I should have known it would happen sooner or later. Call it jumping on the Pussy Wagon (a reference that will make more sense later) or finally succumbing to the barrage of infectious beats forced upon me by bars, the radio and diehard fans — especially my fellow Arts editor — but you can now call me a Lady Gaga fan.
I certainly never wanted it to be this way. When she urged me to “just dance,” I did not find it to be okay. I had no interest in reading her poker face, and I by all means did not want her taking a ride on my disco stick. But nowadays, every time I hear another round of “Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah/ Roma, Roma-ma/ Ga Ga, ooh la la,” I find myself more and more mesmerized. Lately, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s anything the woman cannot do.
Lady Gaga made history last week when her second single from The Fame Monster, “Telephone,” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Pop Songs chart, becoming the only artist to top the charts with six consecutive singles. She has also taken the fashion world by storm, donning everything from plastic bubbles to Muppets, and Gaga even held her own tickling the ivories in a duet with Sir Elton John at this year’s Grammys — a major accomplishment in my book. But it’s Gaga’s latest work that has me wondering if the pop sensation can do the unthinkable: breathe life back into a dying music video industry.
The work I’m referring to is Lady Gaga’s latest music video for “Telephone,” which debuted online less than two weeks ago. For those of you who haven’t seen this rather salacious video, the highlights include a “Prison for Bitches” jam-packed with nudity and racy lesbian activity, iconic Gaga fashion — cigarette sunglasses, Diet Coke hair rollers and a telephone headpiece, to name a few — and the poison-induced murder of an entire diner orchestrated by Beyonc? and Gaga. Although reactions to the nearly 10-minute video have varied from glorious and groundbreaking to confusing and controversial, the fact is people are not only watching — the video is closing in on 22 million views — but also talking about music videos again. But is this a sign that there’s hope for the music video industry yet?
There was certainly plenty of buzz in the weeks leading up to the release of Gaga’s “Telephone” video — a lot more than one usually sees these days for a music video. Propelled by the dual star power of Gaga and Beyonc? and the fanfare surrounding Gaga’s past videos, people were actually waiting in giddy anticipation for the “Telephone” video to debut. This would have been an everyday occurrence back in the days when Carson Daly mattered and “TRL” was a way of life for teens, but nowadays you just don’t see this kind of hype surrounding music videos.
Unsurprisingly, Hollywood has even started to take notice of the appeal surrounding Gaga and her nonconformist videos. Floria Sigismondi, the director of the upcoming eponymous all-female rock band film “The Runaways” and numerous music videos for prolific artists such as Christina Aguilera, The White Stripes and Marilyn Manson, recently expressed her interest in shooting a Gaga video in the near future.
Lady Gaga also has a fan in Quentin Tarantino, who has considered casting her as an assassin in an upcoming film. If this pairing were to happen, a Lady Gaga single on the soundtrack and coinciding video are certainly not out of the question. In fact, it was Tarantino himself who suggested that Gaga use his famed Pussy Wagon, the bright yellow Chevrolet Silverado SS truck from “Kill Bill: Vol. 1,” when the two discussed the concept of her “Telephone” video over lunch.
Yet, while an influx of Hollywood-driven music videos that play more like short films would certainly start getting people interested in this lost art again, it’s still not enough to bring this industry back, no matter how many epic videos Lady Gaga releases.
The fact is the benefits to putting the time and effort into making a music video no longer exist. With MTV and VH1 cancelling shows like “TRL” and shifting its focus away from music television in favor of reality television, there just isn’t a profitable market for music videos anymore. Sure, there’s the Internet and there will always be award shows still devoted to creating music videos, but the incentive isn’t the same as what it was before.
In the past, artists would use music videos as a vehicle for pushing albums and bringing in revenue. This worked well when music television was still the focus of channels like MTV and viewers would watch shows that introduced them to new music through videos. These days, you have to go out of your way to find something new and chances are you aren’t introduced to it via a music video. As a result, most people are only watching videos of artists they already enjoy or the occasional viral hit like Beyonc?’s “Single Ladies” video. Therefore, there’s not a lot of incentive to go all out for an expensive high-production video and then take time to push it on viewers as a way to get people to listen to your music.
Of course, there are exceptions like Lady Gaga who still believes in the craft of making music videos and, consequently, already has millions dialing in to her “Telephone” video. Whether it will actually result in more fans and money is questionable. What it won’t do is help to bring back the music video industry, despite offering a slight glimmer of hope that people will start paying attention again.
Tony Lewis is a senior majoring in journalism and legal studies. Do you think Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” video will answer the music video’s SOS call? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org.