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Last week, the Boston Phoenix ran a good joint interview with two female musical artist who made their mark in the early 90s, Juliana Hatfield and Tanya Donelly. I've got a lot of respect for both of them and they are still making good music long