Thursday, December 3, 2009
Shawty, What Yo Name Is? B and GaGa, Obviously: A (Semi-) Defense of 'Video Phone'
I have a confession to make: I can not stop listening to Beyoncé and Lady GaGa's 'Video Phone.' The song is complete shit, I'm not denying that. B is channeling that awkward ghetto chick she whips out for a couple tracks on each album and, no matter how often she tries, it never works. She can be the big balladier, the dancehall diva and the angry and unapologetic B, but even she can't do it all. Then you have GaGa, who is about as "street" and "urban" as Miley Cyrus at a country hoedown, thrown into this madness for no real reason other than to cash in on her enormous popularity (and, possibly, to promote their other collaboration, 'Telephone' from GaGa's Fame Monster, which is being released as a single soon). Add repetitive lyrics that go nowhere and a Titanic-sized five minute runtime and 'Video Phone' is easily one the battiest, downright odd singles Beyoncé has ever released.
But even after admitting all that, I can't quit 'Video Phone.' I am a sucker for the extended and the introductory line: "Shorty, what yo name is?" It makes absolutely no sense (both grammatically and with-in the song) but it's so absolutely strange that I can't help but appreciate it. And what about that crazy-ass beat? The four or so distinct yet completely layered beats sound as out-there as an early Missy Elliott and Timbaland collaboration. It shouldn't work as well as it does, but at times it covers up the lousy lyrics and that's something we can all be grateful for. Lady GaGa won't have a career as an urban artist, however her verse is as decent as the middling song will allow and I think she's having fun trying something new.
Now we have the video to consider. Coming off the stunning masterpieces that were 'Bad Romance,' 'Paparazzi' and the woefully underrated 'Sweet Dreams,' 'Video Phone' doesn't hold a candle to any of them. However, it's not completely dismissible as there are some interesting things going on there. It's almost a complete example of "style over substance,' but I'll be damned if it's not an intriguing style. I love the bold, almost Godardian use of queasily bright colors, which compensates for the rapid-fire, ADD editing scheme, liable to cause small kids in Japan to have seizures. And, speaking of Godard, I love the way they pay homage to his idea that "all you need for a movie is a girl and a gun," with both B and GaGa making interesting use of the candy-colored prop guns. There may be a lot going on in this video and most of it may not be necessary, but I still find it fascinating to watch.
So, while 'Video Phone' may not make any year-end list, it joins 'Send It On' as one of this year's ultimate guilty pleasures. They may both be indefensible as legitimately good pop tunes, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't having fun listening to them over and over again.