"Telephone" is a song by American recording artist Lady Gaga from her third extended play (EP) and second major release The Fame Monster (2009), featuring American R&B singer Beyoncé Knowles. The song was written by Gaga and Rodney Jerkins. The main inspiration of the song was Gaga's fear of not being able to enjoy herself because of her dedication to her career, hence the lyrics portray the singer as preferring the dance floor, rather than answering her lover's phone calls. Gaga explained that the telephone addressed in the lyrics of the song, is in reality a person telling her to continue working harder. Musically, the song consists of an expanded bridge, verse-rap and an epilogue, where the voice of an operator announces that the phone line is not reachable. Knowles appears in the middle of the song, singing the verses in a rapid-fire way, accompanied by double beats.
"Telephone" was appreciated by contemporary critics who frequently noted it as a stand-out track from The Fame Monster. The song charted in a number of countries due to digital sales, namely in the United States, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and Hungary, following the album's release. The song has been particularly successful in Europe, reaching the top of the charts in Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom. Lady Gaga performed an acoustic rendition of "Telephone" mixed with "Dance in the Dark" at the 2010 BRIT Awards in memory of Alexander McQueen. It was also added to the 2010 setlist of The Monster Ball Tour.
Gaga explained that the music video is a continuation of the video for "Paparazzi", and is also shot as a short film. The video features Gaga in a prison, from where she gets bailed out by Beyoncé. Soon after, they go to a diner where they kill the guests having breakfast. Gaga and Knowles escape from the diner, and end up in a high speed police chase. Paying homage to Quentin Tarantino and his films Kill Bill (2003–04) and Pulp Fiction (1994) and Callie Khouri's Thelma & Louise, the video was positively received by critics. The song received a Grammy nomination in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category. The song sold 7.4 million copies in 2010.
Lady Gaga originally wrote "Telephone", with Rodney Jerkins, for Britney Spears. However, after Spears' label rejected it Gaga recorded the song as a collaboration with Beyoncé Knowles for The Fame Monster. Gaga said, "I wrote it for her a long time ago and she just didn't use it for her album. It's fine because I love the song and I get to perform it now." Additionally, the guest vocalist was originally going to be Spears, but ultimately Gaga made Knowles the featured vocalist instead. The main inspiration behind the song was Gaga's fear of suffocation as she felt that she seldom found time to just let loose and have fun. She further clarified, Fear of suffocation—something that I have or fear is never being able to enjoy myself, ... 'Cause I love my work so much, I find it really hard to go out and have a good time. ... I don't go to nightclubs, ... You don't see pictures of me falling out of a club drunk. I don't go—and that's because I usually go and then, you know, a whiskey and a half into it, I got to get back to work.
|"Telephone"A 22 second sample to "Telephone" featuring the chorus where Gaga sings the line "Stop calling, stop calling, I don't want to talk anymore."----|
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"Telephone" was written by Lady Gaga, Rodney Jerkins, LaShawn Daniels, Lazonate Franklin and Knowles. Although constructed as a duet, Knowles first appearance is in the middle verse. She sings her lyrics through a brief interlude, and later backs the chorus during the rest of the song. The song starts off unassumingly, with Gaga singing in a solemn voice over a harp melody, which changes immediately to a pounding beat. Essentially, Gaga is in a club and her boyfriend keeps ringing, but she can not talk as she was drinking and dancing to her favourite song. The chorus runs as follows: "Stop calling, stop calling, I don't want to talk anymore." "Telephone" consists of an expanded bridge, verse-rap and an epilogue where a voice announces that the telephone line is not reachable at that moment. According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the song is set in the time signature of common time, with a tempo of 122 beats per minute. Gaga's vocals range from the low-note of F3 to the high-note of C5. It is set in the key of F minor, specifically, F Dorian mode, and has a basic sequence of Fm–A♭–B♭–Fm as its chord progression.
"Telephone"'s lyrics relate to the singer preferring the dance floor to answering someone's call. The verses are sung in a rapid-fire way, accompanied by double beats. According to Gaga, the phone addressed in the lyrics of the song is not a physical phone, but a person in her head telling her to keep working harder and harder. Gaga explained, "That's my fear—that the phone's ringing and my head's ringing, ... Whether it's a telephone or it's just the thoughts in your head, that's another fear."
