Friday, February 26th, 2010

Lady Gaga ft. Beyoncé – Telephone

And it’s at this point that I wish I’d used the picture of her in the Kermit dress. Too late, too late…


Alex Ostroff: As the sole track on The Fame Monster without any references to the macabre, it lacks the conceptual weirdness of GaGa that has grown in appeal over the past year. The song itself is a vague rewrite of a minor Backstreet Boys hit. Frequent collaborator RedOne is traded out for DarkChild, who hasn’t had a true moment of pop brilliance since “Say My Name”. Perhaps it’s his reunion with Beyoncé, or just an affinity for songs about awkward phone calls, but the production here is ace — from the harp loop to the pounding synths, the snare hits during Beyoncé’s verse, and the ringing phones and dial tones used as percussion in the chorus. Meanwhile, after the awkward attempt at seduction that was their last collaboration, GaGa and Beyoncé return to what they both do best — ignoring their incoming calls and celebrating their financial, creative and personal independence. In my dreams, a future awards-show performance of “Telephone” will feature Joanna Newsom plucking the opening harp figure.

Kat Stevens: “Bad Romance” may have been an all-conquering stand-alone masterpiece, but at first “Telephone” really does sound like it was cobbled together for a bonus album at the last minute. The lyrics are shoe-horned into the delicate opening melody like a square peg in a dodecagonal hole, and there is no universe in which “And-I can-not text-you with-a drink-in my-hand, eh” scans well, even over the most basic three-chord off-the-shelf progression. But the awkward, annoying delivery sticks — in fact, it’s as awkward and annoying as someone ringing you up moaning about their FEELINGS when you’re concentrating on the important business of i) recreating the dance routine to “Tragedy” with your chums ii) managing not to spill your pint over everyone. The rest of the song is a jumble of brilliant choruses (“call when you want/cos there’s no-one home/and you’re not gonna reach my telephone”) and rep-rep-rep-repeating syllables, which seems to be the closest thing Gaga has to a trademark sound. Most importantly, the guest spot proves key: Beyoncé rises to the bait and throws a massive strop at the caller (backed by her marching band) but Gaga keeps focused, no histrionics, not wanting to waste her time or energy on puny human emotion when there’s drunken dancing to be had. Fire and Ice! Doing the Macarena together round their handbags! What better way to let off steam?

Pete Baran: Clever. I know next to nothing about musicology, and even I can see the way Gaga threads a number of insanely catchy motifs through “Telephone” until it collapses into a bubble of joy. The “kinda busy” is repeated twice at the start and then never said again in the song, yet its lilting tune does all the lyrical work for it. The harp intro contrasts with the buzzy electronics in the way that Gaga’s harsh and oft-treated voice contrasts with Beyoncé/Sasha Fierce’s tremendous pipes. Not quite as unrestrainedly bonkers as Bad Romance, there is still the sense of a performer on top of her game, throwing everything and the kitchen sink into a surprisingly sweet song about a phone stalker.

Martin Skidmore: A diva team-up of this scale is bound to be unstoppable, and there is plenty of energy and effort on show. I remain unpersuaded by Gaga’s singing or rapping, though, and while there is no shortage of ideas on this, it seems something of a mess, and in the end it irritated me.

David Moore: A master class in how to sell stupid — which Gaga does way more convincingly than Beyoncé (mercifully unremarkable dead weight here, props to Gaga for providing a context so overbearing that it upstaged her). The not-so-secret weapon is the post-chorus patter blanketed in phone chirps, at least as annoying as Blackout Crew. Which I wasn’t expecting to be a point in the song’s favor, but there it is. Not sure why but I really wish this song was about a land line.

Hillary Brown: Even if the message weren’t one with which I firmly agree (phones suck), but the medium would still stick this song in my ear with the force of pneumatics. Absolutely made for a ringtone, it’s a track that doesn’t skimp on catchy beat, melody, danceability, or anything else, and both ladies contribute a great deal to its appeal. Expect to hear this about a kabillion times over the coming months, including at sorority karaoke night.

