Monday, September 21, 2015

A glimpse backstage

Conspiracy theorists, take note: it seems the world is indeed run by a shadowy cabal. Well, the pop world is, anyway - and by a cabal that consists largely of middle-aged Scandanavian men.

Is there anything wrong with this? Not necessarily - after all, the existence of hitmakers is nothing new. However, what is new, according to the Atlantic's Nathaniel Rich, is the degree to which control is exerted from behind the scenes, in every possible respect:  "never before has [the music business] been run so efficiently or dominated by so few. We have come to expect this type of consolidation from our banking, oil-and-gas, and health-care industries. But the same practices they rely on - ruthless digitization, outsourcing, focus-group brand testing, brute-force marketing - have been applied with tremendous success in pop, creating such profitable multinationals as Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift."

By all means, then, enjoy chart pop - just don't be under the illusion that underneath it's somehow radical or subversive rather than being merely the cultural manifestation of late capitalism. And let's agree, too, that the extremely limited creative input of people like Swift in what are purportedly their own songs means that they should properly be referred to as "performers" rather than as "artists".

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