Beyonce Comments on iPhone Culture with New Music Video

Q: What do men with video cameras for heads, day-glo colored AK-47s, and references to Quentin Tarantino’s “Resevoir Dogs” and Bettie Page all have in common?

A: They are all featured in Beyonce’s new music video for “Video Phone” featuring Lady Gaga, and directed by industry pioneer Hype Williams.

Why am I writing about Beyonce on the Zooppa Blog, you ask? Well, for several reasons. Beyonce’s videos in general seem to be getting a lot of attention lately, and not just from Kanye West. The “Video Phone” video was released last week on MTV and VH1, and already has over one million views on Youtube. It is ripe to become a viral sensation. I look forward to seeing the user-made remixes that are sure to hit the Youtube scene. Plus, Hype Williams revolutionized the music video industry, and his work is always eye candy.

Last but certainly not least, the subject of the song couldn’t be more relevant to the online video community.

“Video Phone” is all about picking up men at the bar. The days of writing your number on the inside of a matchbook or cocktail napkin are over it would seem. According to Beyonce, what you should be doing to make a lasting impression is make an appearance on your man of the hour’s video phone. I’d say song lyric “I wanna make sure you remember me / So I’ma leave my number on your video phone” pretty much sums it up.

But in all seriousness, the cultural implications of this song are huge…capturing video on your telephone is so every where that our pop superstars are singing about it. The democratization of video is here. In the video, Beyonce dances for and teases men with cameras for heads. An article for the New York Daily News draws a connection between these camera-headed men and avant-garde music and visual arts group The Residents, who present themselves to the public with giant eyeballs for heads. The reference may be lost on the general pop music listening public, but the underlying meaning of these camera-headed men comes through loud and clear: not only is every one a voyeur, now every one is a content-producing and sharing voyeur. And the iPhone is spearheading this cultural shift by enabling the ease and portability of video making.

Something else this video made me start thinking about is how much the music video format served as a precursor to what is happening on Youtube and other video sharing sites across the web. Music videos typically present a cohesive, compact story line, in easily digestible, catchy snippets. Just like most videos that go viral – and of course, music videos are a major genre of videos being watched online – they are compelling, short enough to watch any time, watch again, and share.

To be perfectly honest, the gun shooting and opening shot reference to Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” seem a bit plucked out of thin air to me. Outside of being pretty fun to watch, I am lost to draw a connection with the meaning of the song. Bettie Page of course, was a pioneer in the adult film industry. She was one of the first women to be filmed as object and become famous for it. This allusion makes perfect sense as Beyonce waxes poetic about rendering her own image object for the male eye, but on a much more private, individual scale.

As evidenced by the buzz, and the number of Youtube views, “Video Phone” is certainly worth watching. I would love to hear your thoughts on the music video and what it says about contemporary video culture.

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Meme E

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