REVIEW: Lady Gaga’s ‘ARTPOP’ doesn’t measure up

HMO112513GAGALady Gaga, ARTPOP.  So much for that high-concept, post-modern ingenuity that ARTPOP promised even before Lady Gaga hawked it as the album of … not the year, not the decade, but of the millennium.

This isn’t that album. Not even close. Not when it comes to the innovativeness it touted, anyway. If this is art, so is “Poker Face.” And so is dressing up in a frock made of dead cow. This is Gaga to the extreme; everything is done with more cartoonish flamboyancy, and — if it’s even possible at this point — exaggerated to the fullest. While Born This Way was at least, despite its exhausting preachiness, an evolution that demonstrated sophisticated vanguard where self-importance at least felt musically validated, this takes three steps back. Neither as clever nor avant-garde as it thinks it is, ARTPOP is a straightforward, ’80s-fashioned electro-pop piece that, with a satirical edge, riffs on fame, drugs and other vapidness …  the very themes of queen Gaga before she led her misunderstood Monsters down the road to empowerment.

With B-52s camp, “Donatella” and “Fashion!” fit the homo bill, and they’re both amusing … if you were amused also by the unintentional awesomeness of Showgirls. Part horror show, part whore show, ARTPOP is gaudy (see “Swine,” where this meat obsession of hers translates into metaphor), but it’s hard to turn away from something that tries so hard to be tacky and messy and just so … weird. Even an R. Kelly cameo, on “Do What U Want,” seems out there — and then it all comes together pretty perfectly. But it’s “Dope,” a rollicking power ballad that endears, and the smashing Springsteenian “Gypsy” that our Mother Monster should keep in mind next time she tries to hustle pop music as high art.

Two-and a-half stars.

HMO112513ARCADEFIREArcade Fire, Reflektor. Not long into Arcade Fire’s 80-minute epic of rhythmic mythology — where themes of rebirth thrive amidst the usual sociopolitical go-tos — is an empowering statement of visibility that can’t help but be heard as a queer affirmation. With frontman Win Butler championing the oppressed, the song is called “We Exist,” but it’s not the only one that’s outcast-minded: David Bowie vibes pipe through the garage-rockery of outsider anthem “Normal Person,” a challenge to societal conformity.

But the Montreal troupe doesn’t just tackle the bigger picture; they look inward and tear down their own conventions — their own “normal.” Reflektor breaks the band’s rules, abandoning the Neil Young-inspired ’70s sounds of The Suburbs, their Grammy-winning LP and last release, for an adventuresome, dance-inspired work that radically shifts from quintessential Arcade Fire. With former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy on board as producer, Reflektor breaks into the dance-punk that is Murphy’s forte, winding up somewhere in the realm of the band’s older “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains),” an electro triumph. Here, a frantic parade of noise simmers into a charged punk anthem on the defiant “Joan of Arc,” disco-era strings line the slow-burn of “Porno,” and “Afterlife” — with Butler and wife Régine Chassagne’s poignant exchanges, also heard on the transcendent standout “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)” — is a euphoric jaunt of survival on the album’s back, and better, half.

Three-and-a-half stars.

— Chris Azzopardi

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Round-Up Saloon patron accuses club of anti-Hispanic discrimination

A Round-Up Saloon patron says he fears the bar is discriminating against Hispanic clubgoers who have permanent resident visas, but management says it accepts them.

Eddie Munoz said he and a friend visiting from out of town went to the Round-Up on Tuesday night after the Lady Gaga concert. Gaga was expected to appear at the club after her Dallas performance.

But when Munoz’s friend presented his permanent resident visa — commonly called a “green card” — the doorman told him that management had changed the policy to no longer accept them as valid IDs. When Munoz and his friend asked to speak to a manager, Munoz said they were rudely told to wait outside.

“It was a perfectly legitimate ID. We never had issues before,” Munoz said. “I was infuriated.”

While waiting, Munoz said he saw a group of women who looked Hispanic being turned away with their IDs in their hands.

Munoz ended up texting a friend already inside the club to seek out a manager to address the issue. His friend spoke to a manager who then approved the ID and let them in.

But Munoz said his friend, who is from Mexico but lives in South Texas, had been admitted to the club last Saturday and Sunday using the same ID, so he wanted to know why the policy had suddenly changed, but he said they were never given an answer Tuesday night.

—  Anna Waugh

REVIEW: Gaga’s ‘Born This Way Ball’

The zipper vagina from which Gaga emerged prior to the namesake song of her ‘Born This Way Ball.’ For more photos from the concert, go here.

