Lady Gaga and R Kelly do Saturday Night Live. Stellar pop with impressive acrobatics (and proper dry humping) included.
A few of my thoughts about Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP…
The beauty of pop music is that it can be whatever you want it to be. Pop art visionary Robert Indiana once said that “pop is love” because “it accepts everything.” The rich variety in pop music today is a reflection of the diversity in the world around us that continues to change at lightening speed. One way to absorb popular culture is to amplify its defining characteristics through art. American artist Jeff Koons understands this like no other. He’s known for creating vibrant and larger than life art pieces that glamorize (often seemingly trivial) pop culture artifacts and characters.
It should come as no surprise that Lady Gaga and Jeff Koons take an interest in each other’s work. Both artists have an obsession with pop culture, a fascination with fame, sex and desire, and they don’t shy away from a little bit of controversy to execute their vision. In a way, Lady Gaga is to pop music what Jeff Koons is to modern art. Their efforts are highly conceptual yet easily accessible to the masses.
Lady Gaga partnered with Koons to create the cover for her new album ARTPOP. He also played a starring role in her artRAVE album launch event in New York City last Sunday. Koon’s ARTPOP sleeve art is a mash up of Botticelli’s classic painting of the Birth of Venus and his famed blue gazing ball that has been a part of his previous art installations.
There are clear parallels between Koons’ style of art and Gaga’s point of view on ARTPOP (most notably in its production and lyricism). Koons’ work is highly stylized, scales small details to gigantic proportion and often garners a strong emotional response. Gaga’s music captures all of those qualities and more. Much like Koons’ visual art, Gaga’s new album often appears excessive, outrageous and over the top, but that’s deliberately the point.
ARTPOP is a multi-layered, multi-faceted musical journey that Gaga created with the intent to embed art into pop music. The pop star has said in interviews that she set out to create an album that “is considered commercial art yet is viable as fine art.” Gaga has realized her vision by creating a cohesive body of music that is dominated by hard-edged and audacious production stylings, the theatrics of her performance and occasional lyrical references to the art that has inspired her.
Musically, the album is a brew of pounding EDM (with gentle hints of R&B) that is infused with glorious hooks and soaring middle-eights that are solid proof of Gaga’s songwriting savvy. ARTPOP kicks off with “Aura” that is a perfect representation of the album’s overall sonic aesthetic that gives listeners plenty to chew on. Drenched in Zedd’s flaming techno beats, it’s a non-stop parade of melodic hooks that will have you dizzy on your feet from beginning to end. The mind-numbing groove of “Swine” courtesy of DJ White Shadow (aka Paul Blair) packs a similar intensity.
Other ARTPOP's highlights include “G.U.Y” and “Venus” that is a hyper-melodic adventure ride that shoots listeners into outer space and takes them for a spin around the Milky Way and back.
Gaga’s duet with R&B icon R. Kelly on “Do What U Want” glows like a pop beacon halfway through the album and reminds us exactly why we fell in love in Gaga in the first place. It’s one of the best song she’s ever recorded and will without a doubt stand the test of time. Gaga gets playful on tunes like “MANiCURE” and “Donatella” that combines electronic pop with a whole lotta sass.
Shooting straight from her gut, the album’s title track gets to the core of Gaga’s growing artistic struggle. It candidly deals with the fine line she must walk between commerce and art. Even though she’s an artist who is part of a major corporation looking to make a profit, she ultimately seeks respect as an artist. “I try to sell myself/But I am really laughing/Because I just love the music, not the bling,” she sings.
Gaga demonstrates her vocal prowess on “Dope,” an intensely personal song that was co-produced by Rick Rubin. The track is followed by “Gypsy,” a massive pop stomper produced by RedOne and Madeon that is a homage to all dreamers who are always searching for greener pastures elsewhere. The album closes with “Applause” that is perfectly sequenced as the album’s grand finale and truly shines in the context of the rest of the LP.
ARTPOP’s biggest accomplishment is that it shamelessly pushes the pop envelope both conceptually and sonically. Instead of playing it safe and walk a path already paved, Gaga steps out of the box and takes a risk by creating a wild art-pop “hybrid” that is rooted in her distinct point of view. Some may criticise that the album is too dense and idea-heavy for its own good, but its occasional opulence is intentionally part of Gaga’s vision to make pop her way.
Fans leave Lady Gaga their messages on a large wall at the #ARTPOP gallery in Hollywood that also features some of the pop star’s iconic outfits, interactive games and gigantic prints of single art. It’s a very cool concept to launch Gaga’s new album and enthuse fans that fits right with her vision for the record. (at Lady Gaga Artpop Gallery)
Miley Cyrus impresses at BBC Radio One Live Lounge today covering Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness.” It’s as if the song was written for her. Love her or hate her, Cyrus is a compelling songstress with a unique sound of her own.
