I don’t know how to break this to you, but Lady Gaga gives you exactly what you expect on the cover of ARTPOP. And that is fine enough.
The art(pop)work was tweeted this morning, and there are exactly two important references here. We have shards of The Birth of Venus and one of those damn blue Koons balls, and both of those arty pop tarts appeared in her VMA performance of “Applause” in one way or another.
To me, the crowning achievement of the sleeve is the fact that Gaga, in her shadowy, naked, impishly blankfaced appearance, looks like no one else except herself. Since she emerged in 2008, she’s been called everything from a Madonna impersonator to a pandering gay-baiter, and here you’re reminded of what a distinct and self-invented figure she cuts. She didn’t even have to superimpose her head onto the front end of a motorcycle to prove it this time.
As you might remember, I really like “Applause.” I think it’s as self-aware and irreverent a take on Lady Gaga’s own maligned self-awareness and irreverence that we’re ever going to get. It’s not joylessly anthemic like “Born This Way” or merely a sped-up “Bad Romance” demo like “Judas.” I hope we’re in for more wickedly weird songs, and I hope “Roar” hasn’t permanently reset the national pop taste level to mediocre.