Why is the Lady Gaga/Beyonce song “Telephone” so bad?

February 12, 2010 at 12:43 pm (hear)

Don’t get me wrong—I think Lady Gaga and Beyoncé are two of the most talented pop stars out there. I sing along to “Paparaazi,” Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” might be my favorite mainstream hit ever, and I saw a great Destiny’s Child concert when I was in 7th grade. They are sexy and bold women, and their clothes alone make award shows worth watching. So why are their collaborations terrible?

The stars first paired up on the remix of “Video Phone,” which is the stupidest song on Beyoncé’s album and feels like it was written exclusively for a commercial. Next came “Telephone” (sensing a theme?) for Lady Gaga’s album The Fame Monster. Just before the Grammys they shot the video, which reportedly involves Beyoncé rescuing Gaga from jail and makes use of the yellow truck from Kill Bill (aka the pussy wagon). Both women have a flair for the dramatic, so I’m sure there will be plenty of bonkers clothing and vaguely threatening technophile imagery.

But as for the song itself, these are among the lyrics the divas sing in the compelling tale of a woman who wants a boy to stop calling her because she’s trying to get drunk in a club in peace (as transcribed by Directlyrics.com):

“E-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e

Stop telephonin’

Me-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e

I’m busy e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e

Stop telephonin’

Me-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e

Can call all you want but there’s no one home

And you’re not gonna reach my telephone.”

(Tao Lin, the author of Eeeee Eee Eeee, should get a royalty. Though, to be fair, many people prefer to write the near-poetry as “eh eh eh eh eh.”) Not that I should expect a ton of logic and intricate thought processes to happen in a pop song, but when faced with these lines from Beyoncé

“I shoulda left my phone at home

‘Cuz this is a disaster

Calling like a collector

Sorry, I can’t answer”

my reaction is “Turn off your damn phone!” People have become so attached to their devices that it doesn’t seem to even occur to the women to stop complaining and just hit the power button. Maybe there’s a deep metaphorical layer to the song—Gaga is clearly fond of imbuing her pop music with meaning derived from “performance art” and other high-brow buzzwords—but the song seems to revel in its triviality.

Coming from the powerful, feisty, creative duo, this song is an inane disappointment.For a cleverer phone-centric song, I’ll take Gwen Stefani’s “Breakin’ Up,” which uses bad cell phone reception as a metaphor for a failing relationship.

I will say, I would love to see the text messages these two phone-obsessed women send each other.

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