Posts Tagged ‘The Fame Monster’

h1

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 😉

Advertisements
h1

lady gaga – bad romance. (video treatment)

February 1, 2010

Lady GaGa’s new album The Fame Monster is an album I took a long time to come around to, but I have finally learned to appreciate its merits and its songcraft a lot more than that of The Fame.  I still think that Lady GaGa is somewhat gimmicky and repetitive, but the talent is evident in the music and I really like even “Speechless” (which I couldn’t stand to listen to for the first couple of months).  Lead single “Bad Romance” may repeat elements of “Poker Face” and “Paparazzi”, but I love the song and there’s a certain cinematic element (I’m talking beyond that of the Hitchcock references in the lyrics).  So when I am listening to / singing along to the songs, I imagine performing it and slowly but surely, a whole storyline began to unfurl in my head – so I thought it would be fun to get that down on this blog for you all so you can get a little taste of how my creative brain works 😉

Intro

Video fades in on an office scene for some sort of Soviet / Eastern-European corporation.  Two very big, very important looking men are sat at a conference table in the centre of the screen having an argument and barking into mobile phones in Russian.  In the back left corner of the screen sits a handsome man behind a desk, wearing a grey designer suit and thick, black-rimmed glasses, reading a set of papers intently.  In the back right corner of the screen sits Me, also in a black designer suit and glasses, typing furiously on a desktop computer.  After an intense conversation, the big-wig sat on the right of the table stands up, clearly frustrated, and walks over to me and barks a string of orders at me.  I stop typing, exasperated, stand up and look my boss dead in the eye.  Without another word, I pick up my Gucci shoulder bag from the floor, take off my glasses (never breaking gaze with my boss), put on a set of huge black Prada sunglasses and walk out of the office – I have apparently quit.  As I walk out, the other secretary-guy looks at me in shock / awe.

Shot of me walking out of a faceless skyscraper, half-running as I hit the street.

Back to office, the other guy frantically grabs his papers, collects his back and runs off after me.  Both of the Russian CEOs look on in shock, then after a beat begin barking into their phones once more as servants bring them tea / vodka / some unidentifiable drink in a steaming clear square glass mug.

Song starts / 1st verse

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh
Caught in a bad romance

Ra Ra-ah-ah-ah
Roma Roma-ma
GaGa
Oh la-la
Want your bad romance

I want your ugly
I want your disease
I want your everything
As long as it’s free
I want your love
Love love love
I want your love

Shot of me walking purposefully down the street as music begins to play.  Cut with shots of my peer trying to catch me up, running after me, dropping papers and having to stoop to pick them up as pedestrians crowd around him.  Slow motion – a tear begins to fall from his eye.  Intercut with me running up the stairs to my flat, getting changed, putting on new clothes: shiny, black, designer, silver jewellery. As I turn around to go out the door, presumably for drinking and dancing, my colleague is there. We look at each other: close up on his face, on my face.  Another tear falls from his eye.  I close my eyes slowly.  He kisses my cheek.  I move my lips to his ear and whisper something.  Fade out…

2nd verse

I want your drama
The touch of your hand
I want your leather studded kiss in the sand
I want your love
Love love love
I want your love

You know that I want you
And you know that I need you
I want it bad
A bad romance

The camera spins around disorientingly to reveal a dark mirrored ceiling, green laser beams shooting here and there, people in various states of undress and sobriety dancing, drinking, shouting, kissing, fumbling, conversing.  Slow motion of a cocktail that contains coke falling on the floor intercut with my colleague / boyfriend standing by a booth, looking anxious.  As the glass hits the floor and the liquid spills out, cut to a scene of me in a bathroom staring hard at the mirror in an accusatory manner.  Close in on my eyes (wearing blue contacts).  I lip synch the words “I want your love”, then strut out of bathroom and grab boyfriend’s hand, who smiles.

