Saturday, January 20, 2007

Lakshmi Chaudhry on "Micro-Celebrity"

From The Nation, on how, increasingly, "everyone wants to be a star"--how, "thanks to MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, LiveJournal and other bastions of the retooled Web 2.0, every Jane, Joe or Jamila can indeed be a star."

Pertinent quotes:
A 2000 Interprise poll revealed that 50 percent of kids under 12 believe that becoming famous is part of the American Dream. It's a dream increasingly shared by the rest of the world, as revealed in a recent survey of British children between 5 and 10, who most frequently picked being famous as the "very best thing in the world." The views of these young children are no different from American college freshmen, who, according to a 2004 survey, most want to be an "actor or entertainer."

In the 1950s, only 12 percent of teenagers between 12 and 14 agreed with the statement, "I am an important person." By the late 1980s, the number had reached an astounding 80 percent, an upward trajectory that shows no sign of reversing. Preliminary findings from a joint study conducted by Jean Twenge, Keith Campbell and three other researchers revealed that an average college student in 2006 scored higher than 65 percent of the students in 1987 on the standard Narcissism Personality Inventory test, which includes statements such as "I am a special person," "I find it easy to manipulate people" and "If I were on the Titanic, I would deserve to be on the first lifeboat."

A Harris poll conducted in 2000 found that 44 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 24 believed it was at least somewhat likely that they would be famous for a short period. Those in their late twenties were even more optimistic: Six in ten expected that they would be well-known, if only briefly, sometime in their lives.

Jeff Chang on Jay-Z in The Nation

A very incisive piece by Jeff Chang, author of Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation and the zentronix blog, on the career trajectory of Jay-Z, Jay-Hova--"his transformation from street hustler to high-end brand name" and how he helped found "what advertisers now call the 'urban aspirational' market." At its origins, Chang notes, it appeared to many that rap was the new counterculture--although rappers were pretty clear about it being also, or maybe mostly, business. By now, it's big, big bizness. Now, he observes,
"Corporate media's massive economies of scale favor a drastically limited scope of rap archetypes that, not coincidentally, traffic primarily in stereotypes of black sexuality and criminality. Labels make fewer signings, so there are fewer "types" to represent. Furthermore, those signings tend to fill old boxes: the party girl in furs and stiletto heels, the gunslinger at odds with rivals and cops, the crack dealer on the corner."

Within these constraints, says Chang, maybe the "crack rappers" like the Clipse, T.I., and Young Jeezy are the new counterculture:
"This music, which is being pushed by global corporate conglomerates, sells a myth of street life that makes crack production a metaphor for the new economy.

Amid war, post-Katrina unrest and, especially, expanding joblessness, the small-time hustlers of crack rap provide a strange kind of comfort. In a "free-agent nation" where fortysomethings routinely find themselves pink-slip obsolescent and twentysomethings are encouraged to prepare themselves for an insecure occupational future by becoming their own brands, perhaps crack rappers--whose desire for the good life is matched by the insecure certainty of the kitchen-and-corner struggle--have become the new countercultural heroes. Of course, this counterculture too comes with its illusions...The tragedies of crack rap are the stories never told, the fallen bodies never counted."

On the other side of the new economy, Jay-Z's partner Beyoncé shills for Walmart.

The Gossip diss Scissor Sisters; chart in UK

This item is copyrighted by Jonty Scruff, 19 January 2007 Skrufff-E #293

The Gossip's Malicious Gossip

Fast rising electro-rock star Beth Ditto tore into US popsters the Scissor Sisters this week, telling Mixmag touring with the band was 'a really soul-sucking experience.'

"It wasn't gigs, it was 'concerts', you know like when you're nine and New Kids On The Block come to town and you camp outside the mall all day to get your ticket," she complained. "The audience were moms wanting chart hits. They've never seen a John Waters movie or heard the Ramones."

Her comments appeared as The Gossip's UK label Back Yard announced that they're re-releasing Standing In The Way of Control in March, after the (excellent) Soulwax mix was broadcast relentlessly on Channel 4, when it was used on a trailer for new TV series Skins. The track previously reached the Top 40 in November though is now expected to chart highly, almost certainly selling to the same 'moms wanting chart hits' who like the Scissor Sisters.

It's also worth checking out The Gossip on myspace, where they describe themselves as punk/soul/experimental, and write, among other things, "We are interested in art, crime, politics, food, change, the underground, dancing, fashion, subversive individuals and movements. We will nvr die + we will nvr diet...we are still not interested in credit in the straight world."

But if they place high in the UK top 40?