Here the music is appealingly carnal, even when Lady Gaga works a metaphor outright, as in “Do What U Want,” which doubles as a rejoinder to her critics. “Do what you want with my body,” she sings, but “you can’t stop my voice ’cause you don’t own my life.”
She takes an opposite tack in “Swine,” finding a kind of horror-movie disgust in desire. “I know you want me,” she snarls, channeling Courtney Love. “You’re just a pig inside a human body.” It’s a sharp counterpoint to the steamy sex talk, as is “Dope,” a stripped-down piano ballad near the end of “Artpop” in which she uses her most unvarnished singing to deliver pained lyrics about “hurting low from living high for so long.”
Is that the soul-baring she threatens at the beginning of the record? In a way, sure; “I need you more than dope” feels pretty honest. But as the song builds toward a Broadway-sized climax, her voice cracking in practiced spontaneity, you can hear Lady Gaga mainlining her real drug of choice: our attention.
She’s not ready to tell all yet.
Two and a half stars (out of four)