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Telephone
Date Aired
May 29th, 2010
Running Time
14:31
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Todd plays "Telephone" on his piano.

LADY GAGA ft. BEYONCE - "TELEPHONE"
A pop song review


Todd: About ten years ago, the biggest pop star in the world was...

Video for "Baby One More Time" by...

Todd (VO): ...Britney Spears, and I picked up pretty quickly on the fact that the whole Britney phenomenon had very, very little to do with music, even compared to most other pop stars. But all the same, I always thought it'd be cool if it turned out that she was actually really musically talented. Maybe she's turned into a really great songwriter. Maybe she could play a killer bass guitar solo.

Todd: That obviously never happened. But eventually we did a Britney-level pop star...

Video of Lady Gaga playing "Poker Face" on keyboard in a studio

Todd (VO): ...who actually was willing and able to prove that she had tons of musical talent. Her name was Gaga.

Todd: I have mixed feelings about this.

Video for "Bad Romance"

Todd (VO): Quite frankly, I'm kinda sick of talking about her. The way she's come to dominate the conversation of current pop music in such a short amount of time is a little disturbing, quite honestly.

Todd: Now I myself have already done a very detailed and thoughtful analysis of her last single, "Bad Romance"...

Todd (from review of "Bad Romance"): DAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Todd: ...and I also named "Just Dance" my favorite pop song of 2009.

Todd (from Top 11 Best Hit Songs of 2009): Pray for my soul.

Todd: But still, I've never really bought into her completely.

Video for "Poker Face"

Todd (VO): Part of me resents the idea that she's the pop star that it's safe to like, and I don't mean "safe" in that she's less likely to devour you, that way. I mean that I resent the way that a veneer of post-modernism has given her cover for musical credibility when she's really not doing anything all that different from Gwen Stefani or Fergie. She undeniably puts more effort into her image than her music.

Todd: Now I have taken a listen to her latest album, and after listening to it, I do take her seriously as an artist, as a songwriter, but there's still always been something that's kept me from fully appreciating her. Just something...

Gaga: 'Cause I'm bluffin' with my muffin

Todd: Something...

Gaga: [in video for "LoveGame"] I wanna take a ride on your disco stick

Todd: Something I can't put my finger on...

Gaga: [in video for "Bad Romance"] Rah-rah ah-ah-ah, roma-roma-mah

Todd: Yeah. Now because of her vast and wide-reaching influence, she immediately made waves with her latest release, so now I pretty much have no choice but to take a look at "Telephone"...

Video for "Telephone" begins

Todd (VO): ...an okay song and a career-worst video for Ms. Gaga.

Todd: Truly not since late-period Michael Jackson have we seen such an epic spectacle of bloated catastrophe. Let's begin.

Gaga walks into prison

Todd (VO): We begin the video with Gaga being thrown in prison, presumably for [clips from the following videos...] killing her boyfriend at the end of "Paparazzi" or possibly for spontaneously combusting that guy in "Bad Romance," or maybe for writing the line "got my ass squeezed by sexy cupid" in "LoveGame."

Gaga: It's complicated and stupid
Got my ass squeezed by sexy cupid

Todd: Yeesh.

Todd (VO): [Video shows opening credits and following action] Now, because Gaga is gonna take her sweet time, we've got about three full minutes of meaningless setup to get through before we get to any actual music. So in the meantime, Gaga will spend this video, oh let's see, getting thrown into a women's prison, being stripped naked, making out with another woman...

Todd: And boy, oh boy, oh boy, I can't tell you how not turned on I am by any of this.

Todd (VO): Truly Lady Gaga has mastered the art of being sexual without being even remotely sexy, a skill that Madonna didn't develop till the 90s, for the record. And it is this bizarre mix of sexy and unsexy which has led to the tedious, unfunny, and completely justified rumors that she's somehow secretly a man. Fortunately Gaga deals with these ugly insinuations with her trademark subtlety and tact.

