Lady Gaga, Pussycat Dolls and a Taxonomy of Vacuous Pop

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This is one reason why it's hard to place Craig David - as a persistent figure in UK pop he might become increasingly strained, but he's unlikely ever to fascinate or appall people.

― Tim F, Thursday, 23 October 2008 15:19 (7 hours ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

Really don't think this works, it's hard (impossible) to think of a single pop performer more villified/mocked in the UK over the past decade than Craig David (Victoria Beckham? James Blunt? Mick Hucknall?)

Carrie Bradshaw Layfield (The stickman from the hilarious 'xkcd' comics), Thursday, 23 October 2008 21:47 (6 years ago) Permalink

None of those three got a melody maker cover sitting on the bog

Pfunkboy Formerly Known As... (Herman G. Neuname), Thursday, 23 October 2008 21:51 (6 years ago) Permalink

I dunno NRQ, that absolute hatred of David doesn't bleed over to Australian/international music press so it's difficult for me to comment accurately perhaps. My sense was that he was "a joke", but the big difference to me is that ultimately there's not the same narrative of media cycles focusing on successful/unsuccessful plastic surgeries, weight ballooning, new "looks", etc.

All of which is there for, say, a Victoria Beckham. So while Craig David might be disliked as much as Victoria, it's a different kind of dislike. I think with a certain brand of female pop there's an almost uneasy feeling that these stars are not really human beings anymore. I don't think people tend to feel the same way about male pop stars, who often disliked (see James Blunt) for being boring more than anything else.

"Or are men just not capable of being vacuous?"

This is an excessively literal reading of what is being discussed here. Of course men are capable of being vacuous. Of course male pop is capable of being vacuous. But it's the very fact that female pop is disproportionately criticized as vacuous that makes all of this stuff interesting to think about - would we ever have cared as much about Justin Timberlake saying "we should just support the POTUS in whatever he does?" No, because, there's less of a pre-existing urge to pillory male pop stars for being stupid (as I note above, we're much more likely to pillory male pop stars for being effete/feminine).

The other big motivation for me to write all of this was to talk about the dynamic of gay appreciation of "vacuous" (female) pop. Whereas gay men tend to like male pop (vacuous or otherwise) in much the same way as the rest of the population, give or take a desire to have sex with the performer, which anyway they share in common with straight women, pop's primary audience.

Above and beyond all of that, I think the big thrust of what I'm saying is that what is dismissed as "vacuous" often isn't, or rather that what is going on is far more complicated.

Tim F, Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:00 (6 years ago) Permalink

I never got the sense that Craig David is particularly hated in the UK - what am I missing?

Annoying Display Name (blueski), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:04 (6 years ago) Permalink

(before I answer, I'm Dom. You can tell I'm not NRQ because I mentioned an act that wasn't from the 90s)

Carrie Bradshaw Layfield (The stickman from the hilarious 'xkcd' comics), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:04 (6 years ago) Permalink

craig david's image these days is pretty respectable lemar territory, insofar as he's thought about at all. and anyway he was never mocked for (pcd-style) vacuity, he was mocked because he did things like say his name on record and play up the smoove loverman image (ie fairly standard and inoffensive signifiers in black music, which for SOME REASON many white british people get rather annoyed by).

boy bands are traditionally dismissed as vacuous in similar ways to the female pop acts mentioned here, but there aren't any boy bands any more (except mcfly! who are indeed mocked and rightly so) so this doesn't really lead us anywhere. it took justin ages to get rid of that stigma, though. a great deal of the vacuity criticism is related to the perception of who the act's target audience is (which is often only tangentially related to what they sound like) - if they're known for having a female teen/tween fanbase (or indeed teh gays, haha) that tends to be enough for them to be labelled vacuous.

