Strong female pop stars are few and far between, and the women who make it to the upper rungs of stardom are often hated as much as loved. With MILEY CYRUS doing something every fifteen minutes to prove she’s sexy and “alternative,” when a singer like ANNA CALVI can get shortlisted for the Mercury Prize despite the “wow, a girl who plays guitar” factor, and when punkers BLEACHED can hold their own in a scene dominated by Neanderthal male-centric values, then comes the time that we must simultaneously analyze two recently released albums. M.I.A.‘s Matangi and LADY GAGA‘s ARTPOP have been out for a few weeks, and both albums from these icons deserve some attention. What we want to provide you with is convenient run-down of both albums, with ample cross-referencing. So pull out your glitter body paint, put down your Tamil TigerBeat Weekly, and let’s look at what these two fine young women have contributed to our cultural plate. Fans have waited for new albums from these two extraordinary artists; it’s pretty clear that the expectations were high. Question is: do the albums satisfy?
M.I.A. takes an Oriental trip filled with hip hop beats and in-your-face rap, while LADY GAGA puts down another club-driven, bass-slamming show for her audience. There are plenty of similarities. Both albums have several one-word song titles: ARTPOP has Swine, Donatella, Fashion!, Dope, Gypsy, and Matangi has Warriors, Karmageddon, Exodus and Sexodus. Both albums have some acronym-titled tracks: G. U. Y. S on ARTPOP and Y. A. L. A. on Matangi. Both women are interested in getting to the point. M.I.A. is political and accusatory on her album, probing deeper a variety of themes, while GAGA sings about wanting to wear Versace this spring. With a pop phenomenon like LADY GAGA this is not an issue: nobody is really interested in her music anymore, but in the way it will be presented in her videos, on stage and in her total insane costumes. Fans will be satisfied again with her work and critics will fail to see an artistic edge to it.
The concepts of these two pop stars couldn’t be more different, but both are deified, in a way: Matangi is the Hindu goddess of music (and the real name of the English-Sri Lankan M.I.A.). Getting inspired by Indian culture, M.I.A. produced a rebellious feministic Bollywood soundtrack. LADY GAGA makes clear her intention in the lyrics to the title track of her album: “Artpop could be anything.” Her themes are sex, fashion and her own persona, presented in an electronic dance musical
Both women provoke with their lyrics, songs and lifestyles: explicit content is written in capital letters here, with sexual innuendoes served up almost every song. It’s like a wild run through a jungle full of drums and over-produced beats with Matangi, while LADY GAGA‘s dance-club pop wants to show off her success and power.
M.I.A. and GAGA clearly don’t care for critic’s opinions. They want to push boundaries in pop music. Maybe they’re trying to hard, maybe they’re doing exactly the right thing. ARTPOP and Matangi are two records you’ll either accept as an artistic work or mainstream major label pop drivel. But in the end, M.I.A. proved once again she’s different than other female pop stars and LADY GAGA does the usual to get the applause she needs.
Written by Kika Jonsson and Kai Hermann