“Pop culture was an art now art’s in pop culture in me,” sings Lady Gaga during the first single from her impending album #ARTPOP. I’ll admit that it’s a pretty clever and catchy lyric. And, you know what? It’s a pretty catchy song. At least once you’ve heard it a half dozen times and it firmly sinks its hooks into you. I’m not denying that it gets addictive after a while. But it’s certainly not a monster of a pop single like we’ve all come to expect from Lady Gaga. The only one of her singles that’s less catchy is “Eh Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say),” which was really only released as a single because by that point just about every track from The Fame had already been a single.
It’s also not terribly original. It certainly doesn’t rip-off anyone else’s song like, say, the way “Born This Way” was a rip-off of Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” but… It still feels very much “been there, done that.” The beats don’t sound futuristic or forward-thinking or even particularly modern. If you put this song in a time capsule and sent it back to 2008 it would blend right in. It wouldn’t stand out for a second. (Unless you listened to it a half dozen times and let it sink those hooks into you.) Heck, you could probably use an ap like Shazam on it five times and it would name a different song from ’00’s every time. (I’m being sarcastic. I’m sure that Shazam has been taught to applaud “Applause” by now.) She mentions nostalgia in the song, but it’s a bit premature to be waxing nostalgic about five years ago, isn’t it?
I’m not sure what to make of the lyrics either. “I live for the applause, applause, applause…” I’d like to think she’s joking, but then this is a woman who used to practice for being famous by doing a lot of cocaine and staring at her own reflection in a mirror. And, you know, her first two albums had “fame” in the title. If she’s joking about living for the applause then the joke is kind of five minutes ago. One that she’s already made more than once. So, really, what’s the point? Joking or not, it’s just kind of… boring.
Other little things bug me about it, too…
Her vocals are too low in the mix during much of it. I had to listen to it over and over again to understand quite a few of the lyrics.
The beats aren’t quite punchy enough either. Maybe I’m not playing it loudly enough, but it just isn’t giving my subwoofers a workout in the way that “Bad Romance” or “Dance In The Dark” did. Which is a little weird considering that it’s more of a dance song than a pop song. If you’re going to deliver a song that already sounds like a dance remix of a song, at least make the beats furious enough for the club. Just about any random K-Pop song has more of a thump than this.
It also bugs me that it’s more of a dance song than a pop song. When I hear a pop song, I like to imagine what it’ll sound like when it gets the remix treatment. But “Applause” already sounds like a remix. Which has me wondering what the album version of it will sound like. Except there is no album version — this is the album version. Lame.
Also irritating is how much she sounds like Grace Jones during the verses. I really, really do not like Grace Jones. Her music videos scared me as much as any horror movie when I was a kid. The mere sight of her sends a chill down my spine. And even if that wasn’t the case, I still don’t think I’d like her style of vocal delivery. So I can barely tolerate Lady Gaga imitating it.
Finally, I had to use Google to find out what — or, it turns out, who — a “Koons” is. Turns out he’s an artist who likes to bronze balloon animals. Which makes him about as original as Andy Warhol. But a lot less famous, and what would Andy Warhol be without the fame? Boring. At least in my opinion. And, hey, that’s all this is. I’m just giving my two cents, nothing more. If you disagree, that’s cool. I’m not trying to convince you not to applaud “Applause.” I’m just saying that I’m only kind of half-heartedly applauding it myself.