Monday, October 21, 2013

Sex and Smarts: Lady Gaga and R.Kelly team up for Do What You Want

In just over five years Lady Gaga has achieved the kind of success most popstars would struggle to achieve in ten. And as much as she's a star whose success relied on the always-on 24 hour media whirl we live in now, it's the same system that can make her seem she's no longer "relevant". She's griped recently about feeling misunderstood (like this excellent Guardian interview) and made a video that played with all the internet chatter about her just before Applause dropped.

Yesterday ahead of new song Do What You Want (one of a handful of songs that aren't singles that she'll be unveiling before new album ARTPOP arrives next month) debuting Gaga went on a Twitter rant, linking to videos and images of things people have said about over her career from her weight to what Madonna thinks of her. In one way it can be seen as her throwing her toys out of the pram (and how boring is it when popstars say they don't write for the charts? sigh) but it's an oddly self aware flip of the bird from someone who has more of a mask up in public than her contemporaries.

As third-album Born This Way rumbled along it was easy to feel that the Gaga experience was becoming bloated and self-important and for all of her talk of having a message she was threatening to disappear up her own artifice completely. The ARTPOP project has had glimmers of eye-roll inducing moments already (not least that album announcement this summer which was ridiculous and not in a good way) but for the most part she's delivering spectacle (a handful of impressive TV performances and the iTunes festival appearance) and a sound that seems to have the evolution of Born This Way mixed with a leaner pop instinct that summed up the best parts of her first album.

Do What You Want shows that for most part, Gaga is finally able to channel some kind of personal anger into a song that is both addictive and hook driven and still packs a little bite.

It's a futuristic R&B pop gem that opens with a cantering synth line and electro-pop flourishes that are more than a bit Flight Facilities. The lyrics are simple but play with a fun duality. Gaga points the finger at press printing "shit that makes me want to scream" before urging detractors to "do what you want with my body". Her claims to keeping her heart and mind hers may seem trite but play well into the way she's always presented herself as an open book yet we know little about her love-life or close friendships, the usual building blocks for how we get to know someone in the public eye. 

It doubles up as an effective come on too, the chorus reading like your typical sexed up pop idea but given a neat twist. We've just spent half the pop culture year wringing our hands over Miley Cyrus stripping down and asking if she's empowered while she does. And here comes Gaga with a song that plays off the idea that you may never get to know a woman in pop but you can always have her body. 

Even the artwork for the song, a close up shot of her rear seems like a play on how female popstars often present themselves (including Gaga herself who seems to both change how a woman can look in the pop sphere and reinforce it all once). 

It's a cutting idea and it's given more heft when R.Kelly slides in halfway through. His references to luxury brands and popping bottles may be the stuff of R&B cliché but his delivery makes it just about work. It's an intoxicating idea too, the sense of escape from the pressure of fame to the kind of spoils that should make you feel better but may not. It amps up the "sex jam" factor considerably but it also feels significant, Kelly has a complicated (shall we say) history with women so even his presence feels like a statement (And at the very least shows that Gaga's days of rent-a-rappers like Flo Rida appearing on songs are over).

Of course, we're probably going too in-depth here. This is also a terrific pop song. All feather light and shimmering fusing hipster friendly retro-dance flourishes with the kind of R&B groove that is making a steady comeback on the charts. It's like Janet and Michael's Scream if it was sung by two eccentric but not related popstars mixed with Rihanna via some tropical electronica. It's addictive and impressive and suggests that if this is the kind of thing she can put out between singles, ARTPOP will be quite the experience. 

Do What You Want will be on Irish iTunes Tuesday, ARTPOP arrives here on the 8th of November

No comments:

Post a Comment