A.P.P.L.A.U.S.E. – spelling out the word makes for a catchy hook, but Lady Gaga’s new song didn’t elicit much at all from me initially, when it hit the airwaves last week. To my mind, this emissary of ARTPOP seemed to be too much of a reprise of what she’s done before; moreover, the arrangements came across like a blunt instrument – and if I am going to applaud, generally I expect the music to entice, not to mug me.
The fanfare around the song I attributed simply to the relief of a Gaga-starved world that something, anything, no matter the quality, was now forthcoming from the singer.
Yet after playing it a couple of times, I had to acknowledge that the lyrics did put some clever lines and flashes of humour on display, registering a modicum of the quirky songwriting one knows from numbers such as “Heavy Metal Lover” even in that initial aural-only version. (Could I possibly have been the only one who thought at first that she was singing about “Kunst” rather than about Jeff Koons?) And when the video made its debut on Monday, I began to see what she’s really up to in “Applause” and was prompted to revise my opinion accordingly. Thus the song had caught up with me, or I with it.
Then a singer and songwriter whom I’ve written about before, the Seattleite known as Wicked Gloves, loaded an appealing remix of the song on his Soundcloud page, and though I did not yet want to stop, collaborate, or – ah, I was listening, I did turn my eye to Youtube in search of a few good versions amongst the host of those which were so rapidly sprouting up there; immediately I came across an instrumental version by a virtuoso on electric guitar in London featured here once before, a musician operating under the moniker of Bealius Octavian (at some point after I wrote about him, unfortunately, his page on Soundcloud ceased to exist), and this stroke of luck decided the matter: I turned to compile a short playlist of covers of the song.
Before long I came across two others which did also elicit my applause and with which I rounded out the playlist. First was a version from a singer in Sydney named Craig Yopp which is full of charm albeit too short – though thus it leaves one wishing for more, much more, a teasing dissatisfaction which, of course, forms a type of hook in its own right; then there was another from London, this one the work of the singer Fynn Farrell, which in its vocal delivery blends rock and soul styles felicitously: so in conjunction with the other, these two triangulate some of the artfulness in the original and make it pop.
(As regards Farrell, some of the comments under his video raise objection to his use of Auto-Tune in the track on which he lays down the chorus. Here I do not intend to delve into the artifice of this technology and shall therefore merely say that in my opinion everything depends on how it is utilised. More important than this generality, however, is that in this particular instance I find there is simply nothing to carp about, and so these petty criticasters will have to live for someone else’s applause than mine.)
Postscript. Just as I was nearly ready to issue this text, it came to my attention that Wicked Gloves’ remix was removed by Soundcloud for alleged violation of copyright. Where would we all be – where would Lady Gaga be, for that matter – if these legal standards, assuming that is even what they are, which may be doubted, were enforced at all strictly and consistently? How much would remain then? Well, I shall let the track stand, as an empty placeholder and a mark of shame for Soundcloud. The only thing that system merits, is reproof.
Second postscript. Instead of four, there are now five rounds of applause, as Ali Brustofski in New York has also come forward with a worthy cover of the song as well, and I’ve amended the playlist accordingly.