Saturday, June 25, 2011
All Pop Stars Are Fake
The lovely and talented Eguchi Aimi of AKB48 does not exist. She's a virtual star, and one cleverly created as a composite of all of her bandmates. This sort of bums me out because I was working on a social media project which was going to have us Tweet virtual dates in real-time while simultaneously working on a special album collab project. But now the secret is out, and the project is off.
Of course she's Japanese. I've written before about Bandroids and Japan's cutting-edge technologies in this area. It would appear the Japanese, like me, realized that robots are too 20th century, and that going computer-generated/virtual makes a lot more sense:
"no hardware". Hardware is complex, messy, and unreliable. Just like the humans you're trying to replace.
Software, on the other hand, is cheap, malleable, and just gets better and better. The pros have been using software instead of recording machines for 20 years. The last 10 years have seen software versions of instruments swallow hardware instruments like a python devouring a gazelle. Listen to most of the records in the top 10 right now: The vocals are edited, tuned, and overdubbed. The drums aren't real drums, or if they were at some point, they've been edited and snapped into a grid, and all "imperfect" hits replaced with better ones. The synths are software. Any old acoustic instruments you hear are almost certainly samples. If you hear electric guitar or bass, assuming it's "real", it's being run through a software amp simulator and not a hardware amp. And so on.
Before you guys go all country/blues/authentic on me and start complaining there's something wrong with this, remember that all pop stars are fake. All of them.
It was ever thus, but let's start with the current round of meatbag pop tarts (there are of course a few exceptional exeptions). They have fake names, "perform" other people's songs, often by lip-syncing to heavily processed backing tracks sung by other pros, while dancing routines a pro choreographer created or stole from someone else, while dressed in clothes someone else picked out and/or designed for them. You can put in Ke$ha's name here, or Katy Perry, or really any pop singer from the 1950s on.
How is this different than a cartoon? Or look at Gorillaz, who are literally cartoons!
Paula Abdul was sued many years ago. Allegedly she didn't really sing the tracks on her breakthrough album, and failed to give the woman who sang the "guide tracks" credit and cash. I have it on good authority that not only was this true, but that Abdul's people wiped the evidence from the masters during the trial.
None of that makes "Straight Up" any less awesome, or any of the hits under these pop brands any less fun, artistic, or great.
I mean, there's no guy named "Coke". The Keebler Elves aren't real. And Willard Scott aside, there has never been a real Ronald McDonald. Those are artificial entities created to sell product. Just like pop stars. And just as advertising evolves beyond using unreliable, fallible humans to sell their ideals, music is catching up as well.
Most of your country stars are about as "authentic" as Country Time Lemonade. Shania Twain is Canadian, and her then-husband producer was also responsible for such authentic records as Def Leppard's "Hysteria", The Cars' "Heartbeat City", and much of Bryan Adams' oeuvre. Most country stars sing hits written by the pro songwriter community, which counted the late great Scotsman Stuart Adamson (of new wave geniuses Big Country) and Diane Warren, a Jewish woman from Van Nuys (who wrote mega hits for Leann Rimes and Trisha Yearwood) amongst their ranks.
Sammy Hagar says he's only been to a few great parties in his life and has been mining those memories for lyrics and attitude ever since.
Ziggy Stardust didn't exist. There's no Sergeant Pepper and no Lonely Hearts Club Band. Mick Jagger wasn't a street-fighting man, he was a business student at the London School of Economics. The Beach Boys weren't surfers, they were from the suburbs.
You can go as far back as you want (Shakespeare's female characters were all Dudes Looking Like Ladies), but you get the point.
Look, it's about perfection and selling illusion (and that's all entertainment is - illusion). The audience doesn't want to see human beings up there (no matter what they say), they want Greek gods and embodiments of ideals.
That's what the audience has been conditioned to expect over the years. It started the minute we put someone on a stage, and as technology has evolved, the illusion has evolved, too. The internet is very nearly the apex, since it's nothing but doctored digital data about everything. Everything is permitted, nothing is real.
It's just like the perfectly airbrushed and completely unrealistic models used in every magazine and in every photograph. Eguchi Aimi is airbrushing taken to its logical conclusion - she's all airbrush.
Here's her band in action. Like it or not, here come tha future:
Here's the "Making of Eguchi Aimi":
Japan, I tip my hat to you. Well played. I can't wait to work with and listen to her children.
I'm just pissed I didn't think of this first. But probably not as pissed as Florian of Kraftwerk!