Monday, 20 February 2012

The Whole World Knows Your Name, But Who The Hell Are You?

     Debates about the privacy of celebrities have been going on forever – just because they choose a certain career, does that mean they should be followed and photographed at every opportunity? Yes, they are real people, and no one wants everything in the open, but in this day and age, certain careers lead to fame – and this limits privacy. But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about how celebrities choose to portray themselves – in particular musicians. Acting, by definition, involves pretending to be someone else. TV presenters read lines given to them. Athletes carry out physical actions. Musicians make music – but what is the music about?

Lana Del Rey (Source)


You Me At Six (Source)

     Most celebrities show off their personalities and lives in interviews – their career is unrelated to their personal lives. But musicians can choose to make the music personal, and it is up to them to what degree to take this. So in essence, what I’m really writing about is ‘manufactured’ and ‘real’ music.

    The reason I decided to write about this is the new girl everyone’s talking about – Lana Del Rey. Musically, I can’t fucking stand her. It’s all dull and plaintive and repetitive, and her voice is like a croaking frog. And for goodness' sake, it's ok to smile once in a while! I also find it hilarious that all the hipsters (as I’ve written in a previous post, I can’t stand pretentious people) thought she was going to be the next big thing that was under the radar – when she’s signed to Interscope, the same label that owns Lady Gaga. There’s been a lot of controversy about Lana Del Rey, mainly surrounding what aspects of her are real. There’s plenty of rumours saying she lied about her past, coming from a poor family, when her dad is very rich – though she supposedly didn’t use his money – really now? I doubt that, as she seems to have come very suddenly out of nowhere. But she admits to being manufactured – whether by herself or the label, I don’t really care. Obviously, this isn’t her real name, and she has created a persona and sound of old Hollywood glamour that aren’t really her. This is another reason she pisses me off. The thing is, she’s not the only person in the music industry who has been manufactured – but the image she presents has the potential to be real, and if it was I can see why it appeals to a lot of people – yet it isn’t, therefore the persona is designed to make money.

     However, other musicians who are manufactured are quite obviously so – Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj spring to mind. Now anyone who is one of Gaga’s ‘little monsters’ will argue that Gaga claims this isn’t an act, and she’s really like this all the time. I highly doubt this, as it must be the most exhausting existence ever, and she clearly hasn’t always been like this. Her eccentricity made her stand out when she first burst onto the scene, and helped shift thousands of copies of her records. But the consumer can obviously see that they are fake and manufactured – they have very little intellect if they do not – so they know what they are putting their money into. Del Rey feels more like she’s tricking people, as she could be real. I appreciate that she acknowledges her falsity, but for fans judging solely on music and performance, not interviews, they may not be aware of this. If a performer is manufacturing their image, at least make it clear.

    As you’ve probably guessed by now, I prefer honesty. I understand that some musicians enjoy making music, but perhaps don’t want to tell their whole life story, but it is possible to create some ambiguity. You don’t have to write about generic parties and love stories that mean nothing - you can put yourself in a song, without making everything explicit, and this often makes it more relatable to the people buying it. But knowing that a musician has used something personal to create the music makes you feel that bit closer to them – they seem like a real person rather than an obscure figure surrounded by paparazzi and fame. And a person who seems to be opening up to you is more likeable, as oppose to manufactured musicians who can be viewed as liars. Musicians are often referred to as artists, and for art to be really called art it should be honest and personal. This would often come across in the lyrics, but musicians should also be true to the genre and style of music that appeals to them the most – not the style that will sell the most copies. Music should be about enjoying yourself and expressing your feelings – selling should be to let other people share those feelings, but it should not be the reason for making music. This is also why I respect musicians who write their own music far more than those who don’t. If a singer hasn’t written their song, it doesn’t relate to them, it isn’t them expressing themselves. They are doing it perhaps for the pleasure of performing, which isn’t so bad, but also for the money. But they can’t really be called musicians or artists – merely singers, performing the art of someone else.

     One of my favourite records at the moment is Sinners Never Sleep, by the band You Me At Six. These boys may not be considered celebrities by many, as they aren't as widely known as other musicians, but they've worked hard to come a long way in a short space of time, and have a devoted fan base. The style of music (rock/alternative) is the style I normally listen to, and they were one of my favourite bands before this album (their third). But one of the most appealing things about it for me is the raw honesty. The album was released with a short film documenting the band’s existence, and between that and interviews it is clear that every lyric relates to the band or some aspect of its member’s lives. It is an insight into where the band is in their lives right now. Yet at the same time, it is not explicitly telling their stories, meaning anyone can relate, and of course, it was their choice to be so honest. They also write about real issues – love, friends, family, emotions, struggling through life – rather than getting wasted and partying all night, which is what an awful lot of music nowadays is about. For me, I find honesty makes the record far more powerful and resonant.

     Music can be a career – but primarily it should be the musician’s passion in life. It is a way of expressing emotions, of letting go and of having fun. No one should learn to play an instrument with the sole of intention of making money from it one day. Children are forever told to be true to themselves, to not change for anyone – a philosophy I firmly believe in. And they look up to celebrities, sometimes even idolise them – yet these same people, who often preach themselves about being who you are, are pretending to be something else, for attention, money and fame. But these musicians will come and go – the ones that last are the ones people can relate to, the ones who are real people going through the same problems as anyone else – they just worked hard enough at their passion to be able to share these feelings with others through music. Music is a pleasure, not a business, and real people should be the ones creating it, not those out for fame and money.

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