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Identity is simultaneously everything and nothing in pop music: artists are constantly criticized for borrowing ideas and being carbon copies of someone else, but they also seem to try very hard to show that they are individuals. Most of the time though, their attempts are ill-conceived and often prove their detractors right. Christina Aguilera’s “Not Myself Tonight” springs to mind. After Back To Basics scrubbed Aguilera’s image squeaky clean, the logical step for a typical pop star would be to try to “do something different,” which in this case turned out to be an exact mirror image of the start of Aguilera’s career. Years ago she went from the innocent yet innuendo filled “Genie In A Bottle” (the girl next door laying fully clothed on a beach) to “Dirrty” (hookers engaging in sweaty wrestling matches; probably the first thing a lot of young boys masturbated to). Back To Basics saw her emulating the singers of the 40s and 50s, which means she wore white dresses and curled her hair and put on a lot of bright red lipstick, and four years later, the video for “Not Myself Tonight” featured Aguilera wearing a bunch of different S&M outfits. So really, “Not Myself Tonight” should have been titled “Myself Eight Years Ago.”

It’s hard to defend pop music when such faux pas are so commonplace. Even though Christina Aguilera is generally one of the better pop stars, you have to fault her for things like that when even fucking Ke$ha is doing something similar. The album cover for Animal was an awful picture of Ke$ha looking unintentionally frightening and ugly, and the cover for her followup EP Cannibal is an awful picture of Ke$ha that’s supposed to be INTENTIONALLY frightening and ugly. The implication being: “This is a new side of Ke$ha, she really let loose with this one! It’s so crazy that we ripped her face in half and altered her in Photoshop to look like Amy Winehouse would look if she had been dead for a month.” But was there really a difference in sound or personality? Not at all. It reinforces every bad thing that anyone has ever said about pop, namely that it’s all about image and not about integrity.

It begs a question that I truly hate to ask: are pop musicians really that shallow? The very newly popular Nicki Minaj has four or five “alter egos” that she impersonates throughout her music and guest spots. I understand the history behind them, but now that she’s escaped her troubled early life and is famous, why does she still think that she needs a separate personality for every emotion or mood? That’s the real problem with pop music. Have you made an album full of bouncy, happy pop songs? Then you’d better craft your whole image around that sound. You’d better wear yellow sun dresses and dye your hair blonde and get your songs in commercials for Volkswagon Beetles. Is your sophomore album DARKER, an adjective that for some reason goes hand in hand with MORE MATURE? Then throw away your sun dress and wear black leather, because otherwise people won’t take you seriously, right? Many people would love to think that beneath the pop industry’s fabricated sheen, these pop stars are aware of what they’re doing, and they’re only doing it because they know that’s what it takes to be successful. But I’m not so sure. When you’ve got such a big number of pop stars buying into things like “alter egos” and “split personalities,” then that’s a real problem and it sheds a spotlight onto why so many people hate pop music.

One of the reasons that genres like indie and metal are so respected is because, by their very nature, they encourage progression, experimentation, and originality. Pop music shouldn’t necessarily aspire to such great heights, but it sure as hell shouldn’t be so one dimensional, and pop stars shouldn’t back their superficiality so passionately. Nicki Minaj utilizes her supposed split personalities well, for the most part, but because of them, you can’t separate her from that gimmick. No one will say, “Nicki Minaj really killed it on that track because she’s talented.” They’ll say “Nicki Minaj killed it on that track because of her alter egos and funny voices.” Her verse on Kanye West’s “Monster” is one of my favorite moments on that entire album, but when I hear it I can’t help wondering if I’m hearing Nicki Minaj or Harajuku Barbie or Roman Zolanski and it always reminds me of just how stupid it all is. She is obviously someone with potential, and that’s perhaps the most disheartening thing of all – that someone like her, who had a real chance to change things, succumbed to the gimmicks and tricks of the rest of the pop industry. What a shame.

My point is that there is nothing wrong with changing an image or a sound. The problem is when we’re meant to think that some amazing thing has occurred if a pop star does something different. Beyonce released an album and created her Sasha Fierce personality for the bangin’ club songs. Was that necessary? Couldn’t she have just released the album without the alter ego? It simply bothers me when pop stars play into one dimensionality like that, as if they’re not whole people, but a bunch of puzzle-piece personalities that don’t quite fit together so they need to differentiate between each one with a new name or a new sound. The way I see it, all of these sounds or images could just as easily be filed under one single name, because that’s how people work in general. Why should pop be any different?





Satellite
12.10.10
surprised you didn't mention chris gaines.

good read man.