Somehwere in the middle of last night’s show, Lady Gaga paused for one of her many monologues. I forgot what she was going on about — self-love, growing up or something we’ve heard before — but then came the poignant truth for the evening.

“I may ask you, who is Lady Gaga?” she said, followed by a full-on dramatic pause. “I am you.”

Amid over-the-top theatrics, high-energy songs and calorie-killing dancing, this was the message that Gaga reinforced throughout her marathon Born This Way Ball. How Gaga straddles the line between ridiculous and heartfelt may be her real talent because the near-capacity crowd at American Airlines Center was under her spell and roared about it.

When the curtain fell to reveal what I could only describe as Castle Grayskull without the skull, the excitement level amped up from zero to 60 in a nanosecond. From her entrance on a (human) horse amid a flag corps for “Highway Unicorn” to the inflated bottom half of female torso giving birth out of a zipper vagina for “Born this Way” (duh), expectation was thrown out the window early because that all happened in the first trio of songs. Yeah.

Checking off the stage antics, there were floating brides for “Bloody Mary,” the now-famous Grammy egg for “Bad Romance,” meat couture for “Americano” along with a meat couch and her entrance as a living motorcycle for “Heavy Metal Lover” that overloaded all senses. What more could she give in such a packed show? Oh, lots.

Gaga jam-packed the show with a set list that counted up to 25 songs. She really pushed tracks off of Born This Way but she’d hardly forget her first hits. When the synths began “Just Dance,” she described it as the song that changed her life. Gaga relishes in her fame but doesn’t disregard its impact whether on her or the fans (she asked if we remembered first hearing the song). Will she do that in 20 years? Who knows, but the way she made it sound, her rise to fame was a journey for all the people.

Is that kind of self-indulgent talk worthwhile? Anyone (minus the few conservative, straight men that had perplexed looks on their faces the whole time) in that building would say yes. And they’d be right. Gaga reinforces her own story, her fight for equal rights and embracing your inner freak over and over, and although sometimes it just felt like a rehash of Monsters Ball chatter, it worked just as well. Her one-of-the-people posturing felt genuine and was only added to when she brought fans onstage. The most touching moment of the night happened when she sat at the piano with a four lucky fans singing a scaled back reprise of “Born This Way.” It was the time to catch your breath and even shed a tear.

And then a meat grinder came out for “Americano” as she hung with other carcasses in her meat-mini and meaty bikinis for the dancers. Did I mention the meat couch that was also a part of the set?

Clearly she was relentlessness in giving a dynamic performance, making it feel like it was the first show of her tour. She shocked, she touched, she served diva realness, and like those four fans onstage (as well as the ones who joined her in the “Marry the Night” finale), she made everyone feel special.

—  Rich Lopez

PHOTOS: Lady Gaga at the American Airlines Center — but not the Round-Up

As most Little Monsters probably know, Lady Gaga is not allowing media photo coverage of her Born This Way Ball, which stopped at the American Airlines Center in Dallas last night. But our Chuck Marcelo went as a spectator and managed to grab some pretty decent shots anyway. Unfortunately, for the first time in three tours, Gaga didn’t show up at the Round-Up Saloon afterward, leading to some hurt feelings since the bar had announced earlier in the day that she would be there. The Round-Up has since pulled its original post advertising Gaga’s appearance. As of this morning, the bar hadn’t posted an official apology, but this thread on its Facebook page seemed indicative of the back and forth:

 

Check out the rest of Chuck’s pics below. To read Rich Lopez’s review, go here.

—  C Marcelo

Round-Up Gaga watch begins

—  John Wright

The gay interview: ‘PitchPerfect’s’ Rebel Wilson and Jason Moore

Everyone’s talking about Rebel Wilson lately. A scene-stealer in last year’s Bridesmaids — she played Kristen Wiig’s trashy roommate and mistook her live-in’s diary for a “very sad, handwritten book” — the Australian actress became a breakout star in two other roles earlier this year: What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Bachelorette; her pilot for the ABC series Super Fun Night also just got the green light.

It’s now, though, that’s she’s becoming a household name as Fat Amy, the I-am-who-I-am collegiate mermaid dancer who gets all the boys and belts her butt off as part of an all-girl a cappella group in the his new film in Pitch Perfect.

