from the LEAVE-THE-INTERNET-ALONE!-*sob* dept
Now the Internet is being charged with filicide. In a post titled "How the Internet Killed Carly Rae Jepsen," Katherine St. Asaph applies her detective skills in order to solve the mystery of why Jepsen's new album has been met with large quantities of indifference. First, she chronicles the swift rise of "Call Me Maybe," the inescapable phenomenon that entertained us briefly between Rebecca Black's "Friday" and Psy's "Gangnam Style."
Tastemakers heard it, then moguls who were de facto tastemakers, and it spread to listeners who knew nothing about the singer except this beautiful thing she'd written. They fell in love at first listen. They gushed. They sang along. They recorded karaoke videos and public swoon mobs and re-enactments of its summer-love video. They sent it to No. 1 for seemingly the entire summer and sent its singer to what looked an awful lot like dazed stardom.Doesn't all of that sound absolutely horrible? Apparently St. Asaph would prefer Jepsen wallowed in obscurity so that she never had to be disappointed by the fact that she had and lost fame. Instead, it's better if she never had it, if I'm following the logic here correctly.
Jepsen and her two bandmates recognized it was best to strike when the iron was still tepid and ventured into the studio with enough co-producers and songwriters to choke a "Tribute to Lou Perlman" compilation. Jepsen's debut album was released and promptly fell off the public radar, failing to surpass 100,000 sales. This sort of situation is hardly unique. Plenty of big hits have been followed by a loud sucking noise as fans rush off to examine the Next Big Thing, creating a temporary vacuum in their wake.
St. Asaph discusses the internet's well-chronicled role in Jepsen's rapid rise to fame, though, it's not so much the rise to stardom that concerns St. Asaph (and leads toward murder charges being brought against the Internet). It's what happened during the rise. In her estimation, the homicidal Internet took the spotlight off of the talented Jepsen and shone it on itself, taking something vital away from the actual artist with the endless stream of remixes, lip dubs, image macros, covers and other forms of audience participation.
This sounds counterintuitive; shouldn't it help Jepsen for thousands of people to remix, recreate and otherwise rejoice over her song? But the meme's not about Jepsen; it's about her song, and she is secondary... This is the problem Carly Rae Jepsen's facing: loving "Call Me Maybe" as a meme hasn't made people invested in her as a musician.That may seem unfortunate, but it's hardly unique and it's hardly new. It certainly isn't an "Internet" problem. In fact, throw quotes around "problem" as well. Super-popular pop stars are rarely embraced as artists. They're embraced as temporary phenomena, a momentary distraction to be enjoyed until the next groundswell displaces them.
Long before the Internet was meming artists to death on a regular basis (and in broad daylight!), people were picking up and discarding pop phenomena nearly as quickly. (If you don't want a bunch of horrible songs stuck in your head, you might want to skip ahead to the next paragraph.) Remember the "Macarena?" Did anyone ever care about the musicians behind the devilishly circuitous hook or the "choreographer" that crafted a dance so easily emulated your grandmother has probably attempted it? How was the album, I ask rhetorically, as if anyone outside of the artists involved have ever listened to the entire thing? How about Right Said Fred, whose "I'm Too Sexy" took clubs by storm for an entirely unreasonable amount of time before vanishing into the pop ether? Lou Bega, temporary mambo king who finally hit it big with his 5th attempt? How about Jesus Jones, who had two singles hit the US Hot 100 but managed to leave the charts untroubled for the next four albums? Chumbawumba were a frickin' anarchist collective, and yet, all anyone in the US knows is they cranked out the perfect drinking song about drinking. The list could go on and on and that's only covering a small part of a single decade.
The Internet doesn't split the artist from their creations. It certainly provides more avenues for interpretation but it doesn't change anything about humanity's relationship with charting artists. Very few artists enjoy continued mainstream success, no matter how artistically valid their non-hit offerings are. To lay this at the feet of an inherently participatory culture that was previously limited to drunkenly bellowing their 75% correct karaoke interpretation or drunkenly performing a 75% correct interpretive dance is to take a few steps into elitist territory and chastise people for only liking the "hits." The tool set the Internet provides may bring a much wider variety of participation (and bring it much faster), but it's not anyone's "fault" that Carly Rae Jepsen's album isn't racking up hundreds of thousands of sales. That's simply the nature of pop culture. The phrase "15 minutes of fame" has been around since before you had an internet connection.
And while you're fitting the Internet for a Murder One charge, you might want to step back and consider that Jepsen's rise to superstardom, however brief, was largely due to this very same Internet. While it's true that the Internet wears many hats -- some white, some black -- you can't just hold it responsible for destroying artists and ignore its star-making power.