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In many ways, Lady Gaga has always been a performance artist posing as a pop act these last few years. On her newest studio effort, “Artpop,” out Nov. 11, she concentrates more on the art, than the pop, and the album is worse for it.
The majority of “Artpop” is a meditation on fame, culture, fashion, sex, drugs, music and pop art (hence the Jeff Koons cover). That high-flying intersection may be where Lady Gaga lives now, but it’s feels like the end of lonely street. Largely cold and soulless (at least until the final few songs)—whether from the clinical, loud, electronic production or from Lady Gaga’s often mannered delivery and stilted lyrics —”Artpop” is for her the Little Monsters who loudly embrace their outside status buffeted by the shelter of Momma Monster’s umbrella. In some ways, Lady Gaga can be applauded for making an album that in no way aims for radio acceptance (though first single, “Applause” found it), but it’s going to be a hard sell to her mainstream fans.
Even when she’s poking fun at herself, as she does on “Mary Jane Holland”: “I know at the moment they think I’m a mess/but its alright because I’m rich as piss,” she sings, there’s a part that rings true. She used to be one of us, but now she is one of them, even if she wants to joke that she’s not. And don’t get me started on the pretension of having an album title in all caps.
Some of Lady Gaga’s biggest hits, like “Bad Romance,” or “Paparazzi” have featured different patches of songs stitched together, bonded by her mannered vocals. Along the beats or weird synths, there was usually a melodic chorus that glued the whole song together. That happens far less often here and the result is an collection of songs that sounds intentionally cacophonous and chaotic. She may be saying exactly what she wants to about the state of pop culture, but that doesn’t mean we’ll want to listen.
Working with a phalanx of producers here, from DJ White Shadow to Zedd, David Guetta, will.i.am, RedOne, Madeon and even Rick Rubin, what Lady Gaga could have really used here was a great editor to craft her ambition a little more tightly.
Track-by-track review of “Artpop”:
Aura: The opening salvo, also heard in “Machete Kills” is a campy, fun invitation to go on this trip with Lady Gaga and see her naked underneath the covers. The shape-shifting song opens with a sultry voice over by Gaga that recalls Shirley Bassey before switching to a kitschy, synth-laden, stuttering vocal portion. Eventually it moves into a catchy sung portion, where she questions if you want to see the girl who lives behind the aura. Rinse and repeat. Final word: Artpop. Welcome to the album. GRADE: B
Venus: Go on an interplanetary journey with the goddess of love in this trippy, EDM number around the planets. Sample lyric: “Uranus, don’t you know my ass is famous?” There’s a great disco tune in here centered around the “When you touch me I die...This could be love” chorus, but it gets buried in the space mission. Fun fact: “Venus” samples Zombie Zombie’s cover of Sun Ra’s “Rocket Number Nine.” GRADE: B
G.U.Y.: From Venus, we go to Eros, Greek god of love. “Let me be the girl under you that makes you cry,” she sings in this dancey track that features a refrain redolent, but less catchy, than “Bad Romance. She’s still on her space travels, but this track feels far more weighed down by its clunkiness. GRADE: C
Things haven't exactly gone swimmingly for Paul Haggis since he won that contentious Best Picture Oscar for "Crash" nearly eight years ago. Clint Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima" nabbed him another writing nod a year later, and a pair of new-model Bond films kept him ticking over, but on the directorial side of things, it's been a case of diminishing returns. Only a surprise Best Actor nomination for Tommy Lee Jones kept "In the Valley of Elah" from sinking without trace, while the Russell Crowe-starring thriller "The Next Three Days" was pretty unmemorable pulp. Reviews out of Toronto for his latest, "Third Person," didn't exactly suggest the slide had been reversed.
So here we are again.
I mean, we knew we were going to be here again, but I was eagerly awaiting the season's early rankings and, mostly, a performance by Selena Gomez before a double elimination.
Instead, "X Factor" put the wrong numbers on the screen for the East Coast and all of the voting was discarded. Since the contestants were all ready with their "Save Me" songs, "X Factor" is making all 13 of them sing again. In one hour.
This could be nuts. Click through for another Top 13 recap, same as last night only FASTER.
Sharon Osbourne apologizes for telling "The View" ladies to "f*ck themselves"
"Please understand, it was my irreverent, irreverent behavior and no disrespect meant," she said on Thursday's episode of "The Talk. "And I'm not a person that is mean. I'm really not and I apologize." PLUS: Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy respond to Sharon Osbourne's anti-"View F-word.
"American Horror Story" wants Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett to return for Season 4
"I have approached them and they wanna do it," says Ryan Murphy.
Anne Heche reunites with "Hung" creator for an NBC comedy
She'll play a department store sales manager who questions everything about love and relationships.
By extending Damon Wayans Jr., "New Girl" is breaking the "one black friend" trend
"Brooklyn Nine Nine" has two Latina and two black male cast members. And now "New Girl" will have two black males on its cast, which upends a trend of some sitcoms to have a token minority cast member. PLUS: 5 things Wayans should do on "New Girl," like sing.
