ARTPOP album opener “Aura” finds Lady Gaga giving lyrical voice to the stridently sexual tone she’s already firmly established with her intentionally titillating album cover (severely cropped here). “Do you wanna see me naked, lover?” she coos in a decidedly un-ladylike manner, “Do you wanna peek under the cover?/ … Do you wanna touch me cosmic, lover?”
It’s just the beginning of a very long journey through a very seedy song list crammed with sexually charged musings that are in turn fused to fond shout-outs to marijuana and Ecstasy. ARTPOP? More like SEXDRUGS.
“Do What U Want” includes lines that could be heard as determination to keep trying to do better (“I walk alone/But then I trip over myself and fall/I, I stand up, and then I’m OK”). The title track praises the power of music to help us (“The melody that you choose/Can rescue you”) and rejects the idea that we have to wade through despair to discover our true identity (“Brushes with darkness won’t help you create your destiny or self”). “Dope” pledges, “I promise this drink is my last one/ … I need more than dope.” It also includes this short, desperate prayer: “God, forgive my sins/Don’t leave me.”
“Donatella,” “Fashion!” and ” Applause” critique the overlapping worlds of fame and fashion as ultimately being hollow, even as Gaga cops to the fact that the attention lavished on famous and fashionable people provides an addicting rush. Similar sentiments turn up at the beginning of the otherwise marijuana-focused “Mary Jane Holland”: “Won’t be a slave to the blonde/Or the culture of the popular.”
On “Venus,” Gaga intones, “Goddess of love, please take me to your leader.” Beyond the look-and-do-touch come-ons on “Aura,” the track also finds Gaga bragging about the satisfying size of her lover’s anatomy and dragging Islam into the sensual soup mix with a line about wearing a “burqa for fashion.” “G.U.Y.” stands for “girl underneath you,” and Gaga repeatedly says that is exactly where she wants to be. The title of “Sexxx Dreams” tells us everything we need to know about a naughty nighttime vision Gaga confesses to a would-be lover.
“Manicure” offers more carnal suggestions: “Touch me in the dark/Put your hands all over my body parts/Throw me on the bed/Squeeze me, tease me, please me, that’s what I said.” Disturbingly, Gaga sings to guest R. Kelly, “You can’t have my heart and you won’t use my mind, but/Do what you want with my body.” When it’s Kelly’s turn, he says he will indeed “do what I want, do what I want with your body.” On “ARTPOP,” Gaga croons, “Just do that thing that you do/And I’ll undress you.” “Swine” describes a man as a selfish pig in bed—something that Gaga likes as she goes into S&M detail about the sexual slapping that takes place there. She hints that she needs to take Ecstasy just to deal with the abuse she’s suffering in this twisted sexual relationship.
Though “Dope” laments alcohol and drug addiction, several other songs embrace it. “Jewels N’ Drugs,” featuring guest rappers T.I., Too $hort and Twista, finds Gaga saying that love and drugs, not jewels and bling, are what she wants. Too $hort brags about being “high as h‑‑‑” before referencing “pimps” and “p‑‑‑y in the passenger seat.” “Mary Jane Holland” raves, “Make deals with every devil in sight/I will, I will/’Cuz I love, love/ … You better than/My darkest sin/Russian hookers/And cheap gin/I think that I could be fine/If I could be Mary Jane Holland tonight.” Lest there be any confusion about what she’s singing about, later the Lady adds, “When I ignite that flame and put you in my mouth/The grass eats up my insides and my brunette starts to sprout.”
Songs boast f- and s-words, as well as “h‑‑‑,” “p‑‑‑,” “a‑‑,” “b‑‑ch” and “p‑‑‑y.” The ARTPOP album cover, as mentioned, features Gaga nude, with her legs splayed behind a giant blue ball and her hands cupping her breasts. Liner note photos show other poses from the same photo shoot, with only hair and shadows obscuring her most private parts.
In the title of his review of ARTPOP, The Atlantic music critic Spencer Kornhaber asks, “Anyone Else Bummed Out by Lady Gaga’s Artpop?” The summary blurb beneath adds, “The album collapses sex, music, and fashion into one noisy distraction from the sucking emptiness of existence.”
And so there’s little else that needs to be said.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.