PCDs are an increasingly interesting case cuz of how massively, reliably commercially successful they are, with absolutely zero critical respectability (EXCEPT US). look at their singles! this sequence is actually astonishingly good, in termsof singles they have not put a foot wrong yet:

don't cha
stickwitu
beep
buttonz
i don't need a man
wait a minute
when i grow up
i hate this part

lex pretend, Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:15 (6 years ago) Permalink

pcd singles are wallpaper to me but i have a weird (for me) affinity for them because i think they might be the last mega-successful pop group completely engineered by a label with a massive promo budget and stuff

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:18 (6 years ago) Permalink

unless you count kings of leon

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:18 (6 years ago) Permalink

it's weird that pcd have never had a US #1 after all that though

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:19 (6 years ago) Permalink

it is actually interesting to see how the boyband concept has changed in 10 years - the types you had in '98 don't seem to exist at all now, apart from the SAME big 3 in the UK, 2 of which were always aimed more at older market anyway.

Annoying Display Name (blueski), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:21 (6 years ago) Permalink

What goes around comes around.

Pfunkboy Formerly Known As... (Herman G. Neuname), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:30 (6 years ago) Permalink

Sorry dom, that was a weird mix-up.

Tim F, Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:33 (6 years ago) Permalink

why is there seemingly less interest in male 3s, 4s and 5s in the US market? esp. on the R&B side. ten years ago you still had Blackstreet plus Dru Hill, 112 and a few others. it seemed a reasonably constant model until recent years - what changed?

Annoying Display Name (blueski), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:36 (6 years ago) Permalink

reality tv?

Pfunkboy Formerly Known As... (Herman G. Neuname), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:37 (6 years ago) Permalink

if you mean Making The Band, maybe O-Town killed it but it's weird to think that their failure on it's own would put a stop to what seems a long-running tradition in the US or all male R&B pop groups.

Annoying Display Name (blueski), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:40 (6 years ago) Permalink

OF all male R&B groups, that should be

Annoying Display Name (blueski), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:41 (6 years ago) Permalink

The male R&B group model was still quite prominent even about five or six years ago - Jagged Edge, B2K etc.

I think it's less common for female groups too, now, PCD notwithstanding. Which other new groups have crashed through?

Perhaps the myspace-isation of pop has meant listeners expect a more "personal" relationship with their pop icons, which R&B groups struggle to provide, esp. since male R&B groups never placed the same emphasis on individual personality that the female groups did. Don't know about the rest of you but I struggle to name any members of the male groups unless they went solo.

Tim F, Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:42 (6 years ago) Permalink

making the band male group day26 had a #1 album but they couldn't be more inconsequential in the grand scheme if they tried

pretty ricky had some singles a few years back but their new jack single didn't do anything this summer

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:44 (6 years ago) Permalink

the trend towards solo artists in "commercial" genres like r&b and pop is interesting - i can't really think of an adequate explanation at all. it's fairly definite, to the extent that i can't imagine that format providing a breakthrough act right now. poor danity kane :(

lex pretend, Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:45 (6 years ago) Permalink

they tried a new black boyband here this time last year with Ghostt (X-Factor rejects) - actually really liked their debut single but it was hard to see how they could succeed (also hard to reason why not tho, given the precedents (Another Level!)

but maybe there are a few bands like them on Channel U you'd never know about unless you watched that

Annoying Display Name (blueski), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:47 (6 years ago) Permalink

is the development of solo artists seen as more worthwhile from a record company perspective? the boyband/girlgroup format implies a limited shelflife, whereas investing money in a solo act like chris brown, who is effectively a one-man boy band, can potentially pay off in a longer career?

lex pretend, Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:48 (6 years ago) Permalink

im not sure if this has any traction or not but maybe male r&b groups died here because it just became to inexpensive and not profitable enough to employ 3 or 4 guys who are singing songs written by people who have to be paid and dancing in choreography devised by someone who had to be paid etc

it seems like all success here in the US in terms of male r&b is coming from a few minds- ne-yo, the-dream, t-pain, akon even timbaland- who write songs for other people as well as themselves. i'm not sure what the business side of that is but r&b from a male perspective is so so concentrated now (even female r&b too since ne-yo, t-pain and dream all write tons of songs for women). otherwise the big stars are like, usher and justin who are holdovers from the era of earlier this decade. chris brown seems to be the only mega star i can think of who only sings songs written for him.

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:49 (6 years ago) Permalink

you can see that there are a LOT more solo women doing well now compared to 10 years ago (people used to joke about the Brit Award for Best Female because of the lack of candidates but now, irrespective of how you feel about their music, there's so much more choice).

