Why do I want to spend my day trying to understand this stuff so much? Why do I want to point out little references, inspirations, connections and implied secret socio-political narratives to these types of songs and videos made by people I have never met? I think it is related to the same urge that turns people into conspiracy theorists. Accept for me it’s not about finding some secret truth but just about opening a door that seems closed. I think the bigger a culture industry gets, the more mystery it embodies, the more you have a human urge to want to understand it, to somehow unlock it (although this may ultimately be impossible, as any true conspiracy theorist knows . . .)
There is the surface–what people say the music is about (celebration, freedom, etc), and then there are other factors that are implied or hidden (money, brainwashing, etc). If I were a cave man I probably wouldn’t spend my life writing blogs about the songs that my daughter sings around the campfire. Because it would not be as hard to figure out why she sings those songs. But I might have spent my time writing blogs on the cave walls about the stars. Like this pop music/culture industry world, the “stars” are far removed and seem always just out of my comprehension. There seems to be a logic to it all, but is that an invented logic? There is a formula but just when you think you figure it out, the formula seems to change. I look at the stars, people tell me what they represent, then I question what they represent thus making them represent something different. This is a cycle we do everyday. I just searched for information about Loki the Norse trickster to see if I could find if there is a star in the sky for him and I found a site that references the star known as Sirius. This September I drove around the west coast in a rental car listening to Sirius Satellite Radio and I remember feeling tricked by the Gods more than once . . .
Whip my hair by Willow Smith:
Who is this song for? It’s for little kids but also for adults. Some people say Willow’s parents are scientologists. Who knows–maybe they don’t even know. This song is produced and sung with lots of energy–it is engineered to sound raw in a 2010 way. It is the next stage in a trend started long ago of marketing “punk” attitude to younger and younger consumers. Where “punk” simply means a way of aggressively expressing your inner spirit.
I remember Kriss Kross and Another Bad Creation sounded raw and street, but race politics were so different then.
Willow’s song is not about “mack-ing” or crushes, or looking cool on the playground. It’s about non-comformity. 9 year old angst. What happened in her life to make her feel like a freak? When was the first time I felt like a freak and who could I look to in pop culture to make me feel OK about it? Care Bears, an after-school special or maybe Weird Al. Obviously here she is inspired by Lady Gaga. And certainly it is her family, her producers and her entourage creating these beliefs in collaboration with her. They are influencing each other and creating this image of Willow together. Even before this song leaked to the public we were all involved in the process of creating Willow. We created the desires that created her, she then created the desires that are now inside us. Now I have the desire to know where Willow begins and the outside world ends, but that is an impossible distinction. Celebrities make it clear how connected we all are, how much we all influence one another. Maybe that’s one reason the formula is so enduring. We project life onto them and they project life onto us and then we realize no one is in charge . . . I would love to be able to but I’m pretty sure you can never separate cause and effect. “The child star that is simultaneously produced and producing” is not new, who knows when it ‘s blueprint was first produced:
But it became an obvious formula post-MJ, updated again and again to match the cultural conditions of the time. If you breed a horse to be a winner from an early age, they are more likely to win again and again. If it works correctly, the child star knows how to navigate the celebrity world with ease and can transition fluidly from one stage to the next, plus they have 10-15 years experience ahead of the competition. Disney used to be the school for this type of learning but it seems The Smiths do not need Disney. People want a safe investment, especially as the record industry crumbles around them. Jay-Z has already invested in Willow. Justin Timberlake may be a good example of a safe investment.
But of course sometimes you can put too much pressure on the horse and they buck, or you accidentally make Frankenstein. Not that Britney’s career is over, but she has played the role of “monster” on more than one occasion. Things are going to change soon for Miley–she will turn 18 and her parents will get a divorce. She has hinted at feeling like a monster in her recent “caged” music video, but again it is unclear who or how many people are in charge of building that cage. Nicki Minaj refers to our obsession with making celebrity monsters in her verse on Kanye’s recent track by the same name:
(Now-Now-Now)Now Look At What You Just Saw
This Is What You Live For
AGHHHH!!! I’m A Muda-F*ckin MONSTA!!”
I imagine Nicki, Kanye and Jay-Z modifying “the monster” from the Lady Gaga version, who modified the version she read in a Warhol book. So yeah, obviously none of these ideas are new, but the participants are different–Gaga, Nicki, and now Willow as self-aware freaks.
I’m also interested in the sexually ambiguous space that pre-buscent stars can inhabit. Willow as drag vogue dancer or Justin Bieber as boyish lesbian. Again, undoubtedly the adult videographers, stylists and music producers factor into this:
This is a blog post about the question of this little girl’s place within a celebrity world that is bigger than her, that perhaps she can not fully comprehend. I can not comprehend it but for different reasons. We are both trying to figure this mess out in our own way, given our own contexts. For her that means whipping her hair and emulating vogue dancers from a 9-year old young millionaire perspective. While for me it means making this blog post or perhaps making some kind of derivative music or video project about things like this. I’ve done this numerous times already, Extreme Animals tried to do this with perhaps my 2nd favorite Dr. Luke track:
Just had to get all this off my chest:)