Brooklyn hosted the MTV Video Music Awards this past Sunday but Brooklyn was completely unrepresented. Musicians from Brooklyn that MTV ignored included The Beastie Boys’ surviving members, Lou Reed, Jay Z, Grizzly Bear, MGMT, Mos Def, The National & Norah Jones. It could have genuinely been a celebration of city, music and video unlike any other seen in recent memory. Instead MTV subjected viewers and audience members to a 3 hour long celebration of hyper persona where barely any instruments made an appearance. This was a show tailored for the culture cult of Barack Obama
The worship of the public idol.
Prior to the event Barack Obama’s Twitter account promoted Katy Perry’s new single, which was performed that evening, proving once more that we have a Pepsi Cola President and his network media complex in charge of the country and our youth.
On the eve of this past years Video Music Awards, the Barack Obama Twitter account sent out two tweets. One to Jason Derulo, a pop rapper tweeting about Obamacare and the other to Katy Perry, for the same reason. Obamacare was signed into law in 2010 but here we are 3 years later and the President is obsessing about it. It’s because he knows without MTV’s target audience, Obamacare enters a financial death spiral for which the American economy will never recover from. He has enlisted none other than Katy Perry herself to lead the indoctrination charge. This is no secret and it’s worked before. MTV’s rock the vote campaign is largely responsible for Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 and has continued with thinly veiled democrat youth voter outreach since. But this era of idol worship also presents both a large problem for MTV and this President and a great opening for the GOP. The more Barack Obama and the Democratic Party insert themselves into pop music and entertainment marketing, the bigger the opportunity is for conservatives to present themselves as the counter culture. There is nothing punk rock or rebellious to praising authority figures in charge. MTV has forgotten this. We should not.
We as a country have always reflected those that lead it and because we as a country have elected a President born of corporate marketing slogans and slick advertising we are going to expect that he is going to turn to others like him to sell his agenda, no matter how artificial they are. This is the President who has chosen to weigh in on social issues that reflect his agenda (Jason Collins, College Basketball, Katy Perry) and ignore ones that do not (Chris Lane, Delbert Benton, Chris Kyle).
What MTV produced Sunday night was not a celebration of cutting edge visuals meeting personal artistic expression through song. What was once a mildly amusing showcase of musical experimentation has given way to a cult of personalities in a glittery thunderdome. Two naked women with auto tune enter, only one will be talked about the next day! The culture of pop music has become a super costumed street fight of lip syncing comic heroes all battling for relevance on social media and the attention of their idol Barack Obama. Consider that of all the performers at the VMA’s, there wasn’t a single band playing live instruments among them. Embarrassing for a city so rich in musical culture past and present. But music hasn’t been MTV’s focus for years. What interests MTV is selling the culture of Barack Obama and there is nothing original or organic about it. MTV in the business of hero worship. From Katy Perry, to Lady Gaga to Justin Bieber to Taylor Swift to Pink to Rihanna to Miley Cyrus to Barack Obama. Each one of them is a carefully crafted corporate Frankenstein. Messages are created like studio films, often times with several writers and the sound to accompany a marginal singer is engineered and tuned to sound like they are screaming into space. Lady Gaga’s song “Applause” was cut for a KIA commercial and ESPN promos after only a week in release. Katy Perry already has a marketing deal with Pepsi Cola and her album has not been released. Miley Cyrus does nothing, and I mean nothing, without it being approved by her marketing team and label or VMA producers.
This is the part where I dangerously veer into sounding like a jaded 30 something complaining about the golden age of music. But this isn’t about music. When our parents scolded us about MTV it was a difference of generational musical tastes. They saw Dee Snyder crawling across the hood of a car in full make up or Motley Crue singing about Girls Girls Girls and Axl Rose’s bride being assassinated by rain drops and were having none of it. It was the argument parents have been having with their kids for generations. The Beatles vs The Stones was a debate that grew out of two very different fan bases, not record labels maximizing their marketing lines.
MTV was about using music to rebel against parents and adults. Now they are about selling a fame monster. MTV is about telling teens and youth who they are is not who they should be. MTV will decide what they should wear, who they should emulate and who they should vote for. The show Made was about teenage High School makeovers. In one episode, MTV took a geeky girl in glasses and dragon shirts and made her into a beauty contestant and prom queen. At the end of the episode she goes on about how many new friends she had made. Pimp My Ride is a show about how your car isn’t good enough. You’re a nobody with a POS ride in high school. Here, have some gold plated rims and ground effects; now you’re popular and loved. Being pregnant leads to a lucrative career in the entertainment industry. Punching a woman repeatedly in the face? Great..If you can dance. Same goes with night clubbing. MTV has gone as far as to literally tell teenagers that they must physically alter their appearance to look like the celebrities on their network.
There isn’t one program that showcases how, as a teenager, it’s okay to be awkward or insecure. That it’s brave to be an individual. Being an individual is the boldest thing about being a teenager, not drinking whatever soda Katy Perry or Beyonce tells them to and certainly not voting for who these people tell you to either. Miley Cyrus’ disastrous VMA performance is not the issue at hand. A teenager twerking to their music in their bedroom is not a larger issue of moral decay…That’s called growing up… Being told that who they are isn’t good enough on an almost 24/7 365 basis is however the problem. MTV is about the elimination of youthful individualism. So is Barack Obama. The biggest detriment to MTV’s sponsors is a independent young mind searching out their own musicians. The biggest threat to Barack Obama is an independent young mind on a college campus.