Hoi from Amsterdam! Report from the MTV European Music Awards (Day 3 - Show Recap)
The MTV EMAs kicked off with a bang last night when Miley Cyrus descended from the ceiling of the Ziggo Dome in a next century space mobile to the soaring beat of “We Can’t Stop.” The rising pop superstar set the tone for the show with a kick off performance that was on point and spiced up with a sense of adventure. (That should come as no big surprise as the visual theme of this year’s EMAs was space and intergalactic travel.)
I was at the Ziggo Dome, a state of the art new concert hall in Amsterdam, two hours before showtime. Being there so early gave me plenty of time to take in the stage and the venue. The EMA staging was simple. There was one (circular) main stage that connected to a smaller stage just to the right. The smaller circular stage was connected to a pseudo bar area filled with alien creatures that was also the spot for all the award announcements and many of Redfoo’s “intergalactic” hosting bits.
Redfoo was the perfect host for the night. He was able to stir the crowd with his signature hilarity and “Let’s Get Ridiculous” bits that kept the show light and fun to watch.
Robin Thicke followed Miley Cyrus’ opening and he performed his global monster hit “Blurred Lines" that threw the crowd in a frenzy. Tall and twerking Aussie rapper Iggy Azalea joined him on stage that gave the performance some extra pizzaz and sex appeal. It was a clever change up that gave the song a fresh new appeal.
Katy Perry's very first TV performance of “Unconditionally” was impressive. The pop star was raised from the main stage and wrapped in a cocoon of long, colorful skirt drapes that made Perry appear like a skinny giant singing from above the clouds. It was a simple, yet very effective way to add dramatic flair to the heartfelt ballad/love confession.
Eminem, yesterday’s surprise addition to the EMA line up, received a lifetime achievement award (announced by Rita Ora), and performed “Bezerk” and “Rap God.” It was an inspired performance that showed that Marshall Mather continues to be massive force in rap and hip hop. Over in The Melkweg concert venue, Snoop Dogg performed his classic “Gin & Juice” to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Doggystyle that was ported into the mainshow. He was accompanied on the boards by DJ Afrojack.
Other noteworthy performers included The Killers (who performed “Shot At The Night” and “Mr Brightside”) and Bruno Mars who turned the Ziggo Dome into a glittering strip joint with “Gorilla.” Miley Cyrus returned with her full band to perform a gut-wrenching rendition of “Wrecking Ball” that showed some true grit with her inspired vocal delivery.
Our friends of Icona Pop closed the show with a stomping rendition of “I Love It” that had the crowd high on their feet for a dizzying finale (including a drop of glitter at the end). Caroline and Aino were immaculately styled inspired by Jane Fonda’s Barbarella to stay consistent with the space theme of the show.
Let’s not forget about the awards as well! Winners included Bruno Mars (Best Male), Katy Perry (Best Female), Miley Cyrus (Best Video) and Eminem (Best Hip Hop). Five-time nominee Justin Timberlake left the show empty-handed.
Overall, it was a MTV EMAs to remember that the Dutch should look back on proudly. Only minus were the constant jokes about Amsterdam that perpetuated many of the stereotypes about the city. There were lots of quips about coffee shops, hash brownies and the red light district. Those jokes felt tired and passé, and do not properly reflect what the city has to offer. That’s an opportunity missed with millions of people watching around the world.
Greetings from Amsterdam! Report from the MTV European Music Awards (Day 2)
We’re just a few hours away from the MTV EMAs, one of the largest European music award shows, that is celebrating mostly American-bred pop music this year. It’s shaping up to be a star-studded event with performances by Afrojack, Bruno Mars, Icona Pop, Imagine Dragons, Katy Perry, The Killers, Kings of Leon, Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke and Snoop Dogg.
There’s a long list of presenters as well that features some of my faves including Ariana Grande, Ellie Goulding, Iggy Azalea, Bridgit Mendler, Carice van Houten en “intergalactic” show host Redfoo of LMFAO. None other than Eminem will attend the show as well to receive a lifetime achievement award. I’m curious who will present that award to him. No word on that yet.
The long list of MTV EMA nominees include Justin Timberlake (5, including Best Video for “Mirrors”), Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (5, including Best Song for “Thrift Stop”), Justin Bieber (4, including Best Pop Artist), Miley Cyrus (4, including Best Female Artist), Lady Gaga (4, including Best Look) and Icona Pop (3, including Best Swedish Artist). Daft Punk, Rudimental, Taylor Swift and OneDirection (who are conspicuously absent from the show) are also multiple nominees.
What to look out for on tonight’s show? Everybody is curious about what controversial move Miley Cyrus will make, but I expect her to do the unexpected and tone it down quite a bit. Perhaps she will perform an acoustic rendition of “Wrecking Ball” that really could have some impact. Katy Perry may do something similar and turn her new single “Unconditionally” into an epic love story on stage.
The Killers, Kings Of Lean and Imagine Dragons will surely rock the house, and Robin Thicke will likely be a big winner with “Blurred Lines.” The ladies of Icona Pop will probably mash up their global smash “I Love It” with their equally catchy new single “All Night” during their performance.
I want to make a special mention of Afrojack who will be performing with Snoop Dogg, plus work in his new single “The Spark” (with our pal Spree Wilson) from De Melkweg concert hall, which is 20 minutes away from Ziggo Dome where the main show will take place.
It’s very special for a Dutch artist to be this prominently featured in a major awards show, and hopefully Afrojack’s performance at the EMAs will help push this house music champ into the mainstream pop spotlight so he can follow in the footsteps of people like David Guetta and Calvin Harris.
Greetings from Amsterdam! Report from MTV European Music Awards (Day 1)
If there’s one thing that sets the MTV European Music Awards apart from its annual American counterpart, it is that the MTV EMAs is a week-long happening that fills the entire host country with pride. As opposed to the MTV VMAs that usually shuttles between New York and Los Angeles (with a rare stop in Miami), the MTV EMAs are organized in a different European city every year that captures the entire host nation for weeks leading up to the show.
Tomorrow’s 2013 MTV EMAs are hosted in Amsterdam. It’s the second time that The Netherlands is home to the EMAs. Rotterdam hosted the EMAs back in 1997 when the Backstreet Boys were the big winners of the night.
Amsterdam is celebrating the MTV EMAs with a week of festivities, shows, parties, and even a series of workshops and readings produced by MTV Voices. The historic city center has been transformed over the last few days with big MTV banners along the canals, troupes of fans zig-zagging around town to spot their favorite celebrities (Amsterdam only has a handful of 5 star hotels so it’s easy to figure out where to find them), media from all over the world and music on every street corner. It feels a bit like if Amsterdam is hosting the Eurovision Song Contest and the rest of Europe is coming to visit to be a part of it all.
Today, I attended the pre-show press meeting at WestUnie and Richard Godfrey, the show’s executive producer, explained that Amsterdam had been on his host city wish list for a long time. A driving force behind awarding the Dutch capital the EMA hosting honors was the recent opening of Ziggo Dome, a state-of-the-art concert venue where Sunday’s EMAs will be held.
The show will kick off with a grand Red Carpet that will be hosted by Ariana Grande and that will lead into the EMA live telecast that will feature performances by Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Robin Thicke, Imagine Dragons, Afrojack (with Snoop Dogg), The Killers and many others. A special appearance will be made by self-proclaimed “rap god” Eminem who will receive a lifetime achievement award.
Notably absent from the line up is Lady Gaga who is releasing her much-anticipated new ARTPOP on Tuesday in North America. Many have wondered why she’s not in Amsterdam (a city she loves and even inspired one of her new songs), but the reason is simple. The pop star will be in New York City to conduct her ARTrave fan project, which is part of the new album launch campaign.
More information and scoop on the performances tomorrow. The show will start at 9 p.m. CET and will be hosted “intergalactic” MC Redfoo. Also, appearing as presenters are Ellie Goulding, Iggy Azaealia, Ariana Grande, Will Ferrell, Colton Haynes, RJ Mitte (from Breaking Bad) and Bridgit Mendler.
Madonna & Tumblr To Hold A Special #ArtForFreedom Curation on November 13th.
Madonna’s Art For Freedom initiative has joined with Tumblr for the month of November to collectively curate a new collection of entries from their community of visual artists. At 5pm EST on November 13, Madonna will conduct a live curation on Tumblr of entries and will continue to review submissions all month. The best work of art, photography, video or poetry chosen by Madonna from the November entries will receive a $10,000 grant, which will go to a nonprofit organization or project of the winning artist’s choice. All projects must be focused on a social justice issue and exemplify the values of Art For Freedom.
CLICK HERE to submit your art work now! The final winner will be announced in early December.
UPDATE: Please note that the live curation is now to take place at 5pm EST on November 13.
Sting and Matthew Koma perform Zedd’s “Clarity” (that Koma co-wrote) at Cherrytree Live in Santa Monica, CA tonight.
Fantastic night of pop at the Hollywood Bowl tonight. Katy Perry lit up the night sky with new music and fireworks together with pals Ellie Goulding, Tegan & Sara, Kacey Musgraves, Sara Bareilles and Bonnie McKee in support of the Young Survival Coalition. #WeCanSurvive. (at The Hollywood Bowl)