Artpop (stylized in all caps) is the third studio album recorded by American singer Lady Gaga. It was released on November 6, 2013, by Streamline and Interscope Records. Gaga began planning the project in 2011, shortly after the launch of her second effort, Born This Way. Work continued until 2013 while the singer was traveling for her Born This Way Ball concert tour and recovering from surgery for an injury she had sustained while touring. 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 various producers on the record, including DJ White Shadow, RedOne, Zedd and Madeon. Lyrically, Artpop revolves around Gaga's personal views of fame, sex and self-empowerment; references include Greek and Roman mythology. It 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 ArtRave. While the album received generally mixed reviews from music critics, it was commercially successful, debuting at number one on the United States' Billboard 200 albums chart with first-week sales of 258,000 copies, becoming Gaga's second consecutive number one record in the country. It also topped national record charts in five additional countries and charted within the top ten in over 20. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), Artpop was the ninth global best-selling album of 2013 with 2.3 million copies worldwide. The album sold 2.5 million units as of July 2014. It was also 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 in more than 20 countries worldwide, peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States. The second single, "Do What U Want", was made available on October 21, reaching number 13 in the US. 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 her fourth headlining concert tour, ArtRave: The Artpop Ball.
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, with up to 50 songs 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, with the two having previously met at a Metropolitan Museum of Art fashion event three years earlier, where Gaga provided a live performance. According to Koons, she "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 her 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 multimediaapplication 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. Editorial director Bill Werde later addressed these concerns on in July 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 included the album, to which she replied: "I wanted to spend more time on it. It will come out [via] the app sometime during the album cycle".
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, ultimately subscribing to what she called a "reverse Warholian" formula. In an August 2013 interview, she told V magazine that she underwent a "cosmetic experience with words" as she examined potential names for the project. "Popart" was initially favored and taken into consideration, 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 the singer's creative vision. Gaga 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. References include Greek and Roman mythology, and classic jazz and electronic musician Sun Ra. Spencer Kornhaber from The Atlantic saw Artpop as an "attention-freak's manifesto", and interpreted the record's exploration into carnal desire as a facet of the broader idea of "owning up to one's own desire for attention".London Evening Standard John Aizlewood suggested that songs such as "Do What U Want" and "Dope" highlighted Gaga's "curiously submissive" tendencies as a lyricist. Jason Lipshutz from Billboard commented that Artpop "naturally abides" to her "far-reaching ambition" to "re-think the 'pop album' as an entity", while USA Today Jerry Shiver 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, the singer 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
Critical commentary has noted Artpop as an EDM and synth-pop album. It was further 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 further saw Artpop as a pastiche of Gaga's previous efforts. Adam Markovitz, writing for Entertainment Weekly, echoed this thought, 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 of 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 from Attitude described Artpop as a "relentless odyssey of electronic sounds" pierced by "strong melodic refrains". Aizlewood of 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 her social media that the record would be titled Artpop, stating that she would prefer it capitalized for stylization. The album 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. This resulted in the cancellation of 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 after Björk's Biophilia (2011) and Jay-Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail (2013). The album and app pre-order were initially supposed to begin on September 1, 2013, but were moved up to August 19, 2013 "due to public anticipation". This was later changed to August 12 to coincide with the early release of "Applause".
American artist Jeff Koons designed the cover artwork for Artpop.
On October 7, 2013, Gaga unveiled the album cover for Artpop 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, which inspired the singer's 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 [these] 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 the singer 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 scheduled to be unveiled on September 29, 2013. In a Twitter post, Gaga said it 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 the country, 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 remained unreleased. A public announcement, posted on July 12, 2013 on the singer's social media, 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 Abramovi? and artist Jeff Koons. Its accompanying poster featured Gaga covering her bare breasts with her arms. Her forearm "Artpop" tattoo is portrayed in plain sight, with her wearing a visor designed by London College of Fashion alumna Isabell Yalda Hellysaz. Another poster saw 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 for a crowd of 5,000 people.T.I., initially a part of the gig, was unable to participate in the festival after its entry in the United Kingdom was denied. On October 24, promotional listening sessions of Artpop were organized in Berlin, with the singer providing a live rendition of "Gypsy". She then made an unannounced appearance at London's G-A-Y nightclub two days later and performed "Venus", generating controversy when stripped naked during the show. On October 27, Gaga also splayed "Venus" alongside "Do What U Want" on the tenth series of The X Factor in the United Kingdom. The performance prompted a barrage of complaints to ITV and industry regulator Ofcom (Office of Communications), although dismissed by the company. The singer returned to the United States the following week for a performance of "Dope" at the inaugural YouTube Music Awards, and continued to play material from Artpop 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, a trailer for Machete Kills in which Gaga played La Chameleón previewed an alternative studio version of "Aura". The song's lyric video, directed by Robert Rodriguez, was uploaded onto the singer's Vevo account five days later, featuring 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. Gaga performed songs from the album during her performance at SXSW festival on March 13, 2014. The performance of "Swine" received backlash, as the singer was accompanied by performance artist Millie Brown, who vomited different colored goo on the singer, as a metaphor of being raped. Gaga played her final shows at New York's famed Roseland Ballroom. 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. On December 3, 2013, the singer announced the first 25 tour dates of the ArtRave: The Artpop Ball tour in support of the album, commencing in May 2014 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
On September 3, 2013, Gaga started two polls on Twitter asking fans to help her choose the second single from Artpop. The first poll asked to choose between "Manicure" and "Sexxx Dreams", while the second had "Aura" and "Swine" as options. The singer 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 its single release instead. Two promotional singles were made available from Artpop preceding the album's release: "Venus" on October 28, and "Dope" on November 4. "G.U.Y.", the third and final release impacted mainstream radio stations in the United States on April 8, 2014. It was accompanied by a music video, shot at Hearst Castle and directed by the singer herself, which also incorporated parts of the tracks "Artpop", "Venus", and "Manicure" besides "G.U.Y.".