RiversCuomo
12.10.10
i despise kesha

robertsona
12.10.10
"No one will say, “Nicki Minaj really killed it on that track because she’s talented.”"

i will and have

Mordecai.
12.10.10
nicki minaj wants to sleep with me. who can blame her.

mynameischan
12.10.10
sure you will, but if you were going to write a nicki minaj review you wouldn't be able to refrain from mentioning her stupid alter egos

thebhoy
12.10.10
I think the big problem is pop stars don't know how to use alter ego's anymore. I mean, look at Lady Gaga, I think her biggest problem is that she's trying so hard to be "different" and "weird" in her appearance and attitude that she lost her own image and is just an amalgamation of various eccentric images strewn together. You compare that to someone such as David Bowie with Ziggy Stardust. He made that character into his own voice, he did not create it to voice a different side of his personality; there's a subtle but important difference. I think this is what you are getting at and I think I agree with your sentiments.

mynameischan
12.10.10
well if anything, i think lady gaga is the only one doing it right

thebhoy
12.10.10
I think she's closer to getting it right then the others, but she still seems really all over the place.

robertsona
12.10.10
idk i mean i love nicki minaj's verse BECAUSE it's so weird and wacked out i guess (which probably has to do with the "multiple personality" thing yes although it's more like a matter of just changing her voice for certain lines i dont see it as a gimmick) but its not like "i liked it because she's talented" and "i liked it because of that weird approach" can't be together. i also like songs like "your love" just because theyre -good songs- i mean idk

thebhoy
12.10.10
I think Minaj's verse is really good BECAUSE of her intonation, it's very expressive, so it doesn't come of as gimmicky, no.

mynameischan
12.10.10
yeah no shit i employed hyperbole

i'm not saying you can't like nicki minaj. i'm saying that it's a shame that a gimmick is a huge part of her career when she could so obviously have made it without that.

robertsona
12.10.10
BECAUSE

mynameischan
12.10.10
and her alter egos are definitely a gimmick. you guys are proving my point. you like it because she changes her voice. i do too. she changes her voice because of the alter egos. did it really need to be like that?

robertsona
12.10.10
well she changes her voice and i like it. why would i want her to do anything else if i like what shes doing

thebhoy
12.10.10
But I don't even see it as an alter ego, it's really the only thing I've heard from her so I was just like, oh that's way better then the monotone rap that too often is employed. Idk, I also don't really care, was just making an observation.

robertsona
12.10.10
also same with thebhoy; it's certainly a verse that can be seen as "schizophrenic" but it's not like, sasha fierce. it just makes her verse a lot mroe exciting

mynameischan
12.10.10
omg robertsona stop deliberately missing my point. i don't care whether or not you like her. all i was writing about was alter egos and how i think they are stupid.

natey
12.10.10
what's the problem with "voicing different personalities" or even changing constantly? it's like you're assuming you know who the real __________ is better than them and it matters

mynameischan
12.10.10
oh yeah i was going to mention beyonce but i forgot

mynameischan
12.10.10
that's not it at all. when people deliberately employ a separate personality for a separate emotion i think that's dumb.

mynameischan
12.10.10
okay i added a paragraph for clarification

thebhoy
12.10.10
true, it's like reading Dr. Faustus

natey
12.10.10
sure, I guess it's an unnecessary gimmick if you want to look at it that way and I personally think it's stupid too, but it doesn't really make me think any less of whoever

thebhoy
12.10.10
or wait, make that The Faerie Queene, that's more allegorical

mynameischan
12.10.10
i don't think any less of minaj at all, in fact i say a few times that she's talented and she employs her alter egos well. i don't want everyone to hate people who do stuff like that, it's just something that's been on my mind so i wrote about it.

natey
12.10.10
ok i now like your point

mynameischan
12.10.10
sometimes i write things and forget to sum things up so my b

Athom
12.10.10
didnt know this blog still existed.

Hep Kat
12.10.10
"hookers engaging in sweaty wrestling matches; probably the first thing a lot of young boys masturbated to"

you and your theories


anyway i definitely get what you're saying. i really like the title of this one because it's a good way to sum up pop music- and also it alludes back to the whole thing with nicki minaj pretty well. i never really paid her alter-egos too much mind. like, i knew about that, but i didn't ever really read much into it.

i guess it would be nice if she never crafted them to come across in a way that's so gimmicky because, you're right, the general top 40 listeners are going to focus more on the mythos surrounding them than the stylistic choice they represent.


Josh D.
12.10.10
Chan, you should just post a Chan's Plan everyday for this retard that thinks he's funny.

Xenophanes
12.10.10
Interesting read

Xenophanes
12.10.10
"Chan, you should just post a Chan's Plan everyday for this retard that thinks he's funny."

An awesome idea actually...

Hep Kat
12.10.10
He's not even making sensible correlations anymore.

Athom
12.10.10
I dont follow top 40 music at all so i have no idea what the fuck you are talking about.

