You know how sometimes you listen to music and you think to yourself “How is this even successful?”. Of course, I’m using a populist idea of success in this instance – radio play, album sales, TV appearances, top rating film clips etc. Nevertheless, there are also artists that go on to become cult and/or commercial success stories against all reason and taste. So, I decided to put them in a list.
I’m not adverse to music from the 1980s. Granted there was a lot of fluffy pop nonsense (WHAM! Don’t wake me up and go-go away…) but that’s no different to any period of music since Elvis first wobbled around on stage. There was also some really good music – the depressive ramblings of Depeche Mode are always good for a laugh.
And then there is INXS. I once inline skated down the white line of a highway and still never achieved the same middle-of-the-road status as these guys. Musically uninspired and lyrically insipid, their success is incomprehensible to me. Their quest to replace the late Michael Hutchence with a new frontman in 2005 thrust the aging rockers into the spotlight once again where they proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they had no discernible reason for having found success in the first place.
2. L’il Wayne
Seriously. The fact that this guy is selling any records leaves me feeling slightly nauseous. His voice is horrible, his lyrics are childish (not to mention nonsensical), his music is actually unpleasant to listen to (some one teach his producers how to program a synthesiser patch, please!). I just don’t understand. I really don’t.
3. Madonna/Lady Gaga (aren’t they the same person?)
I’m not really confounded by the success of these carbon copies. They are packaged and sold like frozen fish sticks. It is really a sad testament to the music listening public’s lazy tastes (kind of like actual fish sticks) that they so consistently buy into the same “edgy, boundary pushing, guilty-pleasure pop”.
It seems that the formula is as follows: possess substantial business savvy or at least enough brains to pay people who do have business savvy; leave any sense of creative control at the door; accept that you will dress like an insane person for the duration of your career; do anything to stay on the magazine covers (wear a meat dress, for example).
The point is, none of this has anything to do with music. The very fact that their musical success hinges upon their shock and awe approach to celebrity is the reason why they shouldn’t be successful. And, yes, I just issued an an ethical imperative…
4. Rebecca Black
Okay, so this one is a conundrum. An artist that is successful mainly because she was unsuccessful. This isn’t a ‘so bad it’s good’ kind of deal. It’s just plain old bad. And, furthermore, I think everyone who has seen and heard the clip for her debut song “Friday” agrees that this sinks pretty low on the list of worst… songs… ever. Personally, I think the line “Fun. Fun. Fun. Fun.” is genius (no… I don’t).
Nevertheless, the fact remains that the song Friday has been downloaded over 2 million times on iTunes (no doubt making a pretty penny for ARK Music Factory, the company that owns the publishing rights).
Come on, people! What is wrong with the world when social media is more likely to make some one successful if they are really bad rather than if they are really good?!
5. Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Puffy/Diddy/Sean Coombs etc
Granted, this guy has had a more successful career as a manager, publisher, label exec and general administrator in the music industry than as an artist. More power to him for that – even though he seems to dredge up some really bad acts (The Lox… remember them?). Let us consider his artistry.
He did a bunch of remixes for people which were generally variations on the theme of generic commercial-hip-pop. Back in the day, ‘real’ hip hop was deemed to be too confrontational for commercial radio play and we instead had acts like Wreckx n Effect (all I wanna do is a-zoom zoom zoom and a boom boom), Tone Loc (coolin’ at the bar, looking for some action, but like Mick Jagger said “I can’t get no satisfaction“) and Montell Jordan. This music had a kind of innocuous charm. At that time, Puffy was the go to guy for remixes.
Then Wu-tang dropped on the world and, suddenly, commercial-hip-pop just didn’t seem particularly relevant. Neither did Puff. But he found a new approach – attach yourself to actual talent. So he began to promote Craig Mack and later on Biggie. Both these artists were successful.
Puffy’s solo foray into the world of rapping came after the death of B.I.G when he released the monumental load of rubbish entitled “I’ll be missing you” (a song which rips off a massive slab of The Police song of the same name). Please, I beg you, listen to that song and tell me – why is this guy successful?