Posts Tagged ‘Shania Twain’

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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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easy to get.

July 14, 2009

When my friends would ask me for dating and relationship advice, one of my steadfast rules would always be to play hard to get.  Along with not going all the way on the first night, and meeting in a public place, I would always recommend playing hard to get because it makes you more tantalising to the other person.  Why shouldn’t you be chased a little bit?  And if they don’t make a little bit of effort in pursuing you, they’re probably not worth it.

That’s what I would say, anyway.  But of course it’s so much easier when you’re the person giving the advice than when it’s your turn to follow that advice.  There are two problems that I currently have with playing hard to get.  1) If you play hard to get and act like you don’t care (ice king / queen was always a good thing to me), they may also be playing hard to get and you end up drifting apart. Or they might end up thinking you genuinely aren’t interested and don’t care, which triggers unfortunate backpedalling on your part that comes across ultimately as a little desperate.  2) This time, I don’t even seem to want to play hard to get.

Call it laziness, call it hypocritical. But I’ve been talking to this guy for a few days now and it feels like we are fully into the flirting stage.  We already had some potentially awkward conversations about sex, relationships, family, jobs, money… and those have more or less been navigated without a hitch.  The fact that he is able to converse with me in a full and sensible way, without waiting around for me or texting me constantly suggests that he is both balanced and has a brain (which puts him above 80% of the people whom I have met in a potential dating capacity… usually the potential is not capitalised upon).  He’s attractive (take my word for it).  He is definitely who he says he is, and he knows that I am who I say I am.  We both seem to admit to having our flaws.  I don’t detect any hint of fakeness so far, we don’t agree on absolutely everything but we have a fair amount in common, which is realistic I guess.

And so I’ve spent the last 3 or 4 nights talking to him until 2am, which is something I only usually do with my closest friends.  I’m under no illusions that I haven’t even met him in person yet, so this can quite feasibly all come crashing down if we don’t mesh as well in person as we do online. But I’m also aware that it’s been a long time since the portents were so promising… we’ve grown to flirt a lot, and we talked about things I am not going to mention in polite company (that’s you, dear reader) and he ended the conversation with that kiss emoticon thing, and my “mwah” in response.  He was going to have a shower, he was going to watch a film and he ended up speaking to me the whole night and putting aside his other plans.

The best part of it (well, all the parts are good really) is that we were trading youtube videos of songs and apart from them pretty much all being romantic in nature (I slipped in Janet Jackson’s Warmth at the end because I am a tease and that is the part about you being polite company and that’s all I’m going to say about it at this point 😛 ), we have the same taste.  This is such a rarity, I am honestly over the moon!  We diverge on a couple of things (he played me this dance chipmunk version of Belinda Carlisle’s “Summer Rain” which was atrocious, but sorta funny; for some reason he is not into Ciara that much) but generally we agree.  Here are a couple of the things he played me:

And here are some of the things I played him:

See what I mean? All sexy and romantic songs… I recommend listening to the ones that I chose in particular (hahahahaha!). 😉

Usually with my friends I end up drawing them to my music taste (I got both of my best friends to fall in love with Danity Kane), but in this case it may not even be necessary, as long as I don’t hear any more chipmunk music. I know I’ve inspired two of his msn usernames in the past day, and I’m even prepared to go back to this atrocious club I swore I’d never set foot in again, only because that’s where he fancies going.  Hard to get has more or less gone straight out of the window, and I know that I need to be careful but at the same time we still get on with our own lives.  Like I literally just spoke to him now (as I was writing this) and we had a brief conversation (he is redecorating his room) and then he was just like “Gotta go / have a good day / xx”.  The “xx” is very important (you shouldn’t need me to tell you!) but I find it so refreshing that he makes the effort, but still has his own life.  Like I said, it’s about having a balance I think, and I find it reassuring that we haven’t fallen head over heels for each other, because that would be a bit unrealistic and dangerous at this point.  If you asked me, I would still recommend playing hard to get and not being available the whole time, because I believe that normally that is the best approach (hypocrite alert! I know, I know). But at the same time, it’s nice to have someone to flirt with, something that looks so genuinely positive, and even if my policy of hard to get is going out of the window on this occasion, at least I’m having fun.