Lady Gaga brings a sonic spectacle
Five years can be a long time in pop music, something Lady Gaga probably knows better than most.
This time five years ago her knack of joining sharply realised pop tunes with a bold aesthetic was finally making waves in the US and Europe. She was on the brink of becoming a chart fixture on these shores with the one-two punch of Just Dance and Poker Face, the kind of opening salvo most pop stars would kill for. Since then we've had Bad Romance, the over-the-top message carry-on of Born This Way and a sense of growing fatigue with the parade of outfits and outlandish would-be artistic statements from the young star.
When a hip injury forced Gaga to cancel a chunk of her last tour she took a break from public life, disappearing from social media to recuperate and put the finishing touches to third album ARTPOP.
Back when Born This Way arrived, it came with a huge amount of hype and while it managed to score hits and push her sound further it seemed to alienate the broader audience that had made her a radio fixture in the first place. On ARTPOP there are plenty of failed experiments, from a clattering rap track to some fairly duff lyrical turns.
But there's also big, bold, primary colour choruses that lodge in the brain and some smart production that fuses pop's current dance music obsession with everything from Prince-style funk to a David Bowie stomp.
Lady Gaga still knows how to marry sonic spectacle and pop ideas in a way that suggest she just might work way her back to the top of the pop heap.
She may never outdo the likes of Bad Romance but Lady Gaga's presence as a pop star willing to play with big ideas and deliver cracking tunes will always be welcome. CONOR BEHAN