Annoying Display Name (blueski), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:50 (6 years ago) Permalink

Sounds about right. Used to be a boyband was launched, main dude went solo (possibly as bands were in and solo acts weren't at the time? and maybe things have changed around). Now labels don't expect bands to last long enough so they just have a conveyor belt of solo acts from the likes of X-Factor and the like?
x-post

Pfunkboy Formerly Known As... (Herman G. Neuname), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:50 (6 years ago) Permalink

Certainly the times suit solo voices: it would be difficult to do an autotune track with a whole group (though in theory the result could be awesome), and solo singers can more easily make space for guest rappers in their songs.

Now I can't remember if Danity Kane use autotune at all. But the fact that they come across as so robotic (which would be a plus only for some listeners) is a good demonstration of the "dangers" of group format right now.

Interestingly, PCD songs are to all intents and purposes solo tracks with back-up singers. This may not simply be because most of the Dolls can't sing; perhaps it was just felt that this structure was easier to fit to chart-ready pop songs circa 2006-2008.

Tim F, Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:52 (6 years ago) Permalink

the boyband/girlgroup format implies a limited shelflife, whereas investing money in a solo act like chris brown, who is effectively a one-man boy band, can potentially pay off in a longer career?

also much easier (and cheaper) to manage only 1 person rather than 4

Annoying Display Name (blueski), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:52 (6 years ago) Permalink

not that we should give much, if any, credit to the labels imo. t-pain and ne-yo have been two of the most bankable r&b minds of the past two or three years and t-pain was signed by akon after t-pain parodied "locked up" and i'm willing to bet ne-yo got a deal out of courtesy for writing hits but the label mad minimal expectations for his solo career

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:53 (6 years ago) Permalink

because it just became to inexpensive and not profitable enough to employ 3 or 4 guys who are singing songs written by people who have to be paid and dancing in choreography devised by someone who had to be paid etc

good point when taking into account the market decline (piracy + saturation)...altho the number of guitar-based quartets seems the same if not greater

Annoying Display Name (blueski), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:54 (6 years ago) Permalink

um that should say too expensive btw

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 22:55 (6 years ago) Permalink

I don't want this to get into a pop vs rock rockist bands should write their own songs "debate". But when did pop groups stop writing their own songs? Cathy Dennis writes loads of songs as does betty boo, but their chart careers didn't last long really. Are labels too scared about their investments to allow pop stars to write like say Madonna did? Gary Barlow is the last one I can think of. (Does Ronan Keating write his songs?) I can't believe there aren't some talented people out there in the pop world that could write or produce their own stuff. (if any do exist please point them out as it's not a genre I'm an expert in obviously)

Pfunkboy Formerly Known As... (Herman G. Neuname), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:00 (6 years ago) Permalink

I can't believe there aren't some talented people out there in the pop world that could write or produce their own stuff. (if any do exist please point them out as it's not a genre I'm an expert in obviously)

― Pfunkboy Formerly Known As... (Herman G. Neuname), Thursday, October 23, 2008 6:00 PM (27 seconds ago) Bookmark

i mentioned these a few posts ago, but t-pain has basically written and produced every song that he's sung for himself or been featured on in the past 3 years. ne-yo and the-dream write a ton of songs for themselves and others, and though they don't produce most of them they have each have a reliable team to do the production. akon is the same as t-pain but he doesn't work at the same clip.

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:03 (6 years ago) Permalink

yeah i think the trend is actually towards pop stars writing more of their own material! and to let a lot of the songwriters out from behind the curtain as viable pop stars in their own right, like ne-yo.

lex pretend, Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:05 (6 years ago) Permalink

Any British equivalents?

Pfunkboy Formerly Known As... (Herman G. Neuname), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:05 (6 years ago) Permalink

basshunter

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:06 (6 years ago) Permalink

Sugababes write many of their own iirc. All Saints did too.

Annoying Display Name (blueski), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:07 (6 years ago) Permalink

All Saints is going back a bit!

