I can’t bring myself NOT to write about this. Yeah, that’s right. I’m talking about the now infamous, mixed received “Telephone” music video/mini epic comprised of a million pop culture references by Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. (Sidenote: Funny – the last time I wrote about a music video worth writing about, it was Beyoncé’s “Video Phone” featuring Lady Gaga.)
No, I’m not going to analyze and criticize it scene by scene. (After all, Jezebel and Salon’s Broadsheet already said it better than I ever could.) Besides, all I really have to say is that the acting is atrocious (sorry B, but you are by far the worst of the two), and that there’s an overload of silly product placement, drawn-out and misplaced scenes, and Tarantino references.
What’s more fascinating to me than the video itself is its internet-based success. As of today it has more than 14 million views on YouTube via Vevo. And it was released on Thursday night. Then today, things got really interesting. MTV announced it was “banning” the video from its channel, which officially means absolutely nothing seeing as how MTV doesn’t even air music videos anymore. Back in February, MTV slightly rebranded and removed the “Music Television” from their logo. So what is now basically a network for reality television – but used to be the pioneering music TV channel – has decided to make a statement by banning “Telephone.” Because it’s raunchy? Because it’s 9 minutes long? Or because – as Gawker points out – MTV is trying to reinforce that their decisions still matter in the music video world? Probably the sad but true latter.
When I was growing up in the 90s, my daily life before and after school was defined by music videos shown on MTV. I seriously watched the same videos and premieres of new videos over and over to the infinite degree. Total Request Live replaced the after-school snack for us kids in the decade before the aughts. And then on top of it, we had regular episodes of Making the Video, taking our young minds from concept to film set to final product (and making us want to have Hype Williams’ job when we grew up.) Believe me – there wasn’t one music video I hadn’t seen start to finish in those days.
Now? Well, I hate to say it, but I don’t see a music video (even by my favorite artists) unless I go out of my way to watch it online, or it becomes a huge sensation (like Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.”) No one watches MTV anymore for music videos. Mostly because they choose not to play them. But also because MTV is completely useless nowadays unless you’re watching the guilty pleasure Jersey Shore, or you’re in the mood for yet another lame and yawn-inducing True Life episode. (“I Have a Summer Share 2” and “I’m Graduating from High School” are seriously a few of the titles from Season 9… Long gone are the days when Serena Altschul squatted in alleys with heroin addicts.)
But I don’t feel bad for you, MTV. You brought this upon yourself. You’ve turned your back on your original purpose of music videos, which are (sometimes) truly worth watching. And now YouTube and Vevo are garnering millions and millions of views on music videos, and the mini films themselves are premiering on the internet worldwide – not on your pointless, dated channel. The “Telephone” video has made it strikingly clear: As of 2010, music videos are officially spread by word of mouth. There’s no need for an MTV when you have YouTube, countless other video hosting sites, and Twitter.
So now what do you do if you’re MTV? Release a statement that you’re “banning” the most talked-about music video of the year thus far. Sounds like someone just has a spoonful of bitter and regret stuck under their tongues.
UPDATE: Thanks to Robert Brenner for bringing it to my attention, but MTV has – after all – not banned the “Telephone” video, as they reported today. I got that story from more than one popular source, but it appears that a CNN reporter announced it without any kind of citation. MTV says: “Fans can continue to catch the video as we repeat it on-air and online.”
While my rant in regards to MTV banning the video no longer stands, my rant towards MTV on a more general note does.