10 years on, ARTPOP remains Gaga’s most misunderstood record

A decade on, Katie MacBeth makes a case for Lady Gaga's most divisive record.


When searching for Lady Gaga’s third studio album, ARTPOP online, you’ll come across numerous results, ranging from streaming platforms, Wikipedia pages, and Amazon links, however you’re also likely to stumble across several articles that question whether the album is ‘better than originally remembered’ or ‘misunderstood in its time’. These headlines are significant, coinciding with a change in opinion around the album, which when it was first released 10 years ago, was unfairly labelled a flop.

During her ‘Born This Way’ world tour in 2013, Gaga suffered a hip injury that forced her to cancel all shows and take a break from the limelight. After this tumultuous period, Gaga released her fourth studio album, ‘ARTPOP,’ which was an exploration of fame, vulnerability, pain, and addiction set against a backdrop of 140BPM EDM and Synth-Pop. However, the album received mixed reviews upon its release, with critics describing it as ‘just OK.’ The Guardian criticised the album for being a ‘mixed Gaga outing with some ludicrous highs, questionable digressions, and plenty of not-unpleasant filler.’ Coming on the heels of the massive success of ‘Born This Way,’ which sold over a million copies in its first week and was hailed as a pop masterpiece, the lukewarm reception to ‘ARTPOP’ was disappointing and tarnished the album’s legacy.

The tables began to turn for ARTPOP thanks to Mother Monster herself, who in 2019 took a dagger straight to the heart of Little Monsters everywhere when she logged into X (formerly Twitter) to announce that she ‘didn’t remember ARTPOP’. Off the back of those four words, Little Monsters took it upon themselves to attempt to help Gaga realise that ARTPOP is much better than she may, or may not, remember, and that with the massive success of Born This Way catapulting her to previously unknown levels of stardom, a comedown was almost inevitable.


For ARTPOP, Lady Gaga channelled Andy Warhol by blending pop music aesthetics with fine art. Working with artist Jeff Koons, Gaga became a “Gazing Ball” sculpture for the album’s cover, with the photo later edited to include “The Birth of Venus” with the intention of bringing inaccessible art pieces accessible to all.

Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP campaign launched with the single ‘Applause’ which addressed societal stereotypes surrounding celebrities. Gaga distanced herself from sensationalized headlines and invited listeners to make their own meaning of the album’s tracks. The central thesis of ARTPOP was born from the lyric “One second I’m a Koons / Then suddenly the Koons is me / Pop culture was in art / Now art’s in pop culture in me.” ‘My ARTPOP could mean anything’ Gaga states in the album’s title track, inviting listeners to make their own meaning of the album’s tracks. Yet it’s through ARTPOP that Gaga’s identity and sexuality become so clear, whether that be through the Roman gods that she takes inspiration from on fan favourites such as ‘G.U.Y’ and ‘Venus’, to battling with her experiences with sexual assault on the gritty ‘Swine’ and asserting her dominance with the Marlboro Red-tainted ‘Donatella’ and the sassiness of ‘MANiCURE’.

One of the most intriguing aspects of ARTPOP’s legacy is the infamous planned-but-scrapped Act II, with rumours that rumble thanks to the helping of the album’s producer, DJ White Shadow. Interest in the missing tracks from ARTPOP’s recording sessions is never going away, thanks to several leaks online of fan favourites like ‘Brooklyn Nights’ and ‘Princess Die’ (which Gaga performed at ArtRave, ARTPOP’s neon-doused world tour), and is kept alive by the growing numbers that have signed the petition to Interscope encouraging its release.  

10 years since its release, it feels safe to say that ARTPOP was ahead of its time. Channelling the chaotic energy of hyper-pop before the likes of 100 gecs and Charli XCX had their foot in the door, there may have once been a time in which Gaga told her fans that ARTPOP was made with a ‘tremendous lack of maturity and sense of responsibility’, yet it seems that 10 years later – ARTPOP proves that Gaga has wisdom beyond her years. Whether or not she remembers ARTPOP, it doesn’t appear that Little Monsters will ever forget. 

READ MORE: Behind the campaign to get ARTPOP the respect it deserves