Applause", dissecting her career through a series of colorful costumes and wigs. She then headlined the iTunes Festival on September 1, 2013 and performed new material before a crowd of 5,000 people. T.I., initially a part of the gig, was unable to participate in the festival after being denied entry to the UK. Gaga again presented audiences with a taste of Artpop while hosting an October 24 promotional listening session in Berlin, where she provided a live rendition of "Gypsy". The singer then made a surprise appearance at London's G-A-Y nightclub two days later and performed "Venus", sparking controversy when stripped naked during the show. On October 27, Gaga once more played "Venus", this time alongside "Do What U Want", on the tenth series of The X Factor in the UK. The performance prompted a barrage of complaints to ITV and industry regulator Ofcom (Office of Communications), although these complaints were dismissed by the company. Gaga returned to the United States the following week for a modest performance of "Dope" at the inaugural YouTube Music Awards, and continued to perform from the album's musical repertoire during scheduled appearances on The Howard Stern Show, Saturday Night Live, and her second Thanksgiving Day television special, Lady Gaga and the Muppets Holiday Spectacular.
An October 4 trailer for Machete Kills, in which Gaga plays La Chameleón, previewed an alternative studio version of "Aura". The song's lyric video, directed by Robert Rodriguez, was uploaded to Gaga's official Vevo account five days later and again featured scenes and dialogue from the film. Excerpts of "G.U.Y.", "Artpop", and "Mary Jane Holland" were released periodically over the course of two weeks from October 14 to 28. Two promotional singles were released from Artpop preceding the album's release: "Venus" on October 28, and "Dope" on November 4.
Gaga played the final shows ever at New York's famed Roseland Ballroom, a fixture of the city's nightlife scene for nearly 100 years. Shows on March 28, 30, 31 and April 2 were announced on November 22. Due to “overwhelming demand,” Gaga announced in November 2013 that two additional shows had been added, for April 4 and 6. A seventh and final show was added due to popular demand for April 7, 2014. This will be the official closure of the venue. On December 3, 2013, Gaga announced the first twenty-five tour dates of the ArtRave: The Artpop Ball tour in support of the album. It began in May 2014 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
"Applause" was released as the first single from the album. It was supposed to premiere on August 19, 2013, however, due to multiple clips of the song leaking online, the song was released a week early on August 12, 2013. It officially impacted mainstream radio stations in the United States on August 19, 2013. Its music video was premiered on Good Morning America on August 19, 2013. The music video was shot in Los Angeles by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, who also created the artwork for the single.
On September 3, 2013, Gaga started two polls on Twitter asking fans to help her choose the second single, the first poll asked to choose between "Manicure" and "Sexxx Dreams" while the second poll asked to choose between "Aura" and "Swine". Gaga revealed the next month that "Venus" had been chosen as the second single, though the popularity of the planned promotional single "Do What U Want" led to it becoming the official second single. "G.U.Y." was released as the third and final single from Artpop. It officially impacted Top 40/Mainstream radio in Italy on March 28, 2014 and in the U.S. on April 8, 2014.
Artpop received mixed reviews from music critics. Metacritic calculated an average score of 61 out of 100, based on 30 reviews from critics. Adam Markovitz from Entertainment Weekly stated that many of the album's songs were "enjoyable but well-worn". Markovitz commended the execution of the album and the "melodic lines" of the songs, but noted that Artpop generally failed to make an overall impression. Jerry Shriver from USA Today opined that the record was not "consistently entertaining", though admitted that the album was mostly intended for Gaga's fans and not general listeners. Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine provided a favorable review, praising its sounds and structures. Jason Lipshutz from Billboard praised Gaga's effort to make "absolutely certain that every inch of her craft evolves and innovates". In a positive review, The Daily Beast declared "there were moments of expected genius on it worthy of Grammy consideration."
Robert Copsey from Digital Spy felt that several songs sounded like "half-finished plagues", though felt the album had more good songs than bad. Helen Brown from The Daily Telegraph criticized Gaga's choice to do another album "themed around her own stardom" (after The Fame and The Fame Monster), and commented that although Gaga tries different genres of music, "she doesn't do anything wildly original with them, but she has fun". Brown however praised the album as "great for dancing". Alexis Petridis from The Guardian suggested there was "some decent pop" on the album but thought the art was "rather harder to discern". Andy Gill from The Independent commented "It's hard not to feel underwhelmed by Artpop". Caryn Ganz from Rolling Stone called it "a bizarre album of squelchy disco" and "sexual but not sexy".
