Everything is a fucking show. Everybody needs a fucking mass of background dancers, remixers, mash-ups, fireworks and symbols, pop-culture references, brand tie-ins and codes. The biggest popstars try to make an event out of everything. You have a new album coming out? Cool, let’s just not tell anybody and make it appear over night then. You haven’t released any music for some time but you need a reason to go on tour again and grab a couple of millions? Why not release a new album in order to have a reason for touring then? My problem with it: It’s all getting so predictable.
In a music industry that’s relying on proper planning this strategy seems to come as a great tool to raise the middle finger to the establishment, the fat cats, the men (it’s just men up there) running the big companies. It’s proof to the fans that you, the artist, doesn’t care about them. That your music and your fans are the only ones that count. Well fuck you. Stop lying to us and get off your big fucking horse. As always, it’s just about the cash. And all the fuss is just a mere attempt of disguising that single fact. It makes me sick.
Last night Beyonce had a triumphant appearance at the Superbowl half time show. She stole the limelight form Coldplay and Bruno Mars in her Michael Jackson tribute outfit with performing fractions of a new song she released, out of nothing (surprise, surprise) the day before (worked a treat with her last album, didn’t it?). That song is merely a sketch. She sings or raps about her Southern States heritage, uses pictures from a documentary and must have spent truckloads on the more than a handful choreographies and location sets. Obviously she raps about her luxury dresses and other bling. Why the fuck? Did you pick that all up from your husband?
Since when do pop musicians sing about their ‚haters‘? Pop media has made Beyonce the queen of pop (sure thing, they did that with Madonna, Rihanna, Adele too and I’m pretty sure they used the same term for Britney, Christina or Gwen Stefanie before as well, didn’t they?) and she wants to make a statement because she is in a position now where the whole world listens. I can fully appreciate that. It is important that the big pop stars are taking a stance against police violence. I’m absolutely with her. But why is that important message delivered through the male gaze? Why does she adhere to traditional codes of the male dominated music industry? Isn’t Queen Bae supposed to be one of the figureheads of feminism too? Just releasing a surprise album or a surprise track won’t change anything. All while still bowing down to the (wrong) codes we accepted as the norm.
Maybe she should look towards another female artist who isn’t shy about making strong statements herself. M.I.A.’s last single Borders isn’t only lyrically a massive statement, but the video supports it 100%. She directed it herself which shows how much creative control she has over her art. Beyonce directed some videos herself as well (but well, wow, she filmed herself and some friends dancing with a GoPro…) but they don’t display that strong a message.
Another artist who happened to surprise everyone with her new album is Rihanna. Although that surprise release seems like a massive industry fuck up. With Jay-Z’s streaming service Tidal apparently leaking it by accident then blaming the label Universal for a delivery fuck up who then respond by blaming somebody else. Here we have another great example of an artist in full creative control of her work, in the public eye at least. As Michael Nelson points out in his great article on Stereogum, we might have to reconsider the amount of creative control we attribute to her though. What lead to the whole album mishap? Did Rihanna really want to release the album for free? Didn’t she get a shitload of money in order to do so? Was it really an act of love for her fans? It definitely made for a huge story that week. Unfortunately, as it appears to be more and more common, the attention has vanished a few days later. The media moves on and so do the fans.
Did anyone really listen to the album (I did it, and I think the album is good)? From a fan perspective this whole release was a mess. From an industry perspective, Rihanna and her management didn’t make a lot of friends with that practice (the label must have been pissed, Spotify and iTunes were definitely not happy that the album was exclusive to Tidal) and how about the teams behind all the other artists who released their music that week after months of proper planning and work. Yes, you can argue that my last point is a little invalid as you could always be unlucky and release on a day some big hit artist releases their album, it’s still shit though, isn’t it? And what about the music? Shouldn’t the music be at the forefront of all our discussions? Why has the core of what makes every musician a popstar, the music, become the least mentioned thing? Isn’t it time to focus on what really moves us again? So please, would all of you superstars forget about putting on a show and focus on their music instead. We should do the same by the way.
Header Image: Reuters/Matthew Emmons