On Monday, the pop culture universe let out a collective “meh” when Lady Gaga and Katy Perry rushed their latest singles to radio after dastardly hackers leaked them to the Internets. Now I am not among the countless bloggers who like to take cheap shots at mega pop stars while championing unlistenable hipster bullshit. I am quite the fan of both Ms. Perry and Ms. Germanotta. Perry doesn’t have the strongest voice — but she does choose her material wisely… most of the time. Gagaloo on the other hand is a musical genius whose unreleased tunes are as (if not more) compelling than her official stuff (hunt down ‘Shake Your Kitty‘, you will not be disappointed).
This makes the letdowns of Gaga’s ‘Applause’ and Perry’s ‘Roar’ all the more painful.
Gaga has been hyping her third full-length ARTPOP since the day Born This Way failed to define a generation. Born to a less famous artist, ‘Applause’ would be a bit of a novelty — but from Gaga, it sounds derivative of her earlier work. Sonically, it’s a lot of fun. Lyrically, she jumps the shark that swallows most lesser pop school chum (Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton or any Real Housewife with a record deal). Instead of singing universal lyrics that most fans can relate to, on ‘Applause’, Gaga tiptoes to the edge of self-glorification. Enough about you my little monsters, let’s talk about me for a moment. This would be OK if the sonic ear candy had a hook we haven’t heard before (Gaga’s ‘Just Dance’ or Madonna’s ‘Hung Up’). Instead of being one step ahead of pop culture, like Madonna has been for most of her career, here Gaga plays catch-up. It’s as if she never listened to the radio while she was on constant tour these past four years. While Gagarama was singing her old songs, the likes of Robyn, Icona Pop, Charli XCX, Marina and the Diamonds, Nicola Roberts, Cher Lloyd, Lykke Li, Skylar Grey, Boy and Amanda Mair were pushing pop into exciting new directions. That said, I am still reserving a place in my year end Pop Top 10 with hopes the rest of ARTPOP steps up when it drops in November (if not much sooner due to those meddling hackers).
KATY PERRY ‘Roar’
Perry fares a little better with ‘Roar.’ It sports a bigger, more ear-wormy chorus, even if it outstretches her vocal limits. Once the initial flavor burst is chewed away, ‘Roar’ so simple and pedestrian even Rebecca Black would have likely passed on it. Where Perry lacks in innovation, she makes up for with a winning lyric video. Sadly, this song plays solely to her tween base — many of whom have grown up since Teenage Dream. I can’t wait til the day Perry makes a mature pop album, though I might be an AARP member by the time she does it.
But before we declare Perry the winner, submitted for your consideration is a track that received 1,000,000th less hype and is a million times better:
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This Norwegian beauty has been kicking around longer than Gaga or Perry. Her biggest singles, ‘Chewing Gum’ and ‘I Know Your Girlfriend Hates Me’ are Kylie Minogue dancefloor pop smashes that indie kids can groove to. On her just-released The A&R EP, Annie ambles through three very safe tracks — including an ode to Ralph Macchio — before dropping this bombshell. This sinister beat hooks you from the first second and never lowers itself to cliche Dubstep bass drops to keep the body moving. ‘Invisible’ is everything pop music needs to be these days — urgent, exciting, original, sexy and a bit twisted.
I am equally excited about the potential of another up and comer, Lorde, from New Zealand. On the fabu Love Club EP, this lovely lass bridges the gap between dance pop and real art pop.
LORDE – ‘Royals’
Perhaps most exciting of all is De Verre from Moorpark, California. I’ve had ‘Mad’ on near constant rotation for close to a month. Read my recent interview with singer Alice Day here.
So that’s about it. Time to give the pop a break and dive back into the bottomless retro hipster sandbox called Scared to Get Happy, Cherry Red Records’ sprawling 5-disc set of 80’s indie guitar pop that I hope to get through and review before the end of the century.