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“ARTPOP,” Lady Gaga’s third studio album, which is set for release on Monday but already streaming online, is a stunning and welcome reverse of course for the pop star. It packs a punch precisely because its maker didn’t try so hard to do that. She’s still tethered to her outlandish image and to our expectations of her, but when she finally loosens her grip on this album, it’s a marvel to see what’s beneath those gaudy exteriors.
It’s a dance record, for sure, with thumping club beats designed for European discotheques, but there’s also a slackness in some its mid-tempo numbers and subtle expansions of her sonic palette.
Of its 15 songs, more than half of them are exceptional. They work so well because Gaga is in service to losing herself in the music.