Posts Tagged ‘endurance’

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lady gaga & beyoncé – telephone. (video review)

March 14, 2010

At the end of 2009, I rated The Fame Monster at #18 on my year-end album chart.  Although I do stand by that chart and I don’t think I would really change any of the albums that are on there, in hindsight Lady GaGa would actually be somewhere in the Top 10 (possibly quite high up).  I didn’t think so at the time, but the funny thing about The Fame Monster is that it has hidden depths and its songs are actually really enduring.  What’s more, unlike The Fame, the songs are actually about deep topics such as domestic violence (“Dance In The Dark”), intoxication (“So Happy I Could Die”) and poisonous relationships (“Bad Romance”). I find it ironic that I’ve lambasted Lady GaGa for pandering to radio too much with her repetitive nonsense hooks (“p-p-p-poker face / papa-paparazzi / eh eh / ooh la la ga ga ro ma ma” and so on), but now I find myself appreciating her songwriting craft and finding her songs becoming more solid (although The Fame Monster is streets ahead of The Fame, so in a way I’m just acknowledging her artistic progression).  So I apologise somewhat for kinda turning off Lady GaGa and not giving her her due (although her fans / “monsters” are quite off-putting and need to be less militant), although if she could keep off the repetition of nonsensical syllables that would be good.  Because she doesn’t need to do that.

And so we come to “Telephone”.  The song is about suffocating relationships, and Lady GaGa herself has said that it doesn’t just have to be a romantic situation, but could also symbolise the fact that when her telephone rings, it’s always because she has to get back to work in the studio and she can’t escape that.  The song itself is pretty strong, although it’s not as progressive as some of the other songs on The Fame Monster and resorts to the 4/4 beat that has completely oversaturated popular music (and did so about a year and a half ago).  Beyoncé’s feature is a rapid-fire verse over double-time beats and keeps the song interesting.

The video for “Telephone” was released on Friday, and it has become something of a Pop Event.  The hype the video received even before its premiere was immense, and now it’s being hailed by some as the successor to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.  Others however are lambasting it for its apparent sexism and overt lesbianism.  I read in one place that you will remember exactly where you were when you first saw it, and that much is true (at least for me).  I had just returned home from work, it was about 3:30 and after keeping track of the video reviews on Twitter, I decided to give into my curiosity.  Upon the first viewing, I was a tiny bit underwhelmed but could still see the video’s bad and good points (of which my view hasn’t really changed).  I thought that Beyoncé’s appearance far outclassed Lady GaGa, not just because Beyoncé has had some acting lessons but also because Beyoncé is more of an effortless star (not in reality, but she doesn’t look as if she’s trying so hard).  I detested the overt product placement of Virgin Mobile, Chanel & the GaGa earbud headphones – but all the kids are doing it; I just expected Lady GaGa to have more class.  But then why should she? It’s money in the bank, and when your video is 9 and a half minutes long, you need some bank to be able to make that video look and feel effective and powerful.

I’ve rewatched the “Telephone” video a few times now, and each time my estimation of it has gone up.  While not exactly on iconic level (I think it’s far too soon to be throwing that word around; GaGa has only been around for 2 years), it’s another demonstration that Lady GaGa’s commitment to her artistry is strong, defiant and interesting.  The introductory jail scene serves to debunk the rumours of GaGa’s intersex status (duh), allows her to wear a host of outlandish outfits (striped shoulder-padded body suit / yellow police caution tape / super-studded leather jacket and underwear covered in chains) the best of which is undoubtedly the cigarette sunglasses (still smoking!).  The fashion continues with the huge black tricorne hat GaGa sports upon being bailed out of prison; the shredded USA flag (subtle!) clothes in which GaGa and Beyoncé dance in the diner scene; the folded geometric telephone hat and telephone receiver hairdo GaGa wears on her head; the leopardprint body suit à la Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much”; the closing lavender and black body sheets… not all of these ideas work (on a couple of occasions both GaGa and Beyoncé look nothing short of horrendous – for some reason, in the USA flag bikini and bright yellow hair, Lady GaGa reminds me somewhat of Ken from Street Fighter and I can’t shake this association!), but they all capture the viewer’s attention, and more importantly they all leave you with something to say after watching the video.  That’s possibly “Telephone”‘s biggest success – it provokes thought and inspires discussion.  We know this because even the broadsheet newspapers are talking about it.

