Well, that was certainly worth the wait.
On Thursday night (March 11), after months of anticipation , leaked on-set photos and rather excellent adventures in hairstyling , Lady Gaga’s epic video for “Telephone” finally premiered during E! News, and, honestly, if there’s something she didn’t cram into the clip, well, then we missed it.
Part hyperkinetic pop-culture joyride — nods to everything from films like “Caged Heat” and “Kill Bill” to seizure-inducing Japanese television and the color-drenched photography of David LaChapelle — part electric dance extravaganza, “Telephone” is nine-plus minutes of everything you could possibly love about Gaga (and Beyoncé, who, we’re sure you know by now, co-stars in the clip ), only amped up to the Nth degree.
It’s ambitious, funny and clever, playing much more like a short film than a music video. There are opening and closing credits — it’s important to know that the video was written by Gaga and director Jonas Åkerlund, after all — elaborate, over-the-top (or barely there) costumes, and a whole lot of celebrity cameos. This cost money, this took time, this was a work of love and blood and sweat and tears (and a whole lot of hairspray). This was worth it.
Opening in an ominous women’s prison, we first see Gaga being led to her cell by a pair of, well, let’s just call them “beefy guards.” She is stripped of her impossibly shoulder-padded dress and left nude, while the other inmates howl, and as the guards shut the door behind them, the one cracks to the other, “I told you she didn’t have a di–” (a joking nod to those nasty hermaphrodite rumors, of course).
From there, we get glimpses of Gaga’s life behind bars — make-out sessions in the exercise yard (where she is inexplicably wearing sunglasses made out of half-smoked cigarettes), the occasional catfight in the commissary — and then, after nearly three minutes of introduction, Gaga takes a phone call and the song finally begins, first with just some gentle electronic notes and LG’s tender vocals, then morphing into a stuttering electro-pop stomper, complemented by a dance sequence (Gaga and her inmates strutting and climbing dressed only in studded underwear, fishnets and stiletto heels) that’s sure to make the censors rather nervous.
Gaga is then bailed out, but not before she busts a Michael Jackson shuffle while one of the guards surfs around on the dating site PlentyOfFish.com (a scene which isn’t even the strangest example of product placement in this video). Waiting for her outside the gates is none other than Beyoncé, driving the so-called “P—y Wagon” from “Kill Bill.” The two engage in some seriously stilted dialogue — “You know what they say: Once you kill a cow, you gotta make a burger” — though Gaga’s dead-eyed stares at the camera make it very clear that it’s all intentionally bad (as the acting in all good “women in prison” flicks should be). They then go screaming off into the desert.
They pull into a diner, where Beyoncé pours herself into a booth opposite Tyrese Gibson, who is a total jerk — so much so that B poisons his coffee. We then cut to a delightfully campy sequence titled “Let’s Make a Sandwich” featuring Gaga standing in a kitchen wearing a folded-up telephone on her head while dancers cavort behind her, wielding salad tongs and assorted cutlery. She then, well, makes a sandwich, being sure to show off the Wonder Bread and Miracle Whip logos (this is the strangest example of product placement), whips through a tightly choreographed — and, really, pretty clever — dance sequence and then chomps down on the sandwich. And when was the last time you got to see her do something like that?
It turns out she also makes poison, which she dumps into some honey and delivers to Beyoncé’s booth, dressed as a towering waitress with a telephone dangling in her eye. Gibson smothers his breakfast in the stuff and dies. Unfortunately, everyone else in the joint — including Gaga’s pals the Semi Precious Weapons — does the same, and they all suffer the same fate. Gaga and Beyoncé begin the video’s third over-the-top dance number, popping and strutting while the dead bodies lay around them. It’s sort of creepy, to be honest.
The two then pile back into the Wagon and head out onto the highway (not before Gaga does a solo performance in front of the vehicle while dressed in an ultra-tight leopard-print number), and as the video reaches its conclusion, they deliver some more of those cheesy lines, join hands and zoom toward the horizon, police sirens wailing in the background. The last thing we see onscreen is text, which promises us “To Be Continued … ” because, hey, why not?
So now that it’s finally here, what else can really be said about the “Telephone” video? To be honest, I’m not sure. It is electric and excellent and alive. It is certainly the best big-budget clip since, well, Gaga’s last big-budget clip and probably the best video you’ll see all year (well, either that or OK Go’s new one ). It more than lived up to the hype, which, frankly, few thought it would. But, perhaps most notably, it is an event. You will remember where you were when you first saw it. And when was the last time you could say that about a music video?
With “Telephone,” Gaga has entered the rarest of pop stratospheres, up there with the Madonnas and the, gasp, Michael Jacksons. I’m not comparing talent, just ability: ability to wow, to enthrall and put on a show — one I can only hope is continued sometime very soon.
What did you think of the “Telephone” video? Was it all you wanted and more? Sound off below!