EnlargeLady Gaga performing "Telephone" on The Monster Ball TourThe song has garnered positive reviews from music critics. Michael Hubbard from MusicOMH said that the song was "probably the best thing here [on The Fame Monster]." He also complimented the "brilliant bridge" and the ending of the song where the caller gets through to her voicemail. Popjustice gave the song a positive review: "It's a little bit like Gwen's 'What You Waiting For?' meets Timbaland's 'The Way I Are' meets about fifty other things ... The structure's quite exciting ... there is something tumultuously brilliant about Beyoncé's contribution that makes everything seem fine and as if it was the plan all along." Evan Sawdey from PopMatters said that "The much talked-about Beyoncé collaboration 'Telephone', which—with its double-time beat and rapid-fire verses—proves to be one of the most adrenaline-pumped songs that Gaga has yet crafted, the whole thing feeling like it's about to veer of [sic] the tracks at any moment simply due to the giddy excitement shared between the two divas, easily turning it into the unquestioned highlight of The Fame Monster".
Bill Lamb from About.com listed it among the top tracks on the album and said: "The Beyoncé assisted 'Telephone' is a club stomper that will draw in R&B and Hip Hop fans as well on the radio." In a separate review, he compared it to the "Just Dance" era and commented: "An odd track for a lot of reasons. Lyrically, it is a successor to 'Just Dance'. The lyrics involve Gaga talking about not wanting to use her phone in the club. Having a track like this, when it feels like 'Just Dance' was so long ago and a different Gaga, is a little awkward. Especially when it is a planned single ... It's fun and disposable but there are better tracks on The Fame Monster to offer as singles". Mikael Woods from Los Angeles Times felt that "Telephone" is " a carefully considered meditation on how annoying it is when a dude keeps calling you while you're throwing down at the club."
Nicki Escuerdo from Phoenix New Times listed "Telephone" as a stand-out track from the album. Sarah Hajibagheri from The Times and Armond White, music and film critic for the New York Press, were not impressed with the song. Hajibagheri said "The appearance of Beyoncé's vocal alongside ringtones on Telephone adds to the sense of utter chaos." White elaborated that "[The song] celebrates a heedless refusal to communicate; to mindlessly, heartlessly indulge pop culture—Tarantino style." Melanie Bertoldi from Billboard gave the song a positive review, stating "Much like Kesha's 'Blah Blah Blah', 'Telephone' sets out to silence bugaboos, with whom featured artist Beyoncé is all too familiar. ... By the time "Telephone" surges through a wall of cellular bleeps to return to its simple introduction, Gaga and Beyoncé have left the listener with just one option: surrender to the dancefloor." "Telephone" was ranked at number three by Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone on his Top 25 Singles of the 2010 list. The single received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.
In November 2009 due to strong digital sales, the song charted in Ireland, Australia, and the United Kingdom, debuting at numbers twenty-six, twenty-nine, and thirty respectively. The song became the top debut on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 issue dated December 12, 2009, at number thirty-five, due to digital sales. After a few weeks fluctuating up the charts, "Telephone" reached a peak of three, becoming Gaga's sixth consecutive top ten hit in the United States. The song peaked at number one on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart on the issue dated February 27, 2010. On March 15, 2010, Billboard announced that the song reached number one on the Pop Songs chart, thus becoming Gaga's sixth consecutive number-one on the chart, making her the only artist in history to do this. It also became Beyoncé's sixth number-one on Pop Songs. With this, Gaga and Beyoncé tied with Mariah Carey for most number-ones since the Nielsen BDS-based Top 40 airplay chart launched in 1992. The song has sold over 2.810 million digital downloads according to Nielsen Soundscan.
In Australia, the song has reached a peak of three. "Telephone" was certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipments of 70,000 copies of the single. In New Zealand, the song debuted at thirty-one, becoming the highest debut of that week. On April 5, 2010, the song reached a peak of three on the chart. "Telephone" debuted at number fourteen on the Canadian Hot 100 and moved to a peak of three, making it Gaga's sixth consecutive top three single there. The song has been certified three times platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) for shipments of 120,000 digital downloads.
In the United Kingdom, "Telephone" reached number twelve on the UK Singles Chart, on March 15, 2010. The next week "Telephone" topped the chart and became her fourth British number-one single. The song has sold over 575,000 copies in the UK alone. In Ireland, the song debuted at number twenty-six, and moved up to number two before reaching the summit of the chart the following week. "Telephone" debuted at thirty-three on the Swedish charts, and in the top-ten at number three on the Hungarian charts. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the song has sold 7.4 million copies across the world in 2010.