Some journalists felt that the more mixed response from critics (in comparison to her previous work) was unfair and stemmed from a focus on Gaga herself and not purely on the album's content. Nick Messitte of Forbes criticized music critics, denouncing their reviews as being "incoherent" and focusing on the "artist over the art itself," accusing them of "bend[ing] over backwards to mention everything else before the music". He summarized that Artpop "delivers a welcome departure from standardized verse-chorus structures" and is ultimately a "bold" album. Ed Potton from The Times concurred, stating that "It's a wonder you can hear Lady Gaga's third studio album over the sound of knives being sharpened" following her previous album Born This Way, a work he felt Artpop was far superior to. Robert Christgau of The Barnes & Noble Review claimed that the album's "critical reaction [was] clueless", ultimately naming Artpop "2013's most underrated album".
Artpop was included in several year-end lists by music critics and publications. Billboard, in their list of the "15 Best Albums of 2013", ranked it at fourteenth place, stating that "Artpop is the statement of a singer-songwriter who wants to be more than a pop artist" who "hasn't lost her touch for creating otherworldly hooks." Digital Spy included Artpop in their "30 Best Albums of 2013" list, at 21st place. Popjustice ranked the album at sixth place on their "Top 33 Albums of 2013" list, claiming that it was "amazing". Entertainmentwise included it in their unranked round-up of the top ten albums of the year calling it "original and innovative".
Music critic Robert Christgau named Artpop the sixth best album of 2013 in his year-end list. He wrote in an accompanying essay for The Barnes & Noble Review, "since unlike the young I'm never bombarded by EDM synths at medically inadvisable volumes, this was not only the rawk album of the year for me, it sounded fresh. Really, who needs guitars?"
Artpop debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with 258,000 copies sold in its first week, earning Gaga her second consecutive number-one album and becoming the fourth-largest sales week for a female artist in 2013, behind Beyoncé's self-titled fifth studio album, Katy Perry's Prism, and Miley Cyrus' Bangerz, respectively. The album was initially forecasted to sell between 300,000 and 350,000 copies on its opening week. The following week, the album dropped to number eight on the Billboard 200 with sales of under 46,000 copies for an 82% sales decrease, making Gaga the first artist to have two albums in the top five list of all-time biggest second-week percentage drops in the Nielsen SoundScan era. On its third week, as part of promotions for Black Friday, the album was discounted at retailers such as Amazon MP3, Walmart, and Target. As a result, Artpop rose to number seven on the Billboard 200 with sales of over 116,000 copies. According to Nielsen SoundScan, the album has sold over 760,000 copies as of June 2016. Following Gaga's Super Bowl LI halftime show performance, Artpop re-entered the Billboard 200 at number 174, selling 5,000 total album-equivalent units. In Canada, it entered the Canadian Albums Chart at number three with 25,000 copies sold, and was certified platinum by Music Canada in its first week of sales, for shipment of 80,000 copies of the album.
On the first day of sales in Japan, charts provider Oricon reported Artpop selling 18,109 physical albums, reaching the number-two position. This was 5,000 copies underneath Jin Akanishi's #Justjin, while outperforming Avril Lavigne's self-titled album by 4,000 copies. It went on to sell 58,493 copies to debut atop the Oricon Albums Chart. The album debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart with first-week sales of 65,608 copies, making Gaga the third female solo artist in chart history to top the chart with each of her first three studio albums, following Lavigne and Susan Boyle. It fell to number nine in its second week, selling 15,948 copies. The album has been certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), selling over 207,243 copies. In Australia, Artpop debuted at number two on the ARIA Albums Chart, with sales of 15,685 copies, being kept from the top spot by rapper Eminem's eighth studio album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, which held atop the chart for a second week with sales of 20,096 copies. In France the album has sold 60,000 copies according to SNEP. In 2013, the album sold 2.3 million copies worldwide according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and was the ninth best selling album of the year. It went on to sell 2.5 million copies as of July 2014.
The album's chart performance has led numerous publications to suggest that the album had fallen short of its sales expectations. Due to claims of the album's alleged underperformance, Gaga publicly addressed rumors that the album's sales had lost her label $25 million and had led to staff layoffs, calling them fake.
In October 2012, Gaga considered Artpop "a bit more modern" and mentioned the possibility of splitting the project into a two-volume record; the first would contain the "commercial songs", while the second would feature the "experimental material". In October 2013, Gaga teased that she has "lots of songs for Act 2". The following month, she mentioned an "Act II" again, commenting that it might be released before her tour because "it'll be nice to play both acts on the tour", and dismissed her previous ideas of splitting Artpop into two halves because "this was during the inception of the record and I wasn't even quite sure what Artpop meant yet". In her keynote interview at SXSW, Gaga confirmed that Artpop could potentially have more than two acts. Furthermore, she stated that the second act of Artpop is complete and that she loves it. However, for the time being, she and her friends are simply enjoying listening to said second act before it is released. In April 2014, Gaga stated "There's a strong possibility I will release another volume of Artpop".
Credits adapted from the liner notes of Artpop.