1st chorus

I want your love and
I want your revenge
You and me could write a bad romance
I want your love and
All your lover’s revenge
You and me could write a bad romance

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh

Caught in a bad romance
Ra ra-ah-ah-ah

Roma roma-ma
GaGa
Oh la-la
Want your bad romance

We make our way through the club, pushing our way through the crush of people unwilling to give way. Close up on our linked hands, my set lips, his eyes looking to me.  As we walk past, slowly each member of the crowd’s head turns to watch us pass by.  We stumble out of the club into the cool night air, the sky pitch black.  Limousines line the pavement and there is a queue of important looking businessmen, all in shades Karl Lagerfeld-style, all pouting and puffed up in their suits waiting to get into the bar next door to the club we have exited.  As we stumble drunkenly past, laughing and holding onto one another, the camera focuses behind us as one of the businessmen, in an Armani suit and black fur overcoat, leans out of the queue and raises his sunglasses so that his eyes are visible.  He looks in shock, then automatically whips out his iPhone and taps furiously on it.  We go on, laughing deliriously as we smoke our cigarettes and totally oblivious to what has just happened.  The camera cuts back to the man, who raises the phone to his ear, begins to talk, and slides the sunglasses back down to hide his eyes, puffing on a cigar.  Fade out as the screen spins and we wander back into the block of flats where I ran to after quitting my Soviet secretary job.

3rd / 4th verse

I want your horror
I want your design
‘Cuz you’re a criminal
As long as you’re mine
I want your love
Love love love
I want your love

I want your psycho
Your vertigo shtick
Want you in my rear window
Baby you’re sick
I want your love
Love love love
I want your love

Some time appears to have passed.  Back outside the club, same line of limousines, same pitch-black sky, same drunken revellers falling out of the nightclub.  An identical queue of identikit businessmen line the streets waiting for the bar.  A limousine pulls up in front of these businessmen, and the door opens as the man in the fur coat from the queue prior steps out.  From nowhere, paparazzi and a multitude of flashing lights appear as microphones are thrust towards the door of the limousine.  A beat, and then I climb out in skintight black jeans and a leather trenchcoat and dark sunglasses with leather cuffs.  I smile dazzlingly for my entourage as minders, having appeared from nowhere, clear a path through the paparazzi for me.  Freeze frames as flashing lights illuminate me shielding my eyes, signing an autograph, waving to the surrounding crowd.  Behind me, my boyfriend gets out of the car, a serious tight-lipped expression on his face, and he lunges forward and clasps my hand to pull him through the crowd, but I get knocked over and our hands come apart (close-up).  Cut to the VIP section, purple velvet ropes cordoning off us from the rest of the club: within the area is a giant plush black leather sofa in front of a table piled with bottles, cocktails, glasses of unidentifiable substances, a smear of white powder.  Sat on the sofa is me, my boyfriend (sat apart and not engaging in eye contact) and a heavy-set, stoned-looking bodyguard half-asleep.  Businessmen talking into phones mill around while the crowd dances, lights flash and I stare into the distance.  I fumble for a packet of cigarettes and a lighter, and I reach over to whisper in my boyfriend’s ear, but as he is about to respond (a smile flickering across his face), one of the businessmen reaches over and shakes my hand and begins to talk.

2nd chorus

You know that I want you (’Cuz I’m a free bitch baby)
And you know that I need you
I want it bad romance
Your bad romance

I want your love and
I want your revenge
You and me could write a bad romance
I want your love and
All your lover’s revenge
You and me could write a bad romance

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh

Caught in a bad romance
Ra ra-ah-ah-ah

Roma roma-ma
GaGa
Oh la-la
Want your bad romance

Exasperated, my boyfriend gets up and stalks out the back of the VIP area; concerned, I brush aside the businessman and go after him.  Walking to the smoking area, I fumble to light my cigarette as I walk through a walkway framed on either side by barbed wire.  Camera flashes go off continuously, hands clutch excitedly at me through the gaps in the barbed wire; one of them grabs my shoulder and I fall to the ground, dropping my cigarette.  I scrabble around on the ground for it and look up.  The camera pans up from the ground (my line of sight) and a Gucci shoe trails upwards to a shin, knee, leg.  The camera scrolls up to reveal my boyfriend looking down at me.  Close-up of his disapproving gaze.  I gather myself on the ground, a tear forming in my right eye, and begins to roll down my face – the camera does not pull away.  He walks past me as I kneel on the ground, bereft and lost, puffing desperately on my cigarette, and I begin to crumple and cry.  Eventually I go to run after him, but I can barely hold myself upright.