I stand by my statement that GaGa does seem to be trying awfully hard at being controversial and “artistic”.  She’s made a couple of great videos now, but in view of the numerous costume changes (see above), storylines and scenes, it doesn’t seem to come easily.  For comparison, where better to look than her costar Beyoncé?  For the definition of an iconic music video, look no further than “Single Ladies”; everyone and their mama has seen that video and knows the dance.  The video is in black and white, has no storyline or costumes (other than a leotard and metallic glove), is done in one take and isn’t even an original idea (see Bob Fosse’s choreography on youtube). Most importantly, Beyoncé did it almost as an afterthought to her video for “If I Were A Boy” (which in my opinion is a truly beautiful, excellent video) without breaking a sweat; and yet this is the video that captured everyone’s attention.  Now, of course Beyoncé is not anywhere near as effortless as she appears; but she makes it look easy.  GaGa does not make it look easy, and although it’s admirable that she’s so committed to the symbolism and artistic integrity she conveys (and GaGa is clearly an intelligent and talented woman), I’m scared that because the media and the fans are so interested in her image, her look, and what she’s going to be wearing that they forget that Lady GaGa is actually a singer and a musician – the most important thing should be her music.  Which, as I said at the top, is actually quite good and shouldn’t get lost in all of the surrounding gloss, however layered and substantial that gloss may be.  What happens when Lady GaGa can’t get any crazier?  What about when she wants to strip away all the layers and be more vulnerable and natural?  Will everyone turn away from her then, because they just wanted the fancy clothes and elaborate videos?  Can people not listen to her music, her lyrics without the accompanying visual?  I hope I’m wrong, because if not then that’s pretty sad.

The storyline, just as the lyrics of the song itself, can be interpreted in various ways and I’m not going to get into that here; I think that some of the reviews I’ve read have been hilariously in-depth and I think that GaGa is intelligent enough to play along in pretending to have input heavy symbolism into outfits, storylines and lyrics where there is none; people seem to need to have a meaning to every single thing, whereas I often think that GaGa is just having fun and being crazy.  Which is great!  It’s entertainment.  And the “Telephone” video is certainly entertaining; I hated the product placement, and I don’t feel that the use of the Pussy Wagon was necessary (the Tarantino homages are apparent, with elements of Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction included) – but then that’s just because I find the Pussy Wagon unfeasibly garish.  Which, in Kill Bill, was the point, and I understand that.  I really enjoyed Beyoncé’s homages to the “Paparazzi” video in her poisoning the teacup, Minnie Mouse glasses and hand over her mouth when they censored the swearing.  I loved the Japanese cooking-programme style of “Let’s Make A Sandwich”, and the dialogue between Gaga and Beyoncé was intriguingly half-cheesy, half-hard-boiled (although Beyoncé can somewhat act, and Lady GaGa really can’t – yet).  Tyrese and Beyoncé’s subtitled conversation, spoken with only looks and facial expressions, was genius. The Thelma & Louise-esque ending neatly gave closure to the video, but also made viewers wonder what was in store (that “To Be Continued…”) for next time.

Overall, I thought that the “Telephone” video was excellent, and I’m intrigued to see how the music channels edit it down to song length.  It’s a thrilling watch, and while I’m not going to pretend that it is a perfect video, I think that to compare it to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is unfair; “Thriller” is not even Michael Jackson’s best video by a long shot, and Lady GaGa’s video deserves to stand in its own right.  “Telephone” is furiously entertaining, and shows an artist coming into her own, even if at this point the numerous costume changes and persistent homages, product placements and edgy fashion poses betray an artist not quite comfortable enough in her own skin to exude her artistry naturally.  Once it becomes a little more effortless (as it has for Beyoncé, Madonna and all the other greats), that’s when Lady GaGa will be iconic and symbolic of a new musical generation.  But she’s well on her way, and I hope that the media, fans and public will appreciate that, because I myself am learning to, little by little.

ps. If only my “Bad Romance” video treatment had ended in a jail rather than in a mental institution, it would have led perfectly into the “Telephone” video!  Ah well, can’t win ’em all 😉

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spirit.