Artpop received mixed response from music critics.Metacritic calculated an average score of 61 out of 100, based on 30 reviews from reviewers. Adam Markovitz from Entertainment Weekly stated that many of the album's songs were "enjoyable but well-worn", further commending the execution of the album and the "melodic lines" of the songs. However, he noted that Artpop generally failed to make an overall impression. Jerry Shriver, writing for USA Today, opined that the record was not "consistently entertaining", though admitted that the album was mostly intended for Gaga's fans and not for general listeners.Slant Magazine's Sal Cinquemani provided a favorable review, praising its sounds and structures, while Jason Lipshutz from Billboard commended Gaga's effort to make "absolutely certain that every inch of her craft evolves and innovates". In a positive review, an editor of The Daily Beast declared that "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 suggesting that the album had more good songs than bad tracks. Helen Brown, writing in 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 the singer approached 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 Artpop but thought the art was "rather harder to discern".The Independent Andy Gill commented, "It's hard not to feel underwhelmed by Artpop", while 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 Gaga's previous work was unfair and stemmed from a focus on the singer 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" effort. Ed Potton of 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, writing for The Barnes & Noble Review, claimed that the record'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. In their list of the "15 Best Albums of 2013", Billboard ranked it at 14th place, stating that it 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 similarly included Artpop in their "30 Best Albums of 2013" list at the 21st place.Popjustice ranked the album at sixth place on their "Top 33 Albums of 2013" list, claiming that it was "amazing", while Entertainmentwise included it in their unranked round-up of the top ten albums of the year, calling Artpop "original and innovative". Christgau named Artpop the sixth best album of 2013 in his year-end list, writing 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 album, Katy Perry's Prism, and Miley Cyrus' Bangerz, respectively. The following week, the record 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, Artpop was discounted at retailers such as Amazon MP3, Walmart, and Target, rising to number seven with 116,000 units sold. The album has sold 775,000 copies in the United States as of February 2018 (including 477,000 from physical CD and vinyl sales), and was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for reaching over a million stream-equivalent units. Following Gaga's Super Bowl LI halftime show performance in 2017, Artpop re-entered the Billboard 200 at number 174, selling 5,000 total album-equivalent units
In Canada, the record entered the Canadian Albums Chart at number three with 25,000 copies sold, earning a Platinum certification from Music Canada in its first week of sales for shipment of 80,000 copies. On the first day of its availability in Japan, charts provider Oricon reported that Artpop sold 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.
Artpop also entered the UK Albums Chart at number one 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), for registered units over 207,243. In Australia, Artpop opened at number two on the ARIA Albums Chart with sales of 15,685 copies, being kept from the top spot by Eminem's eighth studio album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, which held atop the chart for a second week with sales of 20,096 units. In France, Artpop has sold 60,000 copies according to SNEP.
In 2013, the album brought worldwide sales of 2.3 million units according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), making it the ninth best-selling effort of the year. It went on to sell 2.5 million copies as of July 2014. The album's commercial performance has led numerous publications to suggest that it had fallen short of its sales expectations. Due to claims of Artpop 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 had "lots of songs for Act 2". The following month, she mentioned an "Act 2" again, commenting that it might be released before her tour as "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, further stating that the second act of Artpop was complete but not ready for release. In April 2014, the singer stated, "There's a strong possibility I will release another volume of Artpop".
Credits adapted from the liner notes of Artpop.
^"Czech Albums - Top 100". ?NS IFPI. Note: On the chart page, select 201346 on the field besides the word "Zobrazit", and then click over the word to retrieve the correct chart data. Retrieved November 18, 2013.