Pfunkboy Formerly Known As... (Herman G. Neuname), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:09 (6 years ago) Permalink

from a rock perspective, there are no boyish guitar bands that are successful anymore on a massive scale like blink-182 was. panic at the disco fell the fuck off and fall out boy are in the process of doing the same on a huger stage, so right now majors have nickelback and american idol rockers or one offs like hinder and finger eleven. i'd say, contrary to what herman has proposed, pop/r&b are far far outpacing popular rock in terms of "writing their own hits"

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:09 (6 years ago) Permalink

only 2 years! xp

Annoying Display Name (blueski), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:10 (6 years ago) Permalink

there aren't that many british commercial pop acts left any more. girls aloud don't write their material, generally, but they're a holdover from a different time. the saturdays are the only other act in this vein having any sort of success, i have no idea whether they write their songs but given how pointless they are it prob doesn't matter.

lex pretend, Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:10 (6 years ago) Permalink

jonas brothers, jordan

lex pretend, Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:10 (6 years ago) Permalink

i wonder how the game will change as and when all these insanely popular disney stars grow up and forge their own artistic paths outside the disney umbrella

lex pretend, Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:11 (6 years ago) Permalink

oh true i forgot about them

but that's still not the same as a perspective a rockist would take cuz jonas bros and the disney-arm are like a parallel universe version of the music business. traditional majors are still flailing

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:11 (6 years ago) Permalink

Are many of the fall out boy type bands having hits written for them? I know that Bon Jovi (in the mid 80s when they got mega) used to have Desmond Child write songs for them until Jon Bon Jovi wrote a no1 single for them and took over. (i wouldn't be surprised if they get someone in to write for their hits now though) Kiss had others write for them too, didn't they?

Pfunkboy Formerly Known As... (Herman G. Neuname), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:14 (6 years ago) Permalink

i think when it comes to the success of pop we're really going to start seeing two distinct strains:

-megastars who are promoted traditionally, like britney who had no promo budget because she was always in the tabloids, or chris brown scoring a huge hit out of a commercial jingle. i guess rihanna is the outlier here, but usher and pcd were both promoted really traditionally here and didn't live up to sales expectations. i'm not sure how many huge vacouous pop stars are going to appear in the ways we are used to.

-more artists in the t-pain/akon/ne-yo/dream writer/singer etc. mode, though even this may be dying out as neither t-pain or akon are really taking over this year and someone like sean garret flopped earlier last year

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:15 (6 years ago) Permalink

or i guess we have seen these strains i suspect that they will continue

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:15 (6 years ago) Permalink

megastars who are promoed untraditionally, jeez

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:16 (6 years ago) Permalink

Jim Steinman is probably looking for a younger band to take on the Bat Out Of Hell franchise haha

Pfunkboy Formerly Known As... (Herman G. Neuname), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:16 (6 years ago) Permalink

jazmine sullivan wrote her own huge r&b hit this year, whereas ciara, keri hilson and cassie have all had huge megawriters behind their singles which have all been relative flops

dunno if this means anything though

xp to myself

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:17 (6 years ago) Permalink

hang on keri hilson had a megawriter behind her single? b-b-but she IS a megawriter! she's part of the clutch, the only reason she has a career is because she's doing a ne-yo-style move out from behind the curtain. wtf is the point if you're just going to hire someone else?

lex pretend, Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:20 (6 years ago) Permalink

maybe she's trying to groom a new her

Annoying Display Name (blueski), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:21 (6 years ago) Permalink

those articles are blowing my miiiind.

Samuel (a hoy hoy), Friday, 30 October 2009 22:15 (5 years ago) Permalink

what are they about? i don't have the patience to read them.

paparazzi is still giving me chills.

oops i accidentally made it personal (surm), Saturday, 31 October 2009 18:25 (4 years ago) Permalink

i basically refuse to listen to any of her newer singles out of fear that i might like them

k3vin k., Saturday, 31 October 2009 18:27 (4 years ago) Permalink

lol

plax (I know, right?), Saturday, 31 October 2009 18:31 (4 years ago) Permalink

that stuffed animal dress on her is fucking gorgeous

oops i accidentally made it personal (surm), Saturday, 31 October 2009 18:33 (4 years ago) Permalink

reminds me of an awesome outfit i saw in vogue last month, with a top made out of beautiful little stuffed leopards.

oops i accidentally made it personal (surm), Saturday, 31 October 2009 18:35 (4 years ago) Permalink

She's more competent as a songwriter than most people would like to admit, right? I kinda like that song she wrote for Michael Bolton.

