Conventional wisdom about writing is conventionally wrong.
You sat on a couch with your friends to make fun of stupid videos and be amazeed by great videos. Also, you were probably (a) drunk, (b) stoned, (c) making out with somebody or (d) all three.
You know the rule: Two men enter. One man leaves.
In this corner, wearing fishnet stockings instead of shorts: Lady Gaga, the Mama Monster, a Madonna clone who may be more adaptable and chameleon-like than Madonna herself. Proudly weird. Allergic to pants. Can bang on the piano, dance up a storm and kill you with her stiletto heels.
And her opponent, who insisted on wearing baggy Levi’s and a baseball cap: Justin Bieber, a Canadian superweapon who got his start on Youtube and is now catnip and crack cocaine for billions of screaming junior high girls around the world who’ve caught Bieberfever and NEVER WANT THE CURE.
Let’s go with Bieber’s classic music video, “One Less Lonely Girl.”
Lady Gaga can fight back with “You and I.”
Rounds 1-5, we’ll look at Bieber, then in Rounds 6-10, the Gaga gets her chance.
Bieber first. Let the musical bloodbath begin.
Round 1: Who would listen to this?
You have to give Bieber points for being wholesome and inoffensive. This helps him build the Bieber Army, because no parent is going to freak out if their daughter starts putting Bieber posts up on the wall and playing his songs.
He’s not Marilyn Manson, and though I am not a fan, I do know grown men — giant men who played football in college — who are actually fans of this tiny Canadian pop tart.
Score the round for Bieber.
Round 2: On the radios
I have to admit that hearing this song on the radio literally made me think, “Huh. That girl has pipes for a bubblegum pop singer. And she’s singing about some other girl? The top 40 station out here in the sticks is getting progressive, playing lesbian love ballads at eight in the morning. Maybe there’s hope for the world.”
Then I find out he’s a 14-year-old boy or whatever. Score the round for Gaga.
Round 3: The actual music video
The video didn’t help me, either. Hey, I’ve seen this singer. She was on America’s Got Talent.
Maybe I’m crazy here, but this kind of confusion isn’t good. Even cutie pie members of Boy Bands — or solo acts — should clearly look and sound like boys, unless they’re doing it on purpose to be edgy and different, just like every Hair Metal Band Known to Man (long bleach-blonde hair, guyliner and spandex) and every punk band ever created (black nails, black hair, black leather pants, black lipstick).
But this is not the case for Bieber, so he should try not shaving for two days, wearing cowboy boots or something. Round 3 for Lady Gaga.
Round 4: Can you dance to it?
This is a ballad, so can you slow dance to it?
I bet 492 million eighth-graders have already proven that you can hug your date and turn in a slow circle to this song, and dance to every other song Bieber has sang, written or breathed upon in passing when he walked down the hallway at the studio. Round 4 for Bieber.
Round 5: Would I watch this video again?
Yes, because it’s funny. Bieber looks like he’s in junior high, and the girl he’s singing about looks like she could be junior in college, and I watched it twice just to see if the cops showed up and count how many times Bieber could say “gonna be” in the same song. Round 5 to Bieber, though not on purpose.
Scorecard so far: 3 rounds for Bieber, 2 rounds for Gaga.
On to Lady Gaga’s “You and I.”
Round 6: Who would listen to this?
Gaga has range. She can do dance numbers, electro-pop, live piano solos, duets with Beyonce that inspire insane music videos with riffs on KILL BILL — plus any song Madonna has every sang, only with a twist.
I give her props for not singing sixteen variations of the same stupid song like most bands seem to do.
This song is different for her. It’s a ballad, sure, but almost a country song. Except she has no twang. Which is fine with me. Most country songs have too much twanging about sad, sad things. Nothing ever good happens in a country song: if you have a dog, the dog will die after your truck gets a flat tire, your wife leaves you for your best friend and your boss fires you after stealing all the Bud Light from the fridge on the porch of your double-wide which just got blown to hell by the tornado.
Though I tolerate Lady G, I truly dig Lady A, because though they twang a smidge, everything they do is incredibly well done.
The point is, for a slow song, this is good. I bet any sort of music fan can listen to it and like it, except for people who are heavy into Swedish Death Metal — and even as a Swede, I have to admit that Swedish Death Metal is NOT FOR EVERYONE.
Round 6 to Gaga.
Round 7: On the radios
Could be a tough round for the Mama Monster, because it kind of sounds like a country song, but do you really get country stations to play it?
I think it gets played on pop stations. And I think it gets played a lot. Round 7 to Gaga.
Round 8: The actual music video
ZOMG. You’ve got a cyborg Lady Gaga walking in the wastelands of Nebraska, a buff beefcake of a Dr. Frankenstein the Farmer in his barn bringing his Mama Monster to life, a blonde Lady Gaga pounding on the piano while she makes out with her doppleganger – pus Gaga the Mermaid, who is either a different creation of Dr. Frankenstein the Farmer or an earlier version of his lovely monster before he turned her fins into legs and whatnot.
This video is insane and creative and amazingly well done.
Big round for the Mama Monster, and I am sad that my stupid rules don’t let me give her bonus points for winning this round.
Round 9: Can you dance to it?
Sure, you can slow-dance to this. You can dirty dance to it. You can make a clone of yourself and play tonsil hockey, if you want. Lady Gaga doesn’t judge.
The better questions are (1) can you do a master’s thesis explaining all the imagery in this sucker, and (2) when will Gaga start making horror movies, hopefully zombie flicks? Round 9 to Lady G.
Round 10: Would I watch this video again?
Yes. I think everyone who sees it once will see it twice, or three times, because it’s not just a freak show, but a brilliant and entertaining freak show on par with the first NIN video.
This judge scores it 7 rounds Gaga, 3 rounds for Bieber.
But what do you think?
Vote to decide who wins the first Music Video Deathmatch.
Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.