Our Chris Azzopardi sat down with this Rebel (prawled on a couch all cozy-looking in a track jacket and hand bling that spells out her name, Wilson)  and out director Jason Moore, directing his first film. They chatted in her dry-wit way about stealing the role from Adele, why the gay community will find Fat Amy empowering and her tips for killing an a cappella audition (hint: Lady Gaga).

Moore Rebel

Pitch Perfect star and director on what’s so gay about the movie, outsiders and spotting lesbians

 Dallas Voice: This is a gay press interview, so all of these questions will be very gay.  Rebel Wilson: Oh, cool. It’s a pretty gay movie. You’ve got a lesbian character, and I think most of the Treblemakers, the boy band, are gay. What about that scene where there’s, like, nine dudes in a hot tub … naked? That’s totally gay.

The gay community can be fickle about gay characters. Did you worry about portraying the lesbian character a certain way so it wouldn’t come off as stereotypical?  Jason Moore: I don’t know what you’re talking about. [Laughs] In a way, we were looking at all stereotypes. So yes, she’s a lesbian and they mistake her for a man at the beginning — but also, she’s got this beautiful shock of hair, she is quite fun and feminine in the way she moves; she’s got an amazing voice and she’s not afraid to be herself in the world. Are lesbians going to take offense to that character? I don’t think so, but we’ll ask them.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The Gay Interview: Katy Perry

Our correspondent Chris Azzopardi got a sit-down (well, via transatlantic phone) with pop star Katy Perry, just in time for the release of her concert documentary, Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D, which comes out today.  The patriotic pop princess talks the film, kissing gay boys and fighting hate with love bullets.

 KATY PERRY IN 3D

It was not really last Friday night, but it still happened: Katy Perry called from London, where it was nearly 1 a.m. If life really does imitate art, she smelled like a mini-bar on a night that’s soon to be a blacked-out blur, right?

“Not tonight,” she insists. “I have to play and be professional tomorrow, but maybe after the show I’ll be having a couple of Shirley Temples with some adult juice in them.”

We spoke with Perry just after she made a surprise appearance in London for a screening of her new film, Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D, a docu-concert chronicling the California girl’s evolution from gospel-singing daughter of two pastors to international pop phenom … with the most lethal boobs in the world.

During our interview, Perry told us what else they shoot besides whipped cream, how the gay community can relate to her movie and why Madonna doesn’t scare her. 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Rufus Wainwright: The gay/Gaga interview

In this week’s edition of the Voice, we review Rufus Wainwright’s new CD of pop music, which comes out Tuesday. But you can read even more about the gay singer right now with this interview by Chris Azzopardi.

BACK IN THE GAME

There are bad romances, and then there’s the kind that Rufus Wainwright had during the making of his latest album, Out of the Game. The troubadour got smitten with super-producer Mark Ronson, who added a pop bend to Wainwright’s classical leanings. Love at first sight? Just about.

“One day, we finally hung out at this party — at the U.N., of all places — and we were just completely enamored of each other,” Wainwright says. “Needless to say, we went into the studio and struck up not only a great musical relationship but a great friendship … and, at least from my end, a huge crush.”

And the singer doesn’t just give his love away: He recently slammed Lady Gaga for being “predictable and boring,” setting off a media (and gay mafia) frenzy.

In our interview, after the jump, Wainwright talked about those comments, the eyes that comforted him during his mother’s death and the evolution of his gayness.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

ALBUM REVIEW: Of Montreal, Seal, The Twilight Sad, Metallica, Ultra Dance 13

Pop falters while rock and folk ascend to strong releases

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Of Montreal
Paralytic Stalks
Polyvinyl Records

Kevin Barnes and company get off to a wobbly start with “Geld Ascent” in OM’s new release. If static and feedback had a child, this would be it. It feels more like a shock move to explode the opening, but they fall back into the more familiar sound with second track “Spiteful Intervention.”
I never know what OM sings about, but they know how to create a song that’s feel good in sound and yet it’s never, ever dumbed down. They don’t write lyrics as much as they create eclectic odes set to music in tracks like “We Will Commit Wolf Murder” or “Authentic Pyrrhic Remission.” I wanna ask what the hell that means, but then I’m entertained to the point of forgetting my complaint and just want to groove along.

The thing is, it’s nothing new. OM delivers the energy, just more of the same. Quirky lyrics, falsetto breaks and confetti like puffs of music are much like what they’ve done in 2010’s False Priest or 2008’s Skeletal Lamping. I don’t want them to change their personality, but they’ve gone so off the chart with obscurity, they sound like they’ve gotten stuck there.

Two and half stars (out of five).