Hep Kat
12.10.10
gtfo hindie ipster


this thread isn't [i]for you[/i]

Hep Kat
12.10.10
aw fucking weak man weak

Josh D.
12.10.10
Ha ha.

Hep Kat
12.10.10
i'm going to go send ferwerda an angry ass email brb

tombits
12.10.10
chan you've been planning a lot recently keep up the good work

Transient
12.10.10
just watched the dirrty music video and masturbated

Curse.
12.10.10
There are no plans here, js.

Also, I thought you would've mentioned Bat For Lashes, even though I love her

STOP SHOUTING!
12.10.10
good read.

robertsona
12.10.10
ok i guess the thing is that i have no problem with alter egos because the music that comes out of them is music i enjoy, often (like in the case of beyonce or nicki minaj). so like i dont have any qualms with alter egos and if the music that comes out of them is good, regardless of "BUT WHAT IF IT COULD HAVE BEEN GOOD WITHOUT IT" i mean yeah lady gaga's music would remain the same without her ridonkulous outfits but i mean idk why you would have a qualm with it if it's good with or without the outfits

DiceMan
12.10.10
robertsona, it's the problem that they feel like to make different music thematically, it is a necessity to alter oneself.

robertsona
12.10.10
i guess my "problem" is that i just dont really care about perhaps the intentions of the artists or the methods they employ; all i know is that "halo" ("sasha") is awesome as is "single ladies" (beyonce) and i dont realyl care about anything else haha

slep
12.10.10
intersting read and I pretty much agree with your bit about these alter-egos sort of destroying the integrity of music

robertsona
12.10.10
only lily allen is real

DiceMan
12.10.10
only Amy Winehouse is real

mynameischan
12.10.10
robertsona i agree with you that good music is good music even without alter egos, etc. it just seems to me that the idea behind changing personalities and using alter egos, etc. etc. is to make the artist seem multidimensional when really it does the opposite.

emmy
12.10.10
minaj is jamin

AggravatedYeti
12.10.10
I just always chocked up the alter-egos as part of the whole performance.
of Montreal for example: Barnes has like 30 different splits and a wildly outrageous live show--yet he's still Kevin Barnes. But I wouldn't say he, or Minaj have built their careers on gimmicks as their music is what essentially turned so many people on to them in the first place.

Now that she's becoming well known all the aspects of her musical personality are coming out for everyone to see. But she didn't just happen into this shit like 2-3 months ago. She's been slicing up her personality since she started recording mix-tapes.

couldwinarabbit
12.10.10
It's like how Thom Yorke has an alter ego cause you can't be that big of a douche all the time.

cracksinthepavement
12.10.10
it's all that david bowie's fault

starry
12.11.10
Ever since the 90s people seem to call anything 'pop' that they don't like, and anything they do like they call 'indie'. Pop isn't something that can be narrowly defined, it can take things from all styles and it constantly evolves.

starry
12.11.10
And there is probably at least as much one dimensionality in 'rock' music (however you define that) with some very limited and narrow styles, and preoccupation with weird band names or weird dress to look 'bad' or hip etc.

witchxrapist
12.11.10
Kool Keith has the best alter egos.

Bulldog
12.11.10
“This is a new side of Ke$ha, she really let loose with this one! It’s so crazy that we ripped her face in half and altered her in Photoshop to look like Amy Winehouse would look if she had been dead for a month.”

I laughed at this, but I think it should be "to look how Amy Winehouse would look"

robertsona
12.11.10
yeah man you ebtter fix that asap LOL

spillingmercury
12.12.10
Multiple personality disorder/the mentally diseased get a decent amount of publicity in the media? I figured that half the time, that was the driving motive for pulling that shit. Make artists seem crazy, but not so much that they would be completely dettached from their fans.

plane
12.12.10
I'm surprised you didn't bring up Janelle Monae. I like that she kind of pokes fun at this whole notion of an alter ego. It's every bit as goofy and ridiculous as the rest are, but it doesn't seem gimmicky. Lady Gaga isn't doing anything right, so let's move on. I didn't even know Nicki Minaj played up with alter egos. Shows how out of the loop I am. I thought she was talented at switching up her vocals within a hair's breadth of each other.

robertsona
12.12.10
tbqh i think thats what hes referring to.

elephantREVOLUTION
12.12.10
minaj's verse in monster is like my least favorite moment on the album, lol.

Inveigh
12.13.10
Janelle Monae rules, and even though I'm not huge on Gaga, she does what she does very well

this was a great read. my only experience with Nicki Minaj is her verse on Kanye's album, but I actually can't stand it BECAUSE it's so damn gimmicky. Nothing to do with any alter egos (which I had no idea about), but just the way she's rapping.

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