In "Bitch, I'm Madonna," Cameos Kill The Video Star

Photo: Courtesy of VEVO.
When MTV launched in 1981, the very first video it aired was The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star." It was an appropriate choice for the channel, which billed itself as a rebel and an upstart, aiming to take over and revive a flagging industry. In reality, the network was more interested in good old-fashioned capitalism. Specifically, the music industry's evolving revenue streams that caused video to kill the radio star. MTV was getting ahead of the game as the only place to watch your favorite artists' videos.

Now, of course, there are a million places to watch them, from YouTube and Vevo to Facebook. Fans have long griped that MTV rarely plays videos anymore, but really, what's the point? The internet has cannibalized its viewership, and that's what gives rise to hungry, desperate videos like "Bitch, I'm Madonna." Everything from its early, exclusive release to Tidal subscribers, to the fact that it is one big parade of cameos from Tidal's management team carries the whiff of insincerity — and even desperation.

There was still a chance that "Bitch, I'm Madonna" could be a fun romp and a return to Madge's dance-heavy videos of days past, like "Hung Up." Unfortunately, the cameos are its ultimate downfall. The song is supposed to herald her iconic status, with everyone from Miley Cyrus to Kanye West dropping by to proclaim, "Bitch, I'm Madonna." Instead, Madonna gets lost in the shuffle of endless, hot-second pop-ins. And they are just that for Beyoncé and Katy Perry — even Nicki Minaj, who's actually featured on the track with Madonna, only shows up in the video via a third-party TV screen. None of them actually make it to the club for Madonnafest 2K15.

The video also arrives too soon after Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." There, the cameos serve a purpose and tell a story. In "Bitch, I'm Madonna," the paper-thin narrative — Madge's famous friends showing up to celebrate her — gets overpowered by the cameos. Even a group of sock puppets performing in black light (which is eerily reminiscent of Pitch Perfect's Sockapellas) grabs the focus away from her. Nothing about the video feels original or fresh, and it has the cumulative, in-your-face feel of the type of big-budget, celebrity-heavy commercial that might air during the Super Bowl.

That, of course, brings us back to Tidal — or the tidal wave of new subscribers that "Bitch, I'm Madonna" hopes to cause. Following its launch, the streaming service was hit by reports that is was an immediate failure. Jay Z and Tidal's other owners have tried to course-correct by releasing exclusive content to subscribers. But "Bitch, I'm Madonna," with its Tidal-heavy roster of cameos, feels more like an ad than an authentic, genuine effort from an artist. If video killed the radio star, then cameos just might kill the video star — against the backdrop of the ongoing battle for revenue and control in the music industry.

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