The music video was filmed on January 28, 2010, by director Jonas Åkerlund. New York magazine reported that the concept of the video involved Beyoncé bailing Gaga out of jail. Published photos from the set showed Gaga and Beyoncé shooting in a car called the "Pussy Wagon", that Uma Thurman's character drove in Quentin Tarantino's 2003–04 film Kill Bill. Other concepts of the video involves scenes at a diner, a cameo from singer Tyrese Gibson, and a prison shower scene. Gaga and Beyoncé wore "destroyed denim pieces" by designers Frank Fernández and Oscar Olima. In an interview with E! Online, Gaga explained the deeper meaning behind the video. There was this really amazing quality in 'Paparazzi', where it kind of had this pure pop music quality but at the same time it was a commentary on fame culture ... I wanted to do the same thing with this video ... There certainly is a Tarantino-inspired quality in the ['Telephone'] video ... His direct involvement in [it] came from him lending me the Pussy Wagon. We were having lunch one day in Los Angeles and I was telling him about my concept for the video and he loved it so much he said, "You gotta use the Pussy Wagon." On February 5, 2010, Gaga was interviewed by Ryan Seacrest on KIIS-FM. She commented on the video saying, "What I like about it is it's a real true pop event, and when I was younger, I was always excited when there was a big giant event happening in pop music and that's what I wanted this to be." Rock band Semi Precious Weapons confirmed to MTV news that they have a cameo role in the music video.
EnlargeLady Gaga and Beyoncé in the Pussy WagonThe music video is over nine minutes long and begins where "Paparazzi" left off after Gaga was arrested for killing her boyfriend by poisoning his drink. She is taken to a women's prison where she is led to her cell by two prison guards, who strip her of shoulder-padded dress and left standing nude, while she is mocked by the other prison inmates. One of the guards comments, "I told you she didn't have a dick", referring to the rumors that Gaga is intersex. For three minutes, the video shows Gaga's activities in the prison—including kissing another female prisoner in the exercise yard, wearing sunglasses made out of half-smoked cigarettes, and catfights in the commissary. Gaga's sister, Natali Germanotta, makes a cameo in the commissary scene. After that, Gaga answers a call from Beyoncé, and begins to sing the song. She performs the first verse and chorus with other scantily clad inmates, followed by a bridge featuring Gaga wearing only yellow "Caution" tape.
Gaga is bailed out and exits to find Beyoncé waiting for her in the "Pussy Wagon". Beyoncé is nicknamed Honey Bee, a reference to the character Honey Bunny in Tarantino's 1994 crime film Pulp Fiction. After an exchange of dialogues, they travel through a desert and pull over at a diner. Beyoncé sits opposite to Gibson, but tires of his stupidity and poisons him, but it does not kill him like she had hoped. The video then shifts to an intermediate sequence called "Let's Make a Sandwich". Gaga stands in a kitchen, wearing a folded-up telephone on her head, while dancers cavort behind her, holding salad tongs and assorted cutlery. Ultimately, she prepares a sandwich and eats it, after a dance sequence. In the meantime, she mixes poison into all of the dishes she is preparing for the unsuspecting customers causing Gibson and everybody else, including characters played by Semi Precious Weapons and her Great Dane, Lava, to die. Gaga and Beyoncé perform another dance sequence, wearing American flag inspired garments and shredded denims, while strutting around the dead bodies. They then leave in the "Pussy Wagon" and travel on a highway as news reporter (played by Jai Rodriguez) reports the murders. The last shots show Gaga and Beyoncé travelling through a desert with police sirens wailing in the background. The video ends with the line "To Be Continued ..." followed by end credits.
Release and receptionEdit
On February 15, 2010, three film stills from the music video were posted on Gaga's website. The stills depicted Gaga in three separate scenes: a kitchen scene where she wears a plastic chef's hat and a telephone made entirely of hair on her head, a scene in a diner with her dancers, where she is seen wearing an American flag patterned bikini and bandana, and a black and white photo of Gaga wearing a hat made from multiple triangles and corded telephones. The video was originally slated to premiere in February 2010 but was pushed back to March 2010 instead. On March 9, 2010, more stills of the video were posted online. The video premiered on E! News and Vevo.com on March 11, 2010.
