Friday, 12 June 2009

Pop Idol - a generation reborn

It has occurred to me that, despite many ramblings to friends and loved-ones on the matter, I am one of the (possibly?) two bloggers who hasn’t yet passed written judgement on the gaga. The Lady GaGa. Well I’d better just get it out there in the nick of time, before anyone jumps to the conclusion that I don’t care about (or indeed for) the GaGa, because were they to jump to said conclusion, my more patient friends, they would be wrong. I do care, in fact I’m quite opinionated on the matter and my arguments fall wholly in the defence, nay, celebration, of Lady Gaga. And here’s why; I am nostalgic. Nostalgic for a time I wasn’t even able to enjoy, a time of icons, real life icons. As a lover of blogs and social networking and all that jazz, I appreciate a new multi-mediated society as much as the next laptop-toting young ‘un, and I definitely appreciate what it has done for accessibility in the music industry (hello spotify). I don’t even mind the dizzying turnover of ‘best new acts’, and find it entertainingly comforting in a Hollyoaks, miss-a-bunch-of-‘em-and-still-catch-up-in-one-episode kind of way. But it has come at a cost. This fame free-for-all has taken away the necessity of building a brand, creating a product in the most old school sense.

As far as I see it our brave new world has divided musical fame into two distinct categories; industry and independent. Fairly easily identifiable, those industrial stars find themselves squeezed neatly into a tried and tested formula, through which they emerge on the other side as glossy haired, auto-tuned, choreographed little sex angels, styled to within an inch of the colour-coordinated existences. If that made me sound in any way upset about that state of affairs it was unintentional, we can’t forget that the formula works for a reason, there’s something about bright colours moving in formation, singing what is essentially 7 variations of the same song, that is just about irresistible. Then there are our more morally esteemed independent artistes...those cool kids who shake their half-shaven heads at the corporate music industry and bemoan the loss of musical integrity. Those whose hard graft, because internet social networking can be a bitch, has got them a fan base big enough to feed their egos but small enough to keep their moral superiority complexes intact (I like these guys too by the way, my tone can be misleading...). My point is this, between the well oiled machine of corporate music industry and the unclean faces of the internet music generation at no point do we see any effort to create anything new and exciting. The effort that is lost is that of the show, the spectacle, and the icon. If you think hard and try to come up with an icon of our times, in terms of the image they wish to create, can you really think of anyone you could easily emulate at a fancy dress party?

80s pop bought us Madonna, acting the virgin in coned bras and black and white lace, Blondie (drawing parallel lines), from the late 70s we had David Bowie (as Ziggy Stardust obvs) and all the glam rock lot. This was a time when success depended not just on the music but on the entire package and the prerequisite was that the package had to bring something edgy and over the top and very recognisable. There is one Lady Gaga stroke of genius that has been forgotten in a world where the turnover of new bands is almost equalled by the turnover of fashion trends, it is the genius of repetition. To be recognised within the realms of a look, repetition is key. How many different lace outfits did Madonna rock? How many stage performances did Ziggy Stardust do with that iconic make-up? Kiss anyone? And the Gaga herself is more than proud to promote that method, I’ve seen here say in interviews that despite (or because of...) her passion for designers, both classic and new, and her creative flair in making/adapting her own clothes/costumes and doing all her own styling, she insists on wearing the same outfit at a number of events precisely in order to enable the power of recognition so integral to creating a brand. Imagine as well how hard it must be, when being advised by so many industry professionals, having sample clothes and stylists thrust at you from every direction, to stick to your guns with an idea like this. And this is the effort I think a lot of today’s stars shy away from. It takes such a level of self-assurance and confidence and, let’s face it arrogance, to commit to this ideal, but the buzz that has surrounded this lady from day dot is surely proof enough that it pays off, non?

It seems such a shame though that this multi-mediated world is being used to promote isolated strands of the entertainment industry, for example just the music or just the over-processed image, when it should be used to its’ fullest to promote every facet possible, and all at once. It is now that this can be done to an extent that we never seen before, it is now that Icons could be created to the most dramatic effect and instead of celebrating those new children of the internet age they are being ridiculed. Homogeneity has been nurtured by this age of technology to the extent that the significance of ‘the idol’ as individual and different is one that should be revered and for me is actually pretty exciting. In retrospect though, it’s obvious that objects of ridicule tend to become those pioneers of things to come, so hopefully the Gaga is signifying the beginning of a revival of the ‘icon era’. I do hope so.

1 comment:

  1. Sadly Lady GaGa doesn't live up to Madonna, and certainly not David Bowie

    Music is mainstream crap and outfits thrice warmed up dinner; we've see it all before

    and better