December 24, 2009

I never feel I am very good at doing rundowns of the year, because I always manage to miss out some insanely positive event and focus on the negative, or I feel I live too much in the moment to want to dwell on the past.  Likewise, I don’t really bother making New Year’s Resolutions because I don’t really ever feel I have to change anything instantly.  I don’t feel I have anything to give up in my life.  I guess I would like to finally pass my driving test and get a car in 2010, but I’m not going to make it a resolution, I’m just going to try and do it! If that makes sense.

Having said all of that, I feel as we come to the end of 2009 that I’m a lot happier now than I was this time last year. As I’ve said before, this is my first Christmas not working in retail, and in terms of the lack of stress and not having to deal with customers (nor low pay), it’s been bliss!  I’m away from the Perfume Shop and the people who work there, and that can only be a good thing.  What’s more, I’m doing my Careers Guidance course at uni and I finally feel like my life is going somewhere. I have some fantastic friends whom I’ve made this year, and my friendships which have endured for the last few years only continue to grow.  I feel like I’ve discovered more of myself as a person, and although I’m not 100% happy, who is?  I nevertheless recognise the improvement in my life, both in the things that have happened to me and in the evolution of myself as a person.  I hope it continues because I have plenty further to go and a lot more I want to accomplish!  But compared to my despondency about myself and my life at the end of 2008, things are looking up.

In terms of a blast from the past, today I was in town catching up with Hannah and Alex (we still have a lot to talk about!) and enjoying a Christmas coffee.  I treated us all to coffees in Starbucks (because it’s Christmas and I just got paid from the hospital – I think I have had a payrise! 😀 ) and it was just really nice.  Walking around the shops with Hannah, I saw some things I like (including a Juicy Couture iPod touch case.  I don’t have an iPod touch, and the case is hardly masculine in its pastel pink shade, but I want it.) but there was no point in spending money on Christmas Eve when the sales start Boxing Day, yknow?  Walking towards the bus stops at the end of our trip, I walked past Serena, the girl at the Perfume Shop who said that I was a thief, who said that I had bullied her – Hannah saw her first and offered a nice-bitchy comment (“I think she looks fatter?” Bless you girl!!!).  I didn’t really look, though I know she saw me.  I smiled at her, then walked straight past.

Hearing those untrue things said about me really hurt, but I have said my piece to my friends, and I’m over it.  Life goes on, and if they were talking about me 4 months after I had left the shop, then that’s a compliment in a way – I guess I made an impression!  But I’m over feeling mad, upset and angry about it – my life is a lot better now, and part of that is because the girls at the Perfume Shop are not part of it (excluding Henna, whom I see around uni from time to time).  I am in a good place – even if I get down about Mike etc., his friendship has really raised me up and helped me uncover and discover more about myself.  So instead of looking away, or storming past, I just smiled at her and went on my own way.  I’m on a new path, and it’s Christmas – why bother perpetuating any bitterness or regret? If that’s what she wants to do – well, she’s older than me and it’s sad that she doesn’t just move on because she should have more important things in her life.  I certainly have – and I know I’m talking about it now, but I really recognised that it just isn’t worth it anymore to cling onto anger.  I wish most people nothing but the best, and what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.  And I’m not dead yet!

So instead of being cheesy or cliché about Christmas spirit, I just wanted to say that even though this is applicable to any time of year (because hardship happens all year round), there’s nothing better than embracing the positive and letting go of the negative when you’re ready to and you feel you can.  I have a long way to go, but I’ve progressed from before and despite my own personal ups and downs, I’m in a much better place.  More than anything material, more than Juicy Couture iPod cases, that is the best gift I can give to myself this Christmas – allowing myself to be happy and to be proud.  I wish you all nothing but the best, please be proud of yourselves and recognise the good in yourself.  I know that Christmas is about giving to others and family, but we have to take some time to feel good about ourselves too.  We are all deserving of that!  So from the bottom of my heart, have a wonderful Christmas Day tomorrow, however you’re spending it – and take a moment just to look at yourself and appreciate who you are!  Love always. 🙂