Nine Inch Nails' network TV debut is tonight on "Jimmy Kimmel Live"
After a quarter century, the industrial rock band will finally appear on network television.
"Everwood" cast will have a formal reunion at Austin's TV festival
Just about the entire cast will be there in June for the ATX TV Festival, including Emily VanCamp, her real-life ex-boyfriend/on-screen brother Chris Pratt, Treat Williams and Gregory Smith.
Has "Scandal" become more relevant than "Homeland"?
The ABC drama has proven to be more in line with the NSA scandal and the fears of Americans than the Showtime series. PLUS: Olivia Pope has lost a fan.
"Colbert Report" guest: I was told to talk to Stephen as if he was a "rich drunk idiot at a bar"
WNYC’s Brian Lehrer reveals some behind-the-scenes tidbits from last night's appearance, and also shows the green room spread.
Who will play Obama in HBO's "Game Change" sequel -- Will Smith or Giancarlo Esposito?
Those are the two names co-author John Heilemann suggested when asked about his new book "Double Down," which HBO has optioned to turn into a movie.
Kristen Schaal attached to an ABC comedy project
"The Daily Show" contributor will play a small-town misfit who goes on trial for the murder of the century. She'll also contribute as a writer.
Psychology prof denounces Jimmy Kimmel's Halloween candy prank on children
"Pranking your own children is not harmless fun, but is cruel and potentially damaging," says Mark Barnett, a psych professor at Kansa State University. "A parent who would violate this trust for a big laugh or 15 minutes of fame is, in my opinion, acting irresponsibly and not looking out for the best interests of the child."
Bill Nye: I hope "Dancing" and "Big Bang" lead to another TV show
"I'm hoping to parlay this into a show again," says The Science Guy. "Because that really is my first love and that’s where I’d like to get back to work. Also, this may be delusional, but I feel like I have something to say."
"Veronica Mars" team reuniting for CW's "iZombie" -- based on the DC Comics series
Rob Thomas and his "Veronica" movie co-writer Diane Ruggiero are writing the project about a female med student who becomes a zombie.
Minnesota Timberwolves are giving away Season 1 of "Girls" to entice female fans
For $18, females will get an upper-deck ticket, free beer or wine, and a DVD copy of Season 1.
"Freaks & Geeks" star Martin Starr is headed to "The Goldbergs"
He'll play a video store employee.
"Grey's Anatomy's" propmaster tells all
Here's the story of 10 iconic "Grey's" props.
Chris Christie makes his "Michael J. Fox Show" cameo tonight
The newly reelected New Jersey governor will play himself.
Fox may have to give advertisers free Super Bowl pregame ads due to low Fox Sports 1 ratings
Fox has already given away "make-goods" for the World Series due to FS1's lackluster ratings.
"Grimm" adds Kirk Acevedo and Jesse Pinkman's "Breaking Bad" girlfriend
Acevedo and Emily Rios will guest as former soldiers.
Omarosa: I won $10,000 bet with Bethenny
"I was a life preserver for her sinking ship!" she says of helping boost Bethenny Frankel's ratings.
Rose McGowan never watched "Charmed"
So she's not planning to watch the remake.
The Olsen Twins never felt like actresses, not even on "Full House"
They've always considered themselves businesswomen.
Why "Arrow" is the best-ever live-action superhero show
It's better than "Batman," "Smallville," "Wonder Woman" and even "The Incredible Hulk."
"Supernatural" pays tribute to "Game of Thrones"
See the opening of last night's episode. PLUS: Natalie Dormer "spoils" "Game of Thrones."
Letterman won't do viral videos
"We are no longer fighting for recognition," says "Late show" producer Rob Burnett, adding: "Part of Dave’s genius is what he doesn’t do. If he was still putting on a Velcro suit and jumping on a wall, he’d be the television equivalent of Gallagher."
Johnny Galecki: "Kaley's not just an ex, she's a part of my life"
The "Big Bang Theory" star has opened up for the first time about his secret romance with Kaley Cuoco. PLUS: Cuoco has a fake wedding on Ellen.
See the "Girl Meets World" family together in a photo booth
Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel took pics with their new TV kids.
Melissa Joan Hart's memoir details all her celebrity hookups
They include Adrian Grenier, Ryan Reynolds and James Van Der Beek, among others.
"Doctor Who" disco remix is being re-released
The band Mankind had a Top 25 hit with their 1978 disco take on the "Who" theme.
We're a little ways off yet from the Academy unveiling its long list of eligible contenders in the Best Original Song Oscar race. But in the meantime, and particularly since we finally started populating the category's Contenders section with entrants in the last week or so, it doesn't hurt to put a finger to the wind and see what's what.
Last month I had the opportunity to not only watch Nat Geo's new movie "Killing Kennedy" (Sun. Nov. 10 at 8:00 p.m), but watch it in the theater where suspected shooter Lee Harvely Oswald was arrested. To make it all thoroughly meta, I was watching along with Will Rothhar, who plays Lee Harvey Oswald in the movie. Did I mention we all went to Lee Harvey Oswald's grave with Rothhaar on Oswald's birthday, too? It was the capper to a visit to Dallas that was chock full of such moments. Conversations segued seamlessly from conspiracy theories to debates about favorite movies, history intersected with fiction more often than anyone expected, and "known facts" were thrown into question by both the people who were players in both this tragic historical event and the movie about it. Let's just say it was a memorable weekend.
