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Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024
The Observer

Video Phone and "Telephone:" Why I Expected More from Beyonce and Lady Gaga

Pop music finds a new favorite artist every other month, as if "disposable" were a requirement for hit songs. Tracing back to pop culture, sometimes defined by the continuous need for renewal, it's interesting to look at pop music as a byproduct of this phenomenon. Suddenly, it all makes sense: the 15 minutes of fame, one hit wonders, complete change of style, music and personality for the sake of "revival," etc. That considered, I love pop music in the most superficial way possible — because that's what pop music requires: superficial and short lived adoration of superficial, disposable music. This is not to say that the superficial and temporary nature of our music culture is praiseworthy, but it is a consequence of its time.
There are, however, those artists that have managed to maintain a steady and successful career for years even in the least favorable industries. Madonna is the obvious one, and perhaps headed down a similar path is Beyoncé. Making sure to keep her personal life kept quiet and away from scandals, Beyoncé relies on her style and her talent to create both mass appealing hits (such as my personal favorite, "Single Ladies") and her preferred R&B songs. After leaving Destiny's Child, Beyoncé went on to earn a total of 13 Grammys, and in 2008, she broke the record for most Grammys won by a female artist in one night (she won six).
On the other end of the pop music spectrum is Lady Gaga. After the party favorite "Just Dance," Lady Gaga has hit it off yet again with "Bad Romance." Her music isn't necessarily mind blowing, but it's catchy and danceable, fun and disposable. Perfectly pop. And to complete this musical style comes an artist unlike anyone we've really seen before, who makes even a walk in the park an outrageous fashion statement. Does anyone even know what she really looks like?
Either way, both Gaga and Beyoncé have managed, each in their own way, to get their names at the top of the list for today's favorite pop artists. Both have completely different and unique styles and know how to incorporate this style into their music and their videos. So what happens when these two stars unite? I expected a glorious pop collaboration, crazy, groundbreaking and magnificent. Their vastly different styles, although potentially disastrous, could also mean an epic mix of R&B with electro-pop. Almost as upsetting as "Me Against the Music" (Madonna and Britney), is "Video Phone" (Beyoncé ft. Lady Gaga) where we see Gaga completely stripped of her element in a highly Beyoncé-ified video, singing about making a film of questionable material on a cell phone. Not that lyrics have always been a forte of either Beyoncé or Lady Gaga, but this isn't just ordinarily redundant, it's a bit degrading. Opinions aside, it's just another pop song.
Alas! Lady Gaga and Beyoncé meet again. At first when I heard people talk about "Telephone," I thought they were talking about "Video Phone," because honestly, how much is there to say about phones? And, in my opinion, the result of this second encounter is much worse than the first. Perhaps this is because it emerged almost as a sequel to an already lame song, but then comes the video. Not only is the video outrageous, it has nothing to do with the song and it is just all around plain upsetting. I'm all for superficial music if it makes a little bit of sense, if it's kind of clever, but "and I am sick and tired of my phone ringing, sometimes I feel like I live in Grand Central Station" is a little too empty minded for my taste.
Gaga and Beyoncé — it was a recipe for something remarkable. I hoped for remarkably awesome, but it was not meant to be and the outcome was nothing short of disappointing. Yet, once was not enough and the second time was even worse. I wonder if it was naïve of me to expect something good to come out of pop music in the first place, but who knows, maybe next time?