There is a reason this President gives the majority of his speeches both on and off the campaign to college campuses instead of unemployed adults. On campuses Obama can still look inspiring to idealistic minds. We are in the middle of full blown pop culture of celebrating super heroes. The cult of different personalities and their mindless social armies. Gaga has her Monsters, Cyrus has her Twerkers, team vampire vs. team werewolf or Organizing For Action. Associating with a celebrity has become the primary goal today for marketing companies like Pepsi and Kia and the Obama administration. It’s no different than worshiping your favorite football team every Sunday. There are millions of dollars at stake and a Presidential legacy.Barack Obama the man is not cool. He isn’t hip. He’s not athletic, he’s not social media savvy (referring to Twitter in a speech once as ‘The Tweeter’). Barack Obama as a brand as it exists with it’s own logo and slogans is no different than a can of Pepsi.
Barack Obama is the Super Bowl commercial that never ends.
Nothing about MTV culture is organic. Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus; all boardroom, market tested creations. Nothing they do is accidental or original. Lady Gaga is not the David Bowie for the millennial generation. She is not a cutting edge original artist with brilliant edgy fashion ideas. She was an average piano playing go go dancer in a club in Los Angeles plucked to fill a shock vacuum (I would argue she was pop music’s lite interpretation of Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) after appearing on a gameshow. There are a hundred or more of her in Los Angeles and even more so now, there are a hundreds trying to be her. When Lady Gaga sits down and plays a piano there is quite a reservoir of talent. But that’s not what sells anymore. A person playing a musical instrument is of no use to MTV or Barack Obama. Eventually one of these engineered divas is just going to perform an abortion on stage at the VMA’s and be done with it while a giant jumbo tron message from Michelle Obama is auto tuned to talk about “women’s health”. There are only so many clothes a pop star can strip away.
Barack Obama has aligned himself with celebrities overly conscious of image, no real special musical talent ?but that can help him sell his unpopular agenda. Obama is using Katy Perry the same way LT. Smash used Bart Simpson and a boy band to recruit subliminally for the US Navy. It’s uncanny and equally ridiculous. The argument can be made that Katy Perry herself exists only as a propaganda tool for Barack Obama. It is not coincidence by any means that Perry’s fourth coming album is named “PRISM” Album titles are not created out of the ingenious minds of an individual who control nothing else about their image or songwriting. In three weeks, when someone searches the word prism on Twitter, Barack Obama’s massive unconstitutional data gathering program on Americans will not be at the top of discussion and trends. Katy Perry and her grill will be. Nothing is accidental. You can half expect Katy Perry to soon just come out with a song where the lyrics just literally tell kids to go out and sign up for Obamacare and roar..Or something.
Listening and obeying to pop music stars is about to become a lot more expensive than dropping twelve dollars on itunes.
The opposing question is how to battle a constant barrage of subliminal marketing ploys from both a collective corrupt media complex and an image savvy Presidential administration who uses it as its weapon of choice. Staking the point of view of being the evil preacher dad in Foot Loose does us absolutely no good. We’ve looked like the party of being uptight and no humor and teenagers are going to twerk. And that’s our problem. Acts like Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry and every other wanna be lip syncing marketing construction in latex outfits are defeated by ridicule. Pop artists like Pink sing constantly about how hard and rough they are and yet she is a prime example of someone who is the farthest thing from it. In the early 90’s bands like Motley Crue, Poison, Queensryche, Guns N’ Roses among others ruled MTV with their big hair, male makeup and big stage pyrotechnics. And then Kurt Cobain came along threw his guitar through an amplifier and ended all of it. This wasn’t just a change in music..It was a cultural shift and branded an entire generation…They had enough of what MTV was selling and MTV had no choice but to start outfitting their VJ’s in flannels. Almost overnight it became instantly uncool to be seen with a poison cassette tape in your Walkman. These bands were ridiculed off the face of MTV. Not morally shamed. This is the attitude we should have. There is an audience out there who find the Mileys, Gagas and Perrys as ridiculous as adults do.
They should be propped up, given attention and listened to and the next time the producers of the VMA’s won’t think Miley Cyrus lap grinding a zebra on it’s hind legs is a cool idea…Not because they will be shamed morally but because they will be made to look ridiculous. They live and breathe on shock value. The point is to not be shocked or outraged but to weigh the ridiculousness of their antics and levy a proper amount of ridicule in return. This same philosophy applies to Barack Obama. This may seem daunting and it is, but not as much as MTV and other media outlets make it seem. Katy Perry can either be a brilliant marketing tool to sell lip gloss or she can be Barack Obama’s healthcare czar. She can’t be both.
Two years from now the same media outlets that put Miley Cyrus’ tongue, Katy Perry’s chest, Kanye West’s undiagnosed Tourettes and Lady Gaga’s whatever out front as the measuring stick of cool are going to attempt a bigger marketing gimmick than songs about healthcare. They are going to attempt to make a 70 year old woman look in-touch and hip to millennial viewers as she attempts to reign in the cult of personality that Barack Obama marketing team harnessed so well.
Be prepared to see Hillary Clinton on Ellen trying to work her twerk. It will happen. We cannot sit on the sidelines with blinders. It must be confronted when spotted. MTV is going to the wall to sell this woman who 20 years ago bobbed her head along to Fleetwood Mac, over a 50 year old conservative Hispanic who listens to Public Enemy who literally was part of the foundation groups that built MTV. And when these artists who sold their music for licensing royalties to soft drinks and car companies tell our guys to stop using their music, our response to them should be telling them to ignore MTV and try holding onto their artistic integrity instead for a change.