As the first two women to join the SPJ line-up, Zoe and Ellen are conscious that their take on the cultural trends of the moment may be slightly different from that of their esteemed counterparts. (Just like Eve in the Ruff Ryders, only Midwestern and with slightly different tattoos.) Lady Bits is their collaborative pop culture soapbox and dissection theater.
In this premiere edition, Zoe and Ellen become the last people on the Internet to weigh in on the Lady Gaga-Beyoncé event video “Telephone.”
Zoe: I feel like I should mention something right off the bat, which is that while I adore pop music, I abhor the sort of thing that is meant to be read as “edgy” but that is actually sort of boring, at least to me. Like, I get that Gaga is all about shock! and fashion! and queers! but it just seems like, slow down lady, you might be trying to hard. I don’t need to be beaten over the head with the message. I’m not saying it doesn’t shock anyone, I am just saying those people are Midwestern parents and they don’t really use YouTube anyways.
But that’s who Gaga is, I suppose. Meanwhile, I can’t help but feel that Beyonce must have felt super awkward the whole time, because absolutely none of that is her bag.
Ellen: I have to say I agree with you about the shock value for shock value’s sake, and that’s probably the main reason I didn’t listen to much Gaga until this past fall when my gym started putting her songs on repeat. I think they’re catchy if not groundbreaking, and if you listen to several of them at once (say, at a bar that does that sort of thing) they tend to unspool into one long “We’re beautiful, dirty and rich at this club just dancing” single.
It’s funny that you mention Beyoncé because not only is she stranded in the World of Gaga, we don’t even get to see both of them dance together until several minutes into this clip. It’s like the diner scene in “Heat” for pop music fans! Then again, we have already seen Beyoncé’s world thanks to the video she and Gaga did for her song “Video Phone,” which reverses several characteristics of this one: There’s no plot, most of the running time is devoted to dancing and the lyrics stress the availability of the singer. (But they both owe royalties to Quentin Tarantino.)
“Telephone” the song isn’t catchy but I guess that is beside the point; there’s an unauthorized video edit going around of just the song and none of the plot around it, which can help your short attention span but emphasizes how much like every other Gaga song it is. But it’s been a while since an “event” music video, if my old brain is remembering properly. Is there even any point to a nearly-10-minute music video when hardly any channels show them and online viewers are unlikely to sit all the way through? My edit, for example, would consist solely of the “Let’s Make A Sandwich” sequence.
Zoe: See, I actually like the actual song because, well, I like pop music and my roommates play it and it’s fun to dance to and it’s catchy. I generally have no greater reasons than that for my musical taste, so that’s not the greatest defense in the world. I’m just saying, I have no qualms with the song as is. I have qualms with excessively long videos that make me not be able to listen to said song, and that also seem to be more about “shiny shiny scene cut shiny!” than even the vaguest of plots.
I mean, the majority of my music video watching happened in the mid 90s and the early 00s, which were very different eras. I mean, sure, Hype Williams style videos dominated the 90s scene, but people seem to forget that they were also plot heavy. There’s a Biggie video that’s about seven minutes long and includes a helicopter chase that—hand to God—was remixed at some point. But that’s the thing—they made a coherent product first and then made it extra long, tacking on plot as opposed to throwing ideas at the wall. What I am saying is: I could not agree with your “Let’s Make a Sandwich” idea more.
Of course, part of the reason people stopped making those videos is that they largely confirmed what we already knew: rappers and singers do not great actors make. And while I’ve seen a lot of heat on Beyonce for her (admittedly) terrible acting in this video, I see less on Gaga. Which: are we watching the same video? I know that Gaga’s style is inherently more mannered because we need to draw attention to the artifice because we’re artistes, but it’s still atrocious and at least Beyonce brings it with the dancing which…Gaga does less so.
As to your point about what channel would show this: none, but I don’t think it was ever intended to be shown anywhere but the internet. Which is why the world premiere happened on YouTube and not…whatever show MTV uses to show 30 seconds of videos these days. The internet is far more important and Gaga is nothing is not an excellent marketer.
Ellen: It’s funny that you mention Hype Williams because he directed the “Video Phone” video, although it doesn’t have a story beyond “Beyonce and Lady Gaga are hot and like to dance!” I vaguely remember that helicopter moment, though, from back when (not to beat this drum any harder) we all watched music videos on TV because there wasn’t any other way to see them.
You are correct that Gaga can’t act, and the idea of her “playing” a character is not so much artifice is that she appears to be widening her eyes in Drew Barrymore-style emoting and it’s not a great look. For more in substandard Gaga acting, I suggest the very early-’90s-looking video for “Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say).” I found her much more watchable in “Bad Romance,” and just to cut into your defense of pop music, I have to say I don’t hate all of it, but find that song much catchier than “Telephone.” The dancing in its video is also not the greatest, very knock-off Britney at best, but between the paper-mache eggs and the hoof shoes and that final shot of the charred skeleton, I was thoroughly entertained.
Sure, it’s Pretentious, but I vastly prefer it to Shocking Prison Lady Romance, about which: Really? In 2010, we’re looking for something shocking, and it’s girl-on-girl prison action? I expected more from La Gaga, and that she continues to bring up the vagueness of her and Beyonce’s “characters’” relationship in the video in interviews suggests to me that she believes this was an edgy direction in which to go. I realize we live in a world where Adam Lambert still shocks people, but this felt like a very male-gaze-oriented cliche.
Zoe: It’s funny, because I feel like a lot of the core Gaga supporters are, like, well educated in film theory people (such as a friend of mine, who made very smart references to German cinema re: this video that I am less able to counter). And that makes me wonder two things: if I was less of a TV person, would I like this more? And: what does the general pop music loving public think about this? I mean, I can read blogs about it until the cows come home, but I would love to go to a mall and ask some 15 year old girls what they think about this, because maybe it is just edgy and shocking enough for them. Maybe it’s the exact kind of not-so-edgy-or-shocking that appeals to slightly angsty teenagers? Which isn’t bad at all! I mean, isn’t that where many great musical acts core audience comes from? But that’s a harder group to find out about, because they use Tumblr or something.