Gaga, with tape over nipples and blurred vag, climbs cell door after guards leave
Prison Guard: I told you she didn't have a dick.

Todd (VO): If that's true, why does it feel like she just tried to teabag me?

Todd: I don't know what to make of her refusal to be conventionally attractive.

Gaga in holding cell, where a fight breaks out

Todd (VO): Is it some kind of feminist statement? Post-feminist statement? Post-statement statement? I don't know. All I know is that I am totally not interested and I'm starting to get impatient.

Gaga: [on phone and finally singing] Hello, hello baby, you called...

Todd (VO): Geez, finally. At this point, we're gonna have to talk about the song and the video as separate entities because that's exactly what they are. The video has demonstrably nothing to do with the song.

Todd: And that's not surprising considering that it would be very, very difficult to get the kind of epicness you'd expect from a Lady Gaga video out of the song's actual subject matter.

Gaga: Hello, hello, baby, you called?
I can't hear a thing
I have got no service
In the club, you see-see

Todd: Alright, the actual lyrical content concerns Gaga trying to dance at a club, but she keeps getting interrupted by a guy who keeps calling her.

Gaga: ...kinda busy
K-kinda busy
K-kinda busy

Todd (VO): And I'll tell you right now, this is a flimsy, flimsy premise for a song.

Gaga: Stop callin' stop callin'
I don't wanna talk anymore

Todd: [holding phone] Oh no, this guy keeps calling me. Ah... What can I do about this world-ending calamity of an issue? Oh, it's so awful, it's just so terrible. [Holds phone to microphone as it shuts off] Turn the phone off!

Todd (VO): It's that easy. I mean, the song is not that bad. I don't have anything against it, but every time I listen to it, I keep feeling like I'm listening to something along the lines of...

Todd: [playing lively jig] Got an itchy leg
Got an itchy leg
Oh what an itch on my leg, leg, leg
It's an itchy itchy itch
On my leg leg leg
What can I do about this itch on my leg
It's an itch on...

SCRATCH YOUR LEG, YOU IDIOT! Stop singing, scratch your leg.

Todd (VO): But I'm not gonna sit here and pretend I don't know why this song is what it is. In fact, it gets a lot clearer once you realize that in the past year, we've had [Clips of Soulja Boy ft. Sammie - "Kiss Me Thru the Phone"...] a love song...

Sammie: Kiss me thru the phone

Todd (VO): ...about phones, a [Beyonce ft. Lady Gaga - "Video Phone"] sex song...

Beyonce: Video phone

Todd (VO): ...about phones, [...and back to "Telephone] and now a club song about phones.

Todd: Why the sudden increase in phone-related songs? I'll tell you why.

Clip of "Weird Al" Yankovic - ...
Weird Al: Ringtone!

Todd: Ringtones. This song is entirely a mercenary exercise in selling ringtones, AKA, the only way the music industry makes any money anymore. So I guess that puts all that artsy pretension into perspective, now doesn't it?

Gaga: Just a second, it's my favorite song they're gonna play
And I cannot text you with a drink in my hand, eh?

Todd: Then put the drink down.

Todd (VO): Is this really this difficult? I mean, I... don't go to a lot of nightclubs, but I assume they have, you know, a table or a bar or something. Is this really, really worth writing a song about?

Gaga: Stop telephonin' me
I'm busy

Todd: Right. Now, as a dedicated popologist, I have made the following scientific observation—Lady Gaga does not like using words and will avoid them whenever possible.

Clips from various Gaga videos, including "Telephone," where she is not saying any real word in particular

Todd: Soon, she will communicate only in her own made-up alien space language, and we will be the stupid ones for not understanding it. I feel like there was something else I didn't like about this song, something...something...oh, right.

Beyonce: Boy, the way you blowing up my phone...

Todd (VO): They only gave Beyonce a four-line guest verse in "Telephone," but that's all she needs to take whatever momentum this song had and slam in into a brick wall. The beat turns into a big galumphing elephant and Beyonce does her best to beat the living crud out of the song until it's unrecognizable.