Turangalila, Saturday, 31 October 2009 18:38 (4 years ago) Permalink

i love those articles

References to mind control, to secret societies, to Baphomet and to Metropolis are too widespread to be coincidences or results of artistic expression. There is an obvious media campaign pushing these elements into pop culture. What should we do about it? MTV says: Just dance.

johnny crunch, Saturday, 31 October 2009 18:42 (4 years ago) Permalink

was it someone here who showed me this comparison between roisin and gaga? http://idolator.com/5263432/roisin-murphy-knows-that-lady-gagas-imitation-is-in-fact-flattery kinda funny

oops i accidentally made it personal (surm), Saturday, 31 October 2009 18:43 (4 years ago) Permalink

The truth is somehow both weirder and more mind-boggling mundane than I ever thought.

I'm gonna bump this thread and leave it for my SisX0r to read and be amused be.

The Paisley (shop) Window Pane (Masonic Boom), Sunday, 1 November 2009 12:48 (4 years ago) Permalink

Yesterday the news went around that Irish dance innovator Roisin Murphy had called out the steamroller that is Lady GaGa for ripping off her style

lol

umadeus grozart (Curt1s Stephens), Sunday, 1 November 2009 13:03 (4 years ago) Permalink

I didn't know Roisin was into Riverdance.

Tim F, Sunday, 1 November 2009 13:25 (4 years ago) Permalink

you know if lady gaga hadn't become really famous straight off, then most of her songs and stuff would be lyrically really mad

plaxico (I know, right?), Wednesday, 11 November 2009 15:56 (4 years ago) Permalink

lookin kinda annie lennox to me here

mdskltr (blueski), Wednesday, 11 November 2009 17:16 (4 years ago) Permalink

plaxico (I know, right?), Sunday, 22 November 2009 23:49 (4 years ago) Permalink

awesome

oops i accidentally made it personal (surm), Sunday, 22 November 2009 23:57 (4 years ago) Permalink

yeah i have to say that now i'm over her going on abt being a pop-construct r whatever, I'm totally in love with her a little, just watching her do live performances on youtube and she really is one of those next level popstars, nothing amateurish but pure charisma and great vocals always. She is a fucking awesome piano player too.

plaxico (I know, right?), Monday, 23 November 2009 00:01 (4 years ago) Permalink

still hate the fame but she has a great album in her at least

plaxico (I know, right?), Monday, 23 November 2009 00:01 (4 years ago) Permalink

Way way cuter with that hair.

& other try hard shitfests (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Monday, 23 November 2009 00:04 (4 years ago) Permalink

my sister claims that clip is "pre nosejob"

plaxico (I know, right?), Monday, 23 November 2009 00:04 (4 years ago) Permalink

don't know if she still has it now, but she had quite a schnoz on her when she was first blowing up

lyrically launched salvo on a plethora of esteemed artist (The Reverend), Monday, 23 November 2009 00:08 (4 years ago) Permalink

i think she's kept it.

i would prolly like to hang out with your sister xp

yeah she's just talented and cool

kinda wish she'd go more jazzy on some songs these days, instead of all electro all the time

oops i accidentally made it personal (surm), Monday, 23 November 2009 00:10 (4 years ago) Permalink

the impression these clips give me is that she's giving over to all the wrong impulses, she's totally over the top on all her conceptual bs while i wish she would be a bit more self indulgent with the crazy piano playing and actually awesome pipes. Really i just get the impression that she's sacrificing making the awesome music she wants to make at least a little bit in favour of maintaining some trashpop aesthetic that works with the r'n'ziggy thing she's tryna pull.

plaxico (I know, right?), Monday, 23 November 2009 00:15 (4 years ago) Permalink

haha ramzi i think u would, she's a pretty scary girl, says them how she sees them

plaxico (I know, right?), Monday, 23 November 2009 00:16 (4 years ago) Permalink

i think she just kinda likes it. and the fact that it still sounds interesting given all the crap she puts on top of it says at least something. you're right tho, her pipes need a little more room in her mixes. good voice.

oops i accidentally made it personal (surm), Monday, 23 November 2009 00:17 (4 years ago) Permalink


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