James Montogomery from MTV commented: "With 'Telephone', Gaga has entered the rarest of pop stratospheres, up there with the Madonnas and the Michael Jacksons." Matt Donnelly from Los Angeles Times wrote that the "Telephone" music video is a "visual feast, packed with fantastic fashion, girl fights, poisoned diner food, an army of headpieces and lots of Gaga goodness." Amy Odell from New York magazine felt that "This is Gaga's video, but Beyoncé is the best part: she actually shows the angry, crazy side that we just knew lurked beneath her too-perfect facade." Monica Herrera from Billboard wrote: "[The video] more than measures up to the hype. ... 'Telephone' clip is chock full of intrigue, prison fights, makeout scenes, mass poisoning and plenty of skin-baring versions of what you might call 'outfits'." Tanner Stransky from Entertainment Weekly commented: "Is it as good as her epic 'Bad Romance' video? Sadly, I don't think so. But it's better than anything else out there." Bill Lamb from About.com felt that "It would be nearly impossible for it to live up to the advanced hype, but the Lady Gaga video for 'Telephone' has arrived, and, to these eyes, it is worth watching." Sandy Rios, president of the Culture Campaign criticised the video on Fox News in an interview with Megyn Kelly, calling it "disgusting ... poison for the minds of our kids". Critic Armond White, of the New York Press, described the video as "cruel and ugly" also stating that it "epitomizes the insanity of the contemporary pop mainstream" and pays "homage to Tarantino's influence" in distorting "pop culture pleasure into nonsense". On August 3, 2010, the video received three nominations at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, in the categories of Best Choreography, Video of the Year and Best Collaboration, winning the latter and losing the former to Gaga's own "Bad Romance" video.
EnlargeGaga performing "Telephone" on The Monster Ball TourGaga performed "Telephone" at the BRIT Awards on February 16, 2010, at Earls Court Exhibition Centre. The performance was inspired by the recent death of her friend, fashion designer Alexander McQueen. Initially she had planned a different version of the performance, but changed the concept at the last minute, since she wanted to pay tribute to McQueen. Hence she chose an acoustic version of "Telephone" and a remix of "Dance in the Dark". Before the show, she posted a message on her Twitter account: "Tonight's performance is inspired by our friend. Mask by Phillip Treacy, Sculpture by Nick Knight, Music by Lady Gaga. We miss you." She started the performance by announcing "This is for Alexander McQueen." Gaga was dressed in a complete white outfit with a huge Marie-Antoinette style wig. The whole performance was low-key in comparison to her previous ones.
Gaga added the song to The Monster Ball Tour's setlist, for the European leg. It was performed in the second act, titled "Subway". She was dressed in black and played a keytar, which she had previously debuted on the BRIT awards. The keytar, composed of a number of instruments was dubbed by her as "Emma". "Telephone", as well as "Brown Eyes" (from The Fame), was also performed on the British comedy chat show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, on March 3, 2010, for an episode that aired two days later. Gaga performed "Telephone" on the Japanese television show Music Station on April 16, 2010. She wore a lace cat suit and a pair of plastic batwing shoulders, designed by Somarta and Yuima Nakazato respectively.
On May 2, a supposed Britney Spears' demo of "Telephone" leaked onto the web. After suggestions that the demo may be a fake, the producer of the song, Rodney Jerkins, confirmed via twitter the authenticity of the song. He added that the leaked version "was an early demo stage of the version [and that] it wasn't even a mixed version", moreover, denied leaking the song, arguing that, despite the fact that he has been asked to leak the full song, he did not do it. The musical style of the demo was compared with Spears' 2007 single "Piece of Me", and the song itself generated comparisons with Spears' sound in her fifth studio album Blackout. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone praised Spears' version. He later included the song at number twenty-five on his Top 25 Singles of the 2010 list.
Other cover version recordings included ones by HelenaMaria, Aston, Bangin Productions, and Pomplamoose. X Factor winner Joe McElderry covered the song in the Live Lounge tent at Radio 1's Big Weekend, and in 2010 the final fourteen of series seven covered the song during the result show. "Telephone" was covered by Lea Michele and Charice Pempengco for the American TV show Glee episode "Audition", which aired on September 21, 2010. This version was released as a single, and reached number seventeen in Canada, eighteen in Ireland, twenty-three in the US, and thirty in Australia.