The working relationship between Beyoncé and Lady Gaga receives an unfathomably low amount of attention, given the status of the two stars and the depth of their collaboration. Imagine Madonna and Janet Jackson appearing in each other’s videos in the late 80s or early 90s: the publicity generated would have been enormous, especially in a pre-Internet, video-driven era.
At first glance, that comparison seems a little reductive, but there are plenty of similarities between Madge/Janet and Gaga/Bey teamups. The obvious points of comparison are commercial dominance and skin colour, but consider each woman’s artistic approach. Madonna and Gaga are boundary pushing, identity-focused Italian girls who fill the role of provocateur with their sexual and religious antics. (Watch “Like a Prayer”, and then watch “Alejandro”. There’s a reason why Gaga is sometimes described as derivative of the Material Girl.) On the other side, Janet and Beyoncé were both somewhat prominent before their solo careers, and successfully tackled themes of female empowerment and independence in their music while maturing with each studio release. When the Gaga/Beyoncé collaborations are framed in this manner, they seem much more noteworthy.
It’s tempting to speculate on the possibility of future teamups between Beyoncé and Gaga. Were the above “Video Phone” and “Telephone” wholly commercial one-offs, or would the two queens ever consider a larger-scale collaboration? Those two songs inhabit the same sort of vaguely danceable electro-pop terrain, with no obvious concessions to either woman’s signature style. Could the world eventually witness the release of a Watch the Throne-type Gagayoncé record?
If such a project never comes to pass, at least we have the fourteen minutes of “Video Phone” and “Telephone” insanity for our viewing pleasure on YouTube. (I encourage you to watch the nine-minute “Telephone” video, an extravagantly bonkers production that has to be seen to be fully appreciated.)