What does a December release mean for a "Star Wars" film?
In practical terms, nothing. The film is the film. There won't be any difference in the film just because they're releasing it on a different date. But in terms of sentiment, it's a huge deal for "Star Wars" fandom, and more than anything, this would seem to announce clearly that this is not all going to be out doing everything the same way it's always been done.
Recently, there was word of a behind-the-scenes struggle between Robert Iger and Kathleen Kennedy over the release date of "Star Wars: Episode VII," with the producer pushing for a possible 2016 release. A December date in 2015 seems to be the best possible compromise, giving director JJ Abrams and his entire creative team more room to get the script ready and put the right amount of polish on the universe.
The Academy has announced this year's short list of Best Animated Short contenders, and as always, it's a varied crop of tone, form and style.
Shonda Rhimes knows how and when "Scandal" will end
"I feel like there is a finite amount of 'Scandal' to be told," she says. "So I know what the end of Scandal will be, and I feel really good about that. And I can see where the end point is. And I don't think I'm going to change that. ... I know how long I think it will be. But we'll see." PLUS: Why men should watch "Scandal."
Jimmy Kimmel edits out a boy genius rejecting his gift of a Sony tablet -- he's already getting an iPad
Kimmel likely didn't want to upset his sponsor. On the broadcast version, Arden Hayes said thanks, but no thanks, to the Sony Xperia Z tablet, saying he was getting an iPad instead. But the rejection has been removed from Kimmel's YouTube version of the segment.
Molly Shannon reunites with her "Superstar" director for a Fox mother-daughter comedy
The "SNL" alum will play a mom who clashes with her pregnant daughter.
Ellen DeGeneres pays tribute to Jay Leno: "You're amazing. You're a good guy"
On last night's "Tonight Show," Ellen said it was Leno that got her booked on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show."
John Oliver will host the International Emmys
"The Daily Show" star will helm the Nov. 25 ceremony from New York.
Don Johnson joins Robert Rodriguez's "From Dusk Till Dawn" TV remake
Johnson will play Sheriff Earl McGraw, while D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz are joining the cast in the roles previously played by George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino.
NBC will air a "Hollywood Game Night" Holiday special
The Dec. 2 special will feature Rachel Bilson, Andy Roddick, Ray Romano, Gavin DeGraw and more stars.
"Let's Make a Deal" will give power to Twitter users
Two episodes will let Twitter users decide key elements like cash prizes.
NBC to air a "Dateline" special out of its $100,000 skydiver footage
The collision special will air on Friday.
"American Idol" reveals the 1st look at the new judging panel
Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr. appear to work well together.
Will Leonardo DiCaprio do the "Entourage" movie?
Producers are said to want DiCaprio -- a lifelong pal of Kevin Connelly's -- aboard for the film.
"The X Factor" hits another series low
The CMA Awards likely hurt Simon Cowell's ratings.
"Arrested Development" tonight gets the "Actor's Studio" treatment
The cast sits down with James Lipton at 7 pm on Bravo.
Zendaya to star on Disney Channel's "Super Awesome Katy"
The "Dancing with the Stars" alum will play a teenage spy.
"Gossip Girl's" Kelly Rutherford heads to "Bones"
She'll guest on the Fox series.
What is Craig Kilborn up to? He's guest-hosting "The Artie Lange Show" on DirecTV
The former "Late Late Show" last night filled in for Lange on his DirecTV talk show.
Jon Stewart calls Jay Z a corporate sellout
On "The Daily Show," Stewart mocked Jay Z's continued relationship with Barney's after the store was accused of racial profiling.
Fox's "Wayward Pines" adds Justin Kirk and Hope Davis
Both will appear in multi-episode arcs on the M. Night Shyamalan limited series.
"Parks and Rec's" Jim O'Heir reprises his role as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
Check out O'Heir's latest Jimmy Kimmel appearance.
"The Price is Right" contestant loses her wig
It's the "biggest wig out" in the game show's history.
The production of the Warner Bros. western "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" is a unique entry in the annals of cinema history. The studio had been courting Andrew Dominik for some time, eager to work with the director of 2000's "Chopper," and he had a gem of a project for them to consider: a film about the outlaw Jesse James, based on a dense novel he found at a second-hand bookstore in Melbourne, Australia, with Brad Pitt in the iconic role.
Surely the studio saw dollar signs. Brad Pitt as Jesse James? It must have felt a few steps removed from a Batman movie. Batman in the wild west. But what Dominik had in mind wasn't a Batman movie. It was a deeply ponderous, Malickian thing that would speak to themes of celebrity and a dying age. This would not be Jesse James in his prime. This would be, as the title lays bare, the end of a legend, and all the artistry such an unconventional take on that legend would suggest.
A little surprise happened at the art house over the past few months. Fox Searchlight's late addition to the September release schedule, "Enough Said," has become one of the biggest indie releases of the year.