by Gina Young
on Mon, Mar 15, 2010 at 4:25 PM
Wow, prison is awesome. Everyone is raging hot, there's no dress code and all it takes to get out of maximum security is Beyonce posting bail.
So begins Telephone, the new "movie" from Lady Gaga and Beyonce. (I mean, they're calling it a movie, but at 9:32 minutes long it's an extended music video or, given that it will be continued, "webisode" might be the more accurate internet parlance.)
I don't fuck with the Facebook, but Judical sent me a link to this video, saying,
...all the homos keep posting it on fb with "OMG" or "HOLY SHIT"... also, "THIS CHANGED MY LIFE" ...tell me what you think.
You know what I think? First off, I think it's really fucking annoying that every Lady Gaga video has built-in commercials for everything from Campari to PlentyOfFish.com. PlentyOfFish.com? I generally don't have a problem with musicians licensing their music to commercials, but really? Product placement in music videos? Maybe this is a "movie" after all.
It's official though: Gaga is the true descendant, true heir to the throne of Madonna. Sorry Britney, Christina and everyone else who fell by the wayside; none of you mastered the Madonnian art of pop subterfuge. The trick is, write lyrics so comparatively tame that the cover band at your cousin's wedding can carry them off with a smarmy smile, then pair them with often completely unrelated imagery that is so freaking scandalous it sends all previous generations into paroxysms. (Unless they've ever watched porn, in which case, meh.)
The lyrics of Telephone are about, like, telling a guy not to call you while you're out at the club. That's all. The video, on the other hand, seems to be about mass murder, prison sex, and the joys of police tape bondage. (One of which, apparently, is deep vein thrombosis.) Gaga gives an excellent if epileptic performance, appearing primarily in Winehouse-face and at 1:10 finally laying her most persistent rumor to rest. (Kelly O, do you love it?)
By the end of the song we've got Beyonce and Gaga dancing in a diner full of people they've poisoned. They're wearing American flag stripper gear and Gaga has blood-evoking red gloves on her fingers. Hmm... there's a message in there somewhere, but what? America has blood on its hands from what we've done to Iraq? School shootings like Columbine are symptomatic of the imminent American social collapse? Gaga and co-writer/director Jonas Akerlund are making a statement or three... but they fail to compel so I'm just gonna watch the first four minutes over and over again.
The video starts off so strong. Even in 2010, there is still something thrilling about seeing depictions of butch women in mass media. (Assuming that it is a butch woman kissing and feeling up cigarette-faced Gaga, in one of her many unbelievably awesome costume choices.) But, like, is Lady Gaga going to come out? Is this kiss an expression of actual desire or are queer women still just a prop to help straight women get ahead with men?
I'm wondering if we ever get an actual lesbian pop star, or just an endless string of t.A.T.u.s and Katy Perrys, Madonna kissing Britneys, spuriousness breeding invisibility. Maybe actual lesbians are just too subversive for the pop world altogether, the same way that queers, as opposed to gays, seem somewhat marketing-resistant.
Regardless, the butch on Gaga kiss is the high point for me, natch. The video devolves from there into a dizzying muddle of mental channel surfing, plagiarizing everything from Thelma & Louise and Kill Bill to video games and sexploitation films of the 60s and 70s.
I like Lady Gaga, though, and here's why: it started for me with that moment in the Lovegame video, on the subway. She thrusts her hand out at the camera at the beginning of the second verse and you actually think, for a second there, that she might rip your testicles off / intestines out / you don't even know. And that's what makes her exciting; there's something unhinged about her. The American public sure does love a sexy psycho. We like being scared. We like being in the hands of a top so confident that we know all we have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride, because with every move she makes, she'll be upping the visual ante. In that respect, Gaga has me completely sold.