Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lady Gaga Explains Away The Critics: Telephone Video Continues to Set Tongues Wagging

Let's face it, at this stage, with nearly 20 million views in less than a week the world and it's dog has probably seen the new Lady Gaga video with Beyonce for Telephone. Predictably it's caused alot of discussion from fevered fans to critics, all of whom have dissected the video in various ways.

For my sins I got locked into a passionate defence of the video with the lovely Una Mullally over on the Panti blog. We've got differing viewpoints on the video and Lady Gaga for sure but it's always fun to compare and contrast them too. Head over there if you can brave the lack of paragraphs (I tried to space them but the blog wouldn't let me. Raging).

There is lots of great further reading to be found elsewhere. Only Words to Play With offers up spirited academic discussion of the ideas in the video, in painstaking detail. Whether or not you agree with all of it (which is always open to debate when it comes to these kind of ideas) it's interesting to read and unsurprisingly has been shared online by Lady Gaga herself.

Vincent Herbert, Gaga's manager, spoke with Advertising Age after the video was released to discuss the level of product placement in the video. It's fascinating to see who did and didn't pay for their inclusion in the video and how many of the placements were not paid for but included as part of ongoing deals (which means that they WERE paid for, just not for this video specifically a nice way of skirting around the issue).

Gaga's own chat with Ryan Seacrest of E! News (who got the first play of the video) is interesting too. There is some very clear attempts by Gaga throughout to discuss and explain her own ideas and also point out Beyonce's reaction to some of them which is entertaining in itself.

The best of the bunch though is Out magazine's interview with Heather Cassils who plays Gaga's lover in the prison exercise yard sequence. Cassil is a performance artist and personal trainer based in California and by her own admission not usually used to appearing in big budget pop videos. She recounts her own experiences on set, including a discussion about gender that herself and Gaga have between takes. It's a fascinating piece and Gaga's own posting of the article suggests her need to make clear her intentions behind Telephone.

It's a bold move and a welcome one when many miss the crucial point of what she is doing. Her work is deliberately referential and part of how mainstream culture borrows from more left field areas. As Cassil points out : Elvis stole from African American music. Everybody's constantly riffing -- Madonna stole voguing from poor, disenfranchised black drag queens in Harlem. This isn't a new concept. I think there's more reverence with regard to Lady Gaga as she's obviously educated herself in her trajectory with visual arts practices and the stuff that she's doing isn't light stuff

Telephone for all it's bluster and flaws and epic ambition has become a sensation, reminding us how the pop video can still be an event and how to maintain interesting in a follow up single from a recently released album (something many big popstars struggle with these days). Whatever your stand point, there is nobody else in the mainstream pop arena attempting a third of what Gaga is doing and it's breathtaking to watch. If you only read one article about this video then make sure it's the Out interview.

And once you've done that, give it another watch (how long before this hits the 100 million mark? Days?)

1 comment:

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