There’s too much media out there for anybody to keep track of. And considering how easy it is for amateurs to make music, there will always be way more music going on than anybody can know about. If you could distill all your musical likes and dislikes into a formula for the perfect band, the odds are in some basement or some garage somewhere, people are making something close. Unfortunately if you don’t do your own digging around you will probably never find it.
Commercial appeal in the music industry goes hand in hand with image. It’s hard to find famous musicians who aren’t sexy (or at least what passes for sexy these days). I can’t think of a contemporary musician with mass appeal who doesn’t cater to their audience with their image. A lot of the really huge musicians seem to exist only as an image, as their music is artless bullshit. The music is made to prop up the image, never mind if it’s completely repugnant and stupid.
Satellite radio is helpful because you have specialty channels and some eclectic shows. Finally a band like Can will reach some new ears. Even though Can made some of the most innovative rock music from 1968 into the 90s you’ll never hear them on Q107, Toronto’s idea of a terrestrial classic rock station. I heard Jenny Eliscu play Video Games by Lana Del Rey on Sirius XM Radio. Man, that voice! I don’t know why I was surprised when I looked her up and discovered what a foxy lady she is.
Lana Del Rey was blowing up just as her album was coming out. I saw that she was on the cover of Vogue UK. Then I read online that people were outraged such a new and untested performer would grace the cover of such a prestigious magazine. They didn’t use those words, but that was the message. The bit I was reading said that the cover of Vogue should be reserved for true icons like Madonna and Rihanna.
Then the haters came out in full force on Lana Del Rey. People were calling her fake, pointing out that she changed her name and developed this persona to sell records. A poorly-timed shaky performance on SNL seemed to get people riled up and message boards were cutting her to pieces. It’s as though people got mad at her for making her music.
This makes no sense. Any piece of art, be it music or film or whatever, adds to the sum total of human culture. A lot of it is very terrible and should be dismissed. Most of the music I hear on commercial radio is pure garbage. Sure, I’ll make fun of it among friends, but I take issue with very few of these musicians’ messages. I’m sure Rihanna’s “music” tests great in the pubescent demographics. I can’t take it, but I don’t wish her dead. I merely don’t care.
The Amorphous Woman
Obviously Madonna’s been at this game for a long time, but it seems to me that every major female star these days makes it a point to distinctly change looks every couple weeks. The major offenders off the top of my head are Rihanna, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, and Lady Gaga. Madonna took a lot of flak for it but now it’s par for the course.
A large part of the appeal is the ‘wandering eye’ legacy of men. This stereotype is trumpeted by movies and TV constantly. It’s well documented that men respond to visual stimulation more than women. But all senses get bored, it’s a neurological fact. It’s an evolutionary development to give us a sense of normalcy; when we’re used to sensing something we notice it less. We’re all familiar with the idea of something hiding in plain sight.
To a record executive this means that their product should have constantly shifting packaging to keep the look fresh and new. So the perfect candidate is an empty shell of a woman with a pretty surface who takes orders. She’ll be everywoman for the consumers. She’s blonde, now redhead, now demure, now showing a tabloid cameraman she lost her underwear. From the record company’s point of view, it’s twenty for the price of one.
I’m glad Lana Del Rey has created this image. I dig it. Creating a persona seems an inevitable part of the game these days. And doesn’t she admit right off the bat she’s playing video games? The music is hit-and-miss, but she’s doing her thing and she’s compelling. The video she made for You Can Be the Boss is sexier than pornography. Don’t watch it with your mom, and don’t get too excited – she’s obviously talking to me.
Listen to the Music
Despite how much I enjoy watching that video over and over, I find the solution to frustrations like these are to shut my eyes and listen to the music. Am I in a puny minority because I’ll actually put on a record, sit, and listen to it? Without looking at TV or a computer, you can actually hear the music. Imagine that! What kind of weird world would it be if we judged musicians by their music?
It’s funny that nobody bats an eye at the idea of sitting for an hour to watch a TV drama, but sitting for 44 minutes to listen to an LP is somehow uncomfortable.
I don’t care how great a music video is, if the song isn’t compelling, it will fade into irrelevance behind all the music I actually enjoy. And even if a music video is a little uncomfortable and disturbing but the song is great, I’ll still push it on people in the hopes that they will listen to the music. Now go watch Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s new video for I See A Darkness. You could watch this with your mother, but she’ll think you’re weird.