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Fame: The Mephadone Of The Masses.
The World's Not Your Stage!
I am a writer. I seek solace in the fact that any readers of my material gain some level of enjoyment out of the words that find form out of the paroxysms of an insane finger jig (a posh way of saying writing). Acclaim is important to me, and so is recognition. Financial recompense would be nice too. Yet I am prepared to work at it, put my nose to the keyboard grindstone to produce a litany of words and phrases worthy of attention. However, acclaim, the rose of all cultural and creative endeavour, has withered due to the blight of the instant fix weed of fast acting fame.
Our musical culture is an all-pervading one. From the domain of concert halls, orchestras and bandstands, the revolution of listening at home in the 20th century brought about the dawn of songs becoming a slave to human commodity, and with commodity, money spawns as a reactionary side effect to ephemeral tides of want. Pretty soon, music that was popular underground swiftly gained hold, and from the latter half of the 20th century, popular music has been the treble and bass of youth culture. It underpins attitude, fashion, thought, art and even notions of philosophy and freedom...
"I know you, you know me, one thing I can tell you is you've got to be free." - Lennon/McCartney.
... The 60's oversaw an existential and contemporary renaissance. Ushering in an age of the modernism we are familiar with now. A decade that advocated anything was worthy of scrutiny and change, even the conventions of what constitutes popular music itself. Through the 70's and 80's. music entwined more with art and expression. Punk and New Wave, turned youth first, guttural, then postmodern.
During the 90's, the surging and visceral popularity of Grunge, was a mutilated howl of the disenfranchised masses from ravaged industrial heartlands of the US after the Reagan Years. A similar trend blossomed in identical regions of the UK with the Britpop and Indie movements, Groups like The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays and notably, Oasis, embodied the vibrancy of a populace with their backs against the wall and their feet in a Dole queue. Yet the dawn of the 21st century created a monster, from the saccharine pits of Stock, Aitken and Waterman's hit factory, mutated by record industry giant's fear that a bloating cyber bubble and Peer-to-Peer file sharing would spell their doom. They gave wannabes to the baying mob, in the form of "Reality TV" and "singing contests."
X Factor... With No SPF To Protect Against Fame's Hungry Glare!
Having just watched The X Factor. The fever is still strong and grips the populace in a sweat of star struck inspiration and gushing tears of delusion. The show has existed and attracted millions of the viewing public for precisely a decade now. Ten years have spawned many a talisman for the fickle adoration of the show's fans... and untold millions for the Lich Lord that is Simon Cowell.
The desperation on the hopeful's faces are palpable. A sickening blindness to the shelf life belonging to their ilk is drowned out by the clamour of modern thirst for a puppet to concentrate on and subsequently, bring down. The risks are far outweighed, perhaps not even recognised by the swathe of wannabes, who are clearly as well versed in the pitfalls of this formulaic process, as the rest of the public, by slim gains. A corner of their psyche must still cling to the realisation that, even if they win this year's show, the odds are against them.
Of The X Factor's winners: Steve Brookstein, Shane Ward, Leona Lewis, Leon Jackson, Alexandra Burke, Joe McElderry, Matt Cardle, Little Mix, James Arthur and Sam Bailey, only one gained enough fame to make the competition worthwhile (Leona Lewis, although Shane Ward and Joe McElderry have had decent stints on the West End stage - yet I doubt this was the desired outcome of their dreams). Others, such as Diana Vickers and Cher Lloyd, have had middling success, JLS was also popular before their retirement. However, the decade of glaring lights, overgrown stages, cheering/jeering crowds, exultant victory and gut wrenching defeat, has only produced one Holy Grail... One Direction.
We are too often now feeding the young a false idol of what living one's life means. Programmes such as The X Factor and Big Brother have evolved the quest for fame and fortune from being Sisyphean, to possessing the ease of shoving a ready meal into a microwave, at least on the surface. However, the reality of struggling to keep yourself in the narrow aperture of the public eye remains. The furor of your victory dies down, the magazine's gloss fixes the sheen of it's shiny paper on someone else and you realise that just because you can see the stars from the gutter, doesn't mean you can reach them. The One Direction is usually down. The oblivious desperation of want, painted like a tapestry of postmodernism defined, upon the emotionally charged faces of those so eager to have a piece of adulation, fails to see it. Several weeks of vocal training and a few appearances on stage do not a superstar make. The life of Jade Goody was a tragic and even tangible parody of the whimsical affections of the populace and the parading of one propelled accidentally into fame, who was sorely not ready for it.
The notion of fame in the face of acclaim needs alteration itself. These people are finding meaning in a society that is increasingly beginning to lose any semblance of such. But, the only person that has become famous from this conveyor belt, is Simon Cowell.
"If you dance with the Devil, you wait for the song to stop." - Lenny McLean: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
This devil, in his high waist trousers, has his finger on the stop button, or space bar. The time to get off the bus is so much more at his, and our own, whims these days.
© Brad James, 2014.