Bridge part 1

Walk walk fashion baby work it
Move that bitch c-razy
Walk walk fashion baby work it
Move that bitch c-razy
Walk walk passion baby work it
I’m a free bitch baby

Hands clutch through the barbed wire as I start to run, and this time the walkway seems to be interminable.  Intercut with footage of me running is a shot of a police car parked stationary; a black police hat, a set smirk on an unidentifiable male face.  From nowhere, policemen rush through the walkway at me, the hands retreat and the camera flashes stop.  Beating me with truncheons, I crumple once again to the ground, my sunglasses and hair askew, my clothes slightly torn.  One of them handcuffs me, and as I lie on the ground, cuffed, hands start to creep back through the wire to grope at me.  Fade out.

Bridge part 2

I want your love
And I want your revenge
I want your love
I don’t wanna be friends

Je veux ton amour
Et je veux ta revenge
Je veux ton amour
I don’t wanna be friends
(Want your bad romance
I want your bad romance)
Want your bad romance!

A television in the corner of a mystery white room flickers on and off with footage showing “Alan has been arrested” ; “Star meltdown” ; “Dumped and detained!” among other headlines.  Close up on my face, clear and almost angelic, mouthing the song lyrics. My eyes are a liquid electric blue, my skin is pale and sunlit.  The camera pans out to reveal that I am in a straight jacket in a white, padded room with just a television in one corner, and a fold-out bed / sofa in the other, all white.

3rd Chorus

I want your love and
I want your revenge
You and me could write a bad romance
I want your love and
All your lover’s revenge
You and me could write a bad romance

Caught in a bad romance

Grief-stricken, I throw myself around the padded room, bouncing off walls, pounding the floor, tearing stuffing out of the pillow with my fingernails.  The camera retreats further back to show the room with a giant glass window looking in; doctors pace outside tapping pens against clipboards, looking unconcerned and business-as-usual. Tears roll down my face as I sing pleadingly into camera.  At the phrase “Caught in a bad romance”, the music stops, and all that can be heard is the sound of my breathing as I look full-face out of the screen.  The camera switches to my view, and outside the cell stands my ex-boyfriend, looking in at me.  A smile of sympathy plays across his lips, and at the same moment we press our hands together, regretfully, against the glass.  A doctor then comes and escorts him away, and I follow his gaze as he is shepherded down the corridor, looking back at me.  The camera zooms out further to show that in the two cells either side of mine are the two Soviet big henchmen from the intro office scene, barking Russian into their phones just as they were in the office.  The whole scene fades out to white…

h1

Top 20 albums of 2009.

December 25, 2009

Hello everyone, and Merry Christmas!  I have compiled (and it was startlingly easy) my top 20 albums of 2009 (if you know me, you know it’ll be an R&B female-dominated affair as usual!).  Unlike last year, when I listed 10 and did mini reviews, this time I’ve got 20 (since my shortlist came to 20 albums, I thought it would just be easier to rank 11-20, than pick out some for Honourable Mentions).  No mini-reviews, or I would be here forever, and I think my blog posts are long enough without breaking the 5000 word barrier!  So I’ve just put the best and worst tracks from each album with the album cover, and hopefully you’ll be intrigued to download my favourite songs of 2009.  And while you’re at it, you can download my own album, Quiet Storm, here too! So without further ado…

20. Utada HikaruThis Is The One (read my full review here!)

Highlights = Come Back To Me, Apple And Cinnamon, This One (Crying Like A Child), On And On

Skip = Automatic Part II, Poppin’

