I am watching Lady Gaga parade around in a music video, whilst I pump iron in the gym. She is talented; her songs catchy, voice strong, and she churns out hit after hit in an effortless manner. For a moment I appreciate this, then my eyes take over my ears, and I consider her image as this 'crazy' person. I begin to laugh hard. I laugh because Lady Gaga is likely as sane as anyone outside a funny farm, and from a knowledge how in reality, genuine wackiness of individuality; that of a Jimmy Saville or Jim Carrey, cannot be faked - at least not in my eyes. Still, I admire her immensely successful attempts at publicity, for being noticed in a world where everyone is screaming for attention, requires charisma - which she maintains in abundance.
Over the course of an hour, I view another series of commercial music videos. I begin to notice a consistent pattern in the trend of every female solo artist of 2011; dancing in a series of bizarre outfits, avant garde sets, and looks to suggest they are somewhat 'out there'; giving off the impression of being crazy, an outlook considered 'cool'. at the current moment of socially acceptable trends. In essence, my eyes are listening to the music - yet they were never designed for this, only conditioned. I begin to wonder if this is all most people alive today know; our eyes tasting the world before we even feel it, so by the time we do feel it, it has already been through the ringer of external reality many times - much easier to accept, than question.
Right back to the 1950's, copying business models has been a regular process of the music industry; for every financially successful group or singer, a myriad of similar artists are signed up in the hope of replicating the monetary heights they achieved. How many swinging hipsters echoed Elvis Presley? Or mop-tops in the sixties resembling The Beatles; singing about endless monagamic love, in orgasmic vocal tones? Roll through other revolutionary musicians who created genres of their own accord, and those who seemingly arrive from nowhere; for every Rolling Stones, Queen, Bob Dylan, The Sex Pistols, Nirvana, or Oasis, you have a Ramones, Sparks, Donovan, Tenpole Tudor, Mudhoney, and Embrace.
Usually, 95% of these artists are average at best; who remembers brit-pop band Cast, or Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch? It is not the music which sells the artist, but the image. It has been happening for so long, we accept it as standard. One positive side effect however, is every now and again a group are signed through this structure, who ride its wave to express talents - which may never had been given the opportunity to shine on a global scale; The Verve through Oasis, or James Morrison being signed for similarities to James Blunt, as examples or credible artists - apparent by the fact they remain in the public eye long after the air of their style has outgrown its fashionable nature; Jessie J will likely be an example of the Gaga types to do this - she has genuine talent.
It wasn't video which killed the radio star - but as usual, capitalism; as well as the individual expression of music lost through the subliminal powers of our own sight. My solitary piece of advice to any aspiring artist - in any field, is to remain strong, and express your true self through the art form of your chosen craft. When the commercial success which often allows artistic efforts to continue in the cold light of day, is based upon copying an image of somebody else already successful, there is understandably much pressure to conform. But please, try not to. I try not to - I don't want to be the next Lady Gaga, I am quite happy being the first Lee Gunnell...