Todd: You know, at least Lady Gaga is polite to her gentleman caller. Beyonce clearly wants to destroy this man for the unforgivable crime of calling her while she's dancing.

Beyonce: I should've left my phone at home
'Cause this is a disaster

Todd: A disaster indeed. And this goes back to what I was saying earlier. A disaster? Really? Calm down. [Shows image of a ravaged city] This is a disaster; [Picture of walking phone with trumpet and bell] that is not. And I don't know if this is nitpicking or what, but it actually does legitimately bug the crap out of me...

Todd (VO): ...that she rhymes "faster" with "faster," and then with faster.

Beyonce: Put my coat on faster
Clip from Fantastic Mr. Fox
Franklin Bean: That's just weak songwriting. You wrote a bad song, Petey.

Todd (VO): Alright, stepping back a bit into the plot of the video...

Todd: Well, plot is probably not the right word, but stepping back into the video...

Todd (VO): ...Beyonce springs Gaga out on bail.

Gaga dances quick and gets into Beyonce's truck.
Beyonce: You've been a very bad girl. A very, very bad, bad girl, Gaga.

Todd: You've been a very bad actress, Beyonce.

Todd (VO): Okay, it's at this point that the whole thing reveals itself as a giant Tarantino ripoff, up to and including stealing the Pussy Wagon from Kill Bill, which is not cool.

Todd: If there is one thing that Tarantino does not stand for, it is taking ideas from other filmmakers.

Long pause

Todd (VO): Anyway, let's see, Beyonce feeds Gaga a Honey Bun, and...you know, I feel like there's some kind of symbolism involved here.

Todd: Uh...maybe it implies that the two are...yeah, I don't know where I was going with that, I'm sorry. Moving on.

Gaga: You sure you wanna do this, Honeybee?
Beyonce: What do you mean, am I sure?
Gaga: You know what they say—once you kill a cow, you gotta make a burger.

(Big Kahuna Burger?)

Beyonce: You know, Gaga? Trust is like a mirror—you can fix it if it's broke.
Gaga: But you can still see the crack in that motherfucker's reflection.

Todd: It's like the old saying goes—it goes, what in God's name did any of that just mean?!

Todd (VO): Anyway, they get to their destination, where they're about to get about their business, which is...

Todd: ...yet...more...murder. I think at this point, Lady Gaga has racked up a higher kill count than Eminem, Nine Inch Nails, and Marilyn Manson combined.

Beyonce: [unspoken] Hi honey.
Tyrese: [unspoken] Where have you been, b#?/7&?

Todd (VO): Right. I hope you paid attention to that single line of inaudible dialogue, because that's about as much insight as we're gonna get into why Beyonce is gonna kill this guy.

Todd: I guess we're just meant to assume that he's yet another one of the [with each label, at least one song is shown] no-account ("If I Were a Boy," "Bug a Boo"), lying ("Beautiful Liar," "Say My Name," "No No No"), cheating ("Irreplaceable," "Me Myself and I"), stealing ("Bills Bills Bills"), uncommited ("Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)") jerks that Beyonce seems to date exclusively in her music. Oh, by the way, I cannot believe it's taken this long for Beyonce to kill a guy.

Todd (VO): And while mild profanity is not much of a justification for actual murder, it's more than we get for why Lady Gaga does what she does, which is sneak into the kitchen and poison all the food so that everyone dies.

Todd: [scratches his head] Okay.

Beyonce: Sometimes I feel like I live in Grand Central Station
Tonight I'm not takin' no calls 'cause I'll be dancin'

Todd: "Not takin' no calls"? Wow! What amazing problem-solving skills, it only took you three minutes of overdramatic singing and [checks watch] about 37 minutes of music video to figure that one out. So I guess they don't have to be worried about whatever annoying thing that the caller was calling about, although... come to think of it, she says right at the beginning that she can't even hear him, so whatever message that guy had is gonna stay a complete mystery, I suppose.