19. Electrik RedHow To Be A Lady Volume 1

Highlights = Muah, P Is For Power, W.F.Y., Drink In My Cup, Kill Bill

Skip = So Good, Friend Lover, On Point

18. Lady GaGaThe Fame Monster

Highlights = Bad Romance, Alejandro, Monster, Teeth

Skip = Speechless, So Happy I Could Die

17. Joss StoneColour Me Free!

Highlights = Could Have Been You, Stalemate, Girlfriend On Demand

Skip = Incredible, Parallel Lines, Governmentalist

16. Cheryl Cole3 Words

Highlights = 3 Words, Parachute, Heaven, Fight For This Love, Boy Like You

Skip = everything else!

15. Chrisette MicheleEpiphany

Highlights = Blame It On Me, Epiphany (I’m Leaving), Notebook, On My Own

Skip = What You Do, Another One, Mr. Right

14. Nicki Minaj – Beam Me Up Scotty

Highlights = I Get Crazy, Kill Da DJ, Mind On My Money, Keys Under Palm Trees, Beam Me Up Scotty

Skip = Best I Ever Had, Easy

13. MýaBeauty & The Streets Vol. 1

Highlights = About My B.I., Show Me Something, Boss, Club Go Crazy, Work It Out, Black Out

Skip = Go Hard Or Go Home, The Only One, Full Service

12. Robin ThickeSex Therapy

Highlights = Sex Therapy, Meiplé, Shakin’ It For Daddy, Elevatas, Make U Love Me

Skip = Million Dolla Baby, I Got U, Mona Lisa

11. Alicia KeysThe Element Of Freedom (read my full review here!)

Highlights = Doesn’t Mean Anything, Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart, Love Is My Disease, Distance And Time, Empire State Of Mind (Part II)

Skip = Love Is Blind, Wait Til You See My Smile, Like The Sea, This Bed

10. The-DreamLove vs Money

Highlights = My Love, Take U Home 2 My Mama, Fancy, Right Side Of My Brain

Skip = Walkin’ On The Moon, Sweat It Out, Love vs Money, Let Me See The Booty

9. Keri HilsonIn A Perfect World…

Highlights = Turnin’ Me On, Get Your Money Up, Knock You Down, Make Love, Energy, Where Did He Go

Skip = Intuition, Slow Dance, How Does it Feel

8. Black Eyed Peas The E.N.D.

Highlights = Boom Boom Pow, Rock That Body, Imma Be, Electric City, Mare

Skip = Alive, Missing You, Rockin To The Beat

7. ShakiraShe Wolf (read my full review here!)

Highlights = Did It Again, Why Wait, Men In This Town, Mon Amour

Skip = Gypsy, Spy

6. Trey SongzReady

Highlights = I Invented Sex, I Need A Girl, LOL :-), Black Roses, Yo Side Of The Bed

Skip = Jupiter Love, Does He Do It, Be Where You Are

5. AmerieIn Love & War

Highlights = Heard ‘Em All, Higher, Swag Back, Different People, Dear John

Skip = Tell Me You Love Me, Red Eye, Pretty Brown

4. LeToyaLady Love (read my full review here!)

Highlights = She Ain’t Got…, Not Anymore, Good To Me, Regret, I Need A U, Don’t Need You

Skip = Take Away Love, After Party, Tears

3. CiaraFantasy Ride (read my full review here!)

Highlights = High Price, Like A Surgeon, Never Ever, Work, Keep Dancin’ On Me, I Don’t Remember

Skip = Ciara To The Stage, Love Sex Magic, Lover’s Thing

2. RihannaRated R (read my full review here!)

Highlights = Hard, Russian Roulette (check out my single review here!), Fire Bomb, Rude Boy, G4L, The Last Song

Skip = Rockstar 101

1. Mariah CareyMemoirs Of An Imperfect Angel (read my full review here!)

Highlights = H.A.T.E.U., Ribbon, Angels Cry, I Want To Know What Love Is, Candy Bling

Skip = It’s A Wrap