Multi-platinum selling diva Lady Gaga is fighting to keep her 'Queen of Pop' crown with a hotly-anticipated third album, but early reception in the US and Britain has been lukewarm.
"Artpop" signals a return to the limelight for Stefani Germanotta -- known as Lady Gaga on stage and in video -- after she was forced to tone down her usually ubiquitous media presence to undergo hip surgery.
"For ArtPop, in a symbolic way, I've put myself in front of a mirror, I've taken off my clothes, then the makeup, then the wigs, I've dressed myself with a black jumpsuit and I've told myself: 'Now, you have to prove you can be brilliant without all that'", Lady Gaga told the magazine Grazia.
Even before its official release next week, "Artpop" has been making the headlines.
The 27-year-old New Yorker, who established her reputation on chart-topping songs and surrounded herself with a constant media buzz, streamed the new album this week after it was leaked.
The artist also hinted at an out-of-this-world publicity splash for the album's official launch -- a concert in space.
The US Weekly magazine reported that Lady Gaga plans to undergo a month of special vocal training to perform in early 2015 aboard the Virgin Galactic, the passenger spaceplane being launched by British billionaire Richard Branson to popularise space tourism.
While the third album suggest Lady Gaga's increasing artistic ambitions, critics in Britain and the US are not so convinced.
"The intention of the album was to put art culture into pop music, a reverse of Warhol. Instead of putting pop onto the canvas, we wanted to put the art onto the soup can," Lady Gaga said in an interview in Britain's Daily Mail.
Lady Gaga has collaborated with a number of world famous contemporary artists, including Jeff Koons for the album's artwork, showing her as a post-modern Botticellian Venus.
But on a first hearing "Artpop" returns to familiar themes -- desire, sex, drugs, identity, celebrity, fashion, creativity -- and sounds more like Lady Gaga's previous albums "The Fame" and "Born this way" than it does a totally new musical experiment.
"There's certainly some decent pop on Lady Gaga's new album -- but the 'art' part is rather harder to discern", said the British newspaper The Guardian.
The verdict was echoed across the Atlantic.
"Lady Gaga's latest extravagant exploration of her own fame, fabulousness and fearlessness is undeniably relentless, but that doesn't mean it's consistently entertaining," said USA Today.
"Musically, it's as big and bold, unpredictable and diverse as Gaga herself with enough hooks and ABBA-esque choruses to keep any pop fan smiling through Christmas and beyond," said the online Huffington Post.
"If Gaga wants to be taken seriously as an 'artist' (like all the arty farty posturing and avant garde styling would suggest) then she really needs to spend more than five minutes jotting down the first rhyming couplets that spring to her mind."