My Mental Exercise: If I should be a pop star

Photo: RCA Records

When I heard the news of  Miley Cyrus’ performance in VMA Awards, I was not shocked.  I haven’t followed her as Hanna Montana. I only know her as the girl who sang Party in the USA and The Climb. Lady Gaga had her first single when she was 22  years old but she was already Lady Gaga, the way we know her now. What Miley Cyrus is doing now  is not too different from Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Britney Spears, and Nicki Minaj. People just could not get over the thought that Disney star is now twerking. I did listen to her two latest songs, We can’t stop and Wrecking Ball. In terms of sound and content, the songs are fine and have last song syndrome effect. They are ‘safe’ for kids to listen. It has no sex and swear words in the lyrics. But her music videos are very disturbing. Why does she have to lick a sledgehammer?

It’s interesting to study pop culture. For my own mental exercise, I ponder on the idea what can I do to be a pop star? You compete with a large population of people who can sing and dance.  American Idol shows a lot of young people who are willing to do whatever it takes just to have the limelight.  And it’s heartbreaking to see your favorite contestants leave the competition. You come to a conclusion, you really have to have “something more than talent”. And the idea of “something more than talent” requires creativity and marketing skills.

In 60 minutes of CBS News,  Anderson Cooper opened the show with the question, “Is Lady Gaga an artist or a marketing expert?  Lady Gaga said in that interview: “One of my greatest artworks is the art of fame. I’m a master of the art of fame. “ She inspires a lot of fans  with her message of self-empowerment. The controversies, outfits, music videos, are all part of  her scheme of getting attention and sustaining fame.  You see her dead in her music videos and live performance.

“That’s what everyone wants to know, right? ‘What’s she gonna look like when she dies? What’s she gonna look like when she’s overdosed?’ on whatever they think I’m overdosing on? Everybody wants to see the decay of the superstar,” Lady Gaga said.

“Do you think people wanna see your decay?” Cooper asked.

“What? Of course they do! They wanna see me fail, they wanna see me fall on stage, they wanna see me vomiting out of a nightclub. I mean, isn’t that the age that we live in? That we wanna see people who have it all lose it all? I mean, it’s dramatic,” she replied.

Take another example: Katy Perry. She was a gospel singer when she started her singing career. Because she did not get much success like Amy Grant, she  ventured to mainstream music. It’s somehow fun to sing a Katy Perry song, right? But music like movies should have some parental guidance. For instance, the song Teenage Dream can lead to teenage pregnancy.

Speaking of parental guidance, Nicki Minaj’s Super Bass was once a big hit. Kids sing it and dance with it. But will you be horrified if your daughter tells you: ” He just gotta give me that look, when he give me that look / Then the panties comin’ off, off, uh”?

I do love all types of music, most especially pop music. In fact, I enjoy listening and singing some of the songs of these artists. I believe Lady Gaga is an excellent performing artist. I believe Katy Perry can write meaningful songs. I like the raindrop sound effects and the beat of Super Bass. As I have observed, the more eccentric you are, you increase your chances of surviving in this industry. But I am hoping that artists are recognized for their talent and not their packaging. I wish they didn’t have to be provocative to be appealing. I wish they could cross a message of self-empowerment without nudity. I wish they did not need to make a controversy to earn fame.  And I am hoping that we get to have more songs that have well-thought lyrics with less number of bad words.  I am hoping that when we like pop stars, we like them as artists and musicians not as celebrities. There is a fine line between an artist and a celebrity.

Lady Gaga does not need to strip to impress..

Wish Katy Perry wrote more songs like this

Underrated Music

We have all sorts of impression, when we hear about the kind of music a person listens. If it’s rock, it’s either you hate it or you love it. If it’s pop, your inclination largely depends on which generation you belong. When you think of classical music, it’s too elite. People say if you like Elton John, Beatles’ music, you have some music sense. But how about country music? A cappella music? Gospel music? How much do you know about these music genres?

I know it’s stereotyping when I call such music genre as underrated? But the reason I describe these music genres as underrated is that they are not highly appreciated by everybody. They are somehow niche music. My assumption is based on the comments and the number of views in Youtube.

Country Music

I was watching a singing contest when one of its episodes featured country music. The contestants talked about what they thought of country music. One of the girls said that all she knew was about songs talking how a horse died, a cow died. Almost all the contestants in the show did not know anything about country music.

I first heard country music in the movie Beverly Hillbillies where Dolly Parton sang the lines, “What good is wealth and fame. Fine clothes and diamond ring.” I could not really relate to country music because I thought it was too American. Whenever I heard “country music,” I saw images of cowboys in a ranch.

I just find out that I have been listening to country music. I know the songs of Shaina Twain and LeAnn Rimes. They are country music singers. Country music is not all about cowboys. It can be sassy with the likes of Taylor Swift. It can be catchy (and it has always been). And do you know Kevin Costner, the award-winning director and actor has a country music band called Modern West? Take note, Whitney Houston’s famous song, I will always love you is a country song.

Here’s my favorite country song

A cappella Music

I think I’ve been writing a lot about a cappella music in my blog (See Define Eargasm, Why you should watch The Sing Off). I am a fan of an a cappella competition called The Sing Off. I’ve been wondering why the show is not getting a lot of buzz, considering it’s an NBC show, and it’s a singing contest as well. And whenever I talk to my friends about The Sing Off, I feel like I’m talking to myself. I also wonder why no mainstream artist ventures on a cappella music.

To show how much people know about a cappella music, ask them how the word “a cappella” is spelled. I used to think that it should be spelled as one word but l discovered that the correct spelling is “a cappella” not “acappella”, not “accapella”. It has double “l” and double “p”.

Lately, there are a lot of video clips in Youtube on a capella music, including videos of internet celebrity Sam Tsui. He makes renditions of popular songs such as those of Adele and Bruno Mars. And sometimes he sings with two or four voices then blends it. Cool! It’s like having a duet and quartet all alone.

Gospel Music

I probably know much about gospel music because I grew up with it. But I don’t really know the “commercial gospel music.” I don’t know which gospel songs sell. I was just surprised when I heard Casting Crowns, The Voice of Truth on the radio. What I generally know is the songs that are traditionally sung in church.

But even if you are not religious, you can like gospel music. Gospel music can make great singers given that gospel songs should be heart-felt. Now, we all know that Whitney Houston was once a gospel singer. The last song she sang before she died was Jesus loves me, a song sung in worship services or in Sunday school. And do you know Katy Perry was a Gospel singer? She used to sing hymns, His Eye on the Sparrow and Oh Happy Day. (Gee, those are the songs we sing in church. I wonder what happened to her.)

 

People often say “Open your heart” and “Open your eyes.” I bet it’s about time to “Open your ears.”