Gaga: Hello, hello, baby, you called?
I can't hear a thing

Todd: [into phone] I SAID THAT I NEEDED TO KNOW WHERE YOU KEEP HER MEDICATION! SHE'S HAVING SPASMS, SHE PASSED OUT, AND I... I CANNOT FIND HER MEDS! YOU HAVE TO TELL ME WHERE YOU KEEP THEM, I CAN'T FIND...

Gaga: ...kinda busy
K-kinda busy
K-kinda busy

Todd: WE'RE IN THE HOSPITAL! THE DOCTORS SAY THEY NEED YOU HERE! THEY NEED YOUR CONSENT BEFORE THEY OPERATE AND THEY NEED TO OPERATE RIGHT NOW, SO YOU NEED TO COME HERE RIGHT NOW! YOU NEED TO COME HERE

Gaga: Stop callin' stop callin'
I don't wanna talk anymore

Todd: ...NEED YOU HERE RIGHT NOW! OTHERWISE THEY'RE GONNA HAVE TO CUT OFF HER ARMS AND HER LEGS SO THEY NEED...THEY NEED YOU HERE! WE NEED YOU... HELLO? D'YOU HEAR ME? HELLO?!

Todd (VO): Okay, back to the video. [In the video, Gaga does a show called "Let's Make a Sandwich," where she makes poisoned sandwiches (???????!)] Oh right, I forgot to mention. This thing is redolent with product placement.

Todd: I'm being serious, this video has more obtrusive advertisements than thatguywiththeglasses.com. Among this film's sponsors are Virgin Mobile, PlentyofFish, and most bafflingly, Miracle Whip because a murder just isn't a murder without the tangy zest of Miracle Whip. Yeah, I'm not sure why Lady Gaga thought she would have good brand synergy with Miracle Whip. Maybe she thought they sold [Image of Gretchen Mol in The Notorious Bettie Page] actual whips? All I know is that, if they hadn't gotten involved, I seriously doubt we would've had this stupid-ass "Let's Make a Sandwich" scene. Dear God, this video sucks.

In the video, the diners die after eating the sandwiches

Todd (VO): And so, everyone dies.

Todd: This slaughter is brought to you by Wonder Bread. Wonder Bread—helps kill strong bodies twelve ways. Now, begin the murder dance!

Dance scene with Gaga, Beyonce and the diners
Gaga: Stop callin' stop callin'
I don't wanna talk anymore

Todd (VO): Oh, hello there, Hedwig. How's that angry inch going for ya? And finally, the two finish off their roaring rampage of ridiculousness and ride off into the sunset.

Gaga: We did it, Honeybee.

Todd: You sure did. I don't know what you did or why you did it, but you did it.

Gaga: Now let's go far, far away from here.
Beyonce: You promise we'll never come back?

Todd: Yes, promise, please.

Gaga: I promise.

The video ends with them holding hands and riding off, with "To be continued..." and stickers for Gillette, Hot Pockets, and Allstate plastered on

Todd: Usually, it's not fair to ask that a music video gives you a coherent storyline, but...

Todd (VO): ...when it's this long and contains this much dialogue and this little music, you stop being able to access the part of your brain that allows you to just appreciate a music video as a series of random images. Lady Gaga's always been preposterous, but this was over the line for me. This video was terrible. And it unintentionally spotlights the pointlessness of the song's subject matter.

Todd: I seriously hope Lady Gaga doesn't inspire any other artists to make any weird ugly videos with sub-par music in them.

Snippets from videos for Miley Cyrus - "Can't Be Tamed," Nicki Minaj - "My Chick Bad," Christina Aguilera - "Not Myself Tonight"

Todd: We're in a lot of trouble, people.

Video ends, for real this time

Closing tag song: Cypress Hill - "How I Could Just Kill a Man"

THE END
"Telephone" is owned by Interscope Records
This video is owned by me

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