Seal
Soul 2
Reprise Records

The former Mr. Heidi Klum proves his voice is topnotch as he revisits soul classics again.. His voice is complementary to the covering of tracks by predecessors such as Gaye, Green and Pendergrass. The real question is why?

Seal’s voice is like comfort food. It’s easy to relish in and this sound works for him, but for a set of soul classics, the album is on automatic pilot. There’s nothing quite wrong with his rendition of “Love T.K.O.,” but he never sounded present in it.
There was also an immediate safeness to the album. The track selections are obvious like “Let’s Stay Together” or “What’s Going On” that plays uninspired.

He’s basically following the Rod Stewart reinvention strategy, but I’d rather hear Seal get back to his original stuff that was always an edgy alternative to contemporary pop.

Two and half stars.

The Twilight Sad
No One Can Ever Know
Fatcat Records

In their third full-release (six overall), these Scottish indie rockers deliver a grand episode of shoegazing. Singer James Graham’s thick accent is a character in itself, but strangely inviting. They head into darker territory, but opener “Alphabet” sets an inviting tone off the bat.

The move to a slightly harder sound is a wise one. They thrive with pumped up energy but don’t neglect their folkish sensibilities. Instead, it’s smartly elevated with these additional layers of sound.

Titles like “Sick,” “Dead City” and “Kill it in the Morning” sound depressing, but there is a wealth of strongly structured tunes that are engaging and cohesive. Even when they veer into Smiths territory with the dreamy “Don’t Look at Me,” they keep a strong sense of self and pull off a killer album.

Three and half stars.

Metallica
Beyond Magnetic EP
Warner Bros. Records

Released as an accompaniment to their 30thh anniversary concerts, this EP is a set of four songs recorded during their 2008 album sessions for Death Magnetic and is intentionally released in a more session style rather than high production value.
With signature guitar and drum rampages, Metallica doesn’t falter with first track, “Hate Train,” and its force is like a fist to the face. That’s a good thing. Skip over the annoying repetition of “Just a Bullet Away” (or listen to it below), but soak in and worship the muscularity of their chord action in “Hell and Back.” If this song were on Scruff, he’d be a haggard-faced muscle daddy still worthy of a “woof.”

Final track “Rebel Babylon” closes out this small chapter with Herculean strength and Hetfield just pushes his gritty vocals to the max and the band lays down the rock that requires either a head banging or a fist pumping — or maybe both at the same time.

Three stars.

Various Artists
Ultra Dance 13
Ultra

The grooves are in overdrive in this 13th volume of the popular dance compilation. Big names like Gaga, Britney Spears and Pitbull are placed next to budding dance DJ/producer tracks by Avicii and Calvin Harris. However, it left me asking, “Where’s the party?”

Remixes of Jason Derulo’s “It Girl” and Lady Gaga’s “You and I” never find their right footing and Danny Verde’s Gaga mix of her ballad stuck her vocals in peanut butter while the beat has left it behind.

The label was good to leave Spears’ “Til the World Ends” alone as it has enough weight to be a great party song and that chant alone needs no help. Such restraint is barely held through the rest of the album — and there are 24 tracks. Alexandra Stan’s “Mr. Saxobeat” doesn’t suffer much from its extended mix and is a fine listen that doesn’t beat into your head like a jackhammer.

Steve Aoki’s “Earthquakey People (The Sequel)” is absolute torture without remix, but it’s also representative of the album — soulless and pumped up without reason.

The other barely saving grace for this bit is deadmau5’s entry at the very end. “Raise Your Weapon” doesn’t rape your ears with a sonic force. It calms the energy but still goes into erratic directions that are fascinating. Otherwise, create your own dance mix if you need a party.

One and half stars.

(NOTE:This is a slightly longer version of the mix than on the album.)

—  Rich Lopez

Super Bowl goes gay with ads, halftime show

The NFL might want to consider changing the name of the Super Bowl to the Faaabulous Bowl. At least if last night’s game was any indicator.

It’s not enough that it featured hunky QBs Tom Brady and Eli Manning (and could have Drew Brees or Tim Tebow), running around in Spandex with other muscle bears. And there was of course Madonna’s mega-gay halftime show with scantily clad gladiators and cross-dressing scruffy guys and Nikki Minaj, who kinda-sorta seems like a drag queen to me. Even the first half recap was set to “Edge of Glory” by Gaga.

No, the real gayness was in the commercials. Watch a few of them below  …

—  Arnold Wayne Jones