Pop & Hiss

The L.A. Times music blog

« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

Beyonce and Lady Gaga 'Video Phone' team-up: a spectacle to behold

November 17, 2009 |  2:38 pm

What happens when two of the most ambitious stars in pop music collaborate? Director Hype Williams shoots a video in his trademark electrifying color schemes and high-shine lighting, resulting in a fantastical pop mirage between Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. Like meteor showers and the latest Sarah Palin career move, the auspicious pairing of an art-house dance diva and the reigning princess of shimmering R&B shall not go undocumented.

The sleek Beyoncé track “Video Phone,” from her alter-ego exercise “I Am … Sasha Fierce,” doesn’t feature Lady Gaga on record, but after crossing paths several times (including at the 2009 VMA Awards, where each scored nine nods apiece), the two decided to work together on the hush-hush video shot last month in the hipster enclave of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. After stirring up Web gossips for weeks, the video debuted Monday night on MTV and VH-1.

So what’s this alliance between two conquerors like? Well, it’s a kinetic spectacle to behold, with enough guns to make Ted Nugent weep with jealousy and some hot Bettie Page bangs on Beyoncé that should prompt plenty of single ladies to run to the hairdresser. It all kicks off with an unexpected nod to Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” -- several men in suits walk slow-motion in a nondescript alley behind a strutting Beyoncé wearing a Zorro mask. In fact, the whole video has a distinct and not unpleasant ‘90s throwback vibe. After all, that was Williams’ heyday, when he shot videos in his trademark fish-eye lens for such luminaries as Missy Elliott, Nas and the Notorious B.I.G.

Perhaps what’s most notable about “Video Phone” isn’t the formidable tricks on screen -- which are plentiful, including frenetically flickering images of much hair-tossing and hip-popping -- it’s that Lady Gaga sublimates her “Alice in Wonderland”-meets-Grace Jones shtick to blend seamlessly into Beyoncé’s world. Make no mistake -- this is Beyoncé’s show. She gets the outlandish costumes, from sexy military spy to vixen-cupid, while Gaga appears in a white leotard, enthusiastic but fully behaved. The two proceed to execute some wicked moves on two dinette chairs, DayGlo weaponry in tow.

So, what might happen if Beyoncé frolicks in Lady Gaga’s terrain? It’ll be a noteworthy test for Ms. B, whose glittering front-and-center pop persona is just as well versed in spectacle as Gaga’s, but not as conceptually rich. Will she be able to get truly freaky, without seeming like she’s doing it for more credit-enhancing approval? As far as Gaga goes, our MOCA-loving temptress could stand to learn something from Beyoncé -- maybe her ability to deliver earnest, genuine entertainment, the kind that comes from a certain warm look in the eye, that megawatt smile, not a stampede of sometimes-alienating stage stunts.

Either way, this can only foretell good things for both. One element is certain: Beyoncé and Lady Gaga are too ambitious to let any creative difference stand in the way of pop music domination, times two.

-- Margaret Wappler