Alex Macpherson: Just as everyone’s finally caved to her persona, Gaga goes to the trouble of recruiting one of the most maniacal performers around and… releases her most anonymous single to date. A counter-intuitive strategy, but one that works superbly: Gaga subsumes herself into the music, mimicking the synth stabs with her extended vowels, while Beyoncé convulses midway between her innate drama and the mechanistic motion of the beat. The hook is irresistible, as is the thoroughly ’10s take on the club scenario: historically somewhere for escape and self-discovery, it makes sense to cast it as a place of liberation from the intrusive, stressful ubiquity of modern lines of communication.

Alfred Soto: The only way in which I can think putting these two together might work is to celebrate a girls night out. The music they’re dancing to is just okay though, which makes me wonder why they’re making such a big deal of hanging out together.

Al Shipley: This thing fills up with life at the exact point when Beyoncé shows up in the same way “Videophone” deflated the moment Gaga arrived. Not that I worship B or hate Gaga, but their skills are fundamentally different in a way that can only flatter one of them when held up side by side.

Chuck Eddy: Especially when going into those onomatopoeic busy signal parts (reminds me of “Western Union” by Five Americans), Gaga sure rides this big beat better than her pompous partner does. But she can’t make me care about her connections and disconnections — at least not so much, this time.

Doug Robertson: Gaga is coasting a bit here, and this isn’t going to be as all-encompassing a hit as “Bad Romance” or “Poker Face”, but it’s a decent enough track and if this was someone’s debut then everyone would be giving it more thumbs up than is humanly possible. As it is, she’s set her own bar pretty high and this just seems to be lazily limboing under it without even trying to see if there’s any way to jump over it. Dick Fosbury would be disappointed.

Renato Pagnani: The real metaphor here is not dancefloor as refuse from clingy boyfriends but from dancefloor as sanctuary from a fractal society where constant beeps, signals, and pulses are ineludible. And yes, I do recognize the delicious irony of the song being a thumping electro sledgehammer.

13 Responses to “Lady Gaga ft. Beyoncé – Telephone”

  1. Nooo don’t be ridiculous, that is the best picture ever.

  2. Maybe VoiceMail feat. Busy Signal will remix this.

  3. I thought the line was “I cannot text you while I’m drinking my henney”!

  4. man, the moment where gaga say “I can’t call u back without drinking MO’ HENN-EY” is in starker scare quotes than anything on hipster runoff and it just nauseates me.

  5. “I can’t text you with a drink in my hand-eh,” surely?

  6. hm. maybe? sure sounded like mo’ henney on headphones.

  7. I heard it as “while drinkin’ my Henney” too, not sure what the real lyric is tho.

  8. “This thing fills up with life at the exact point when Beyoncé shows up in the same way “Videophone” deflated the moment Gaga arrived.”

    Predictably, there is always one comment on this site that believes the exact opposite of what I do, and here it is. Beyonce takes whatever momentum this song had and smashes it into a brick wall. Lady Gaga can pull off a song about not being able to dance that still makes you want to dance; Beyonce just wants you dead. She will destroy you. She will tear out your lungs. How dare you deign to attempt to speak to her.

    “Telephone” is a welcome sound when it comes on the radio, and yet, even ignoring Beyonce, it’s not something I embrace wholeheartedly. It might be that being called too much while trying to dance is a flimsy, flimsy premise for a song. I can’t shake the impression that I’m listening to a song written about a problem as minor as an itch on your leg. Just scratch your leg, Lady Gaga. Stop singing; scratch your leg.

  9. I won’t disagree too strongly, because I have yet to hear this song on the radio or get especially familiar with it, so what I wrote on “Telephone” was much more a tentative first impression than my blurbs here usually are.

  10. I actually agree with you, Al – Beyonce’s arrival is the only thing that stands out to me as anything other than an annoyance on this track. I do appreciate Gaga’s attempt at interesting cadences here, but don’t actually like them.

  11. seconded

  12. the moment beyonce comes on is a natural treasure

  13. national*