Feature Article

Packaged Music

by Ismael Manzano


         I was skipping through MTV Hits and came across one of Gwen Stefaniís new videos for Love, Angel, Music, Baby, her solo album.  It got me thinking about her other videos from the same album, which got me thinking about her marketing image for that album, which got me thinking about other artists and their images, which led to this little rant.  It came to my attention just how annoying pre-packaged artists are to me nowadays.  In the past, when I was younger, I didnít really stop to think about what I was hearing or what the singer I was listening to was purporting to be.  I liked a song if I liked a song and that was that.  Age has, unfortunately, imparted upon me some insight that seems to pop up every now and again with absolutely no use whatsoever save to rant or to complain about things such as this; so here I go.

            Gwen, though I love her music, has fallen victim to the same pitfall as so many other artist out there.  She decided to change her image and remarketed herself for the sake of selling a few more records.  Why?  I have no idea.  Itís not like No Doubt was a colossal failure.  They were big, they were great, they were different and people loved them.  So why the change?  I can understand her wanting to break out on her own.  No problem there.  My problem is why, after over a decade of making great music and having a loyalóand not smallófan base, did Gwen suddenly feel it was necessary to skew her latest album toward the Japanese market?  Let me state that I have nothing against any race or culture, but when you see Gwen with four Harajuku girls in every video and every performance and when you listen to her making a mention to them in almost every song in her album, it gets me wondering whether sheís just kissing ass or she owes someone money.  I give her points for doing something different and I do like the album, but it feels like she trying to be something she isnít.

            Itís not just her either and itís not just now.  Does anyone remember when M.C. Hammer suddenly went gangster?  How many people really think Avril is the hardcore punk she tries to pretend to be?  Did anybody ever think Britney was innocent or that the Spice Girls were actually friends in real life?  How about Vanilla Ice?  How many people bought that he was what he claimed to be?  Who can tell anymore if the rap feuds we hear that catch our attention and get us to buy the album are even real? 

And can anyone tell me what happened to Destinyís Child?  Werenít they all about empowerment and womenís rights?  Every video from Destiny Fulfilled, with the exception of ďGirlĒ, has been one downward step after another from what they once were.  Has anyone actually listened to the lyrics to ďCater 2 U?Ē  I mean, did they lose a bet?  Who are they trying to market this music to, women with no self-esteem who want to stay that way? 

            What really gets me about this unfortunate trend is that it makes people like me, who used to just listen to good songs because they were good, start questioning the authenticity of the artist.  I donít want to question anyone, but I find that I canít help it.  Like Simple Plan, for instance.  I love their songs, but I find myself wondering from time to time if they arenít just playing it up for the angst-ridden teenagers, trying to secure a big chunk of the demographic by making one depressing, ĎYou donít understand me,í song after another.  Maybe itís just meóand I admit that I donít know anything about their livesóbut I canít help but think that theyíre just posing.  It feels fake to me.  Maybe Iím wrong, and I apologize to them and their fans if I am, but thatís what runs through my mind.  Maybe itís just the sheer volume of angst-ridden songs that they produce that has me thinking that way or maybe itís that Iíve become so jaded from all the other pretenders out there that I canít tell the difference between the masks they wear and the faces they were born with. 

I wish we could just go back to a time when music was just that and the singers didnít have to put on secret identities to get people to buy their albums. 

For feedback, visit our message board or e-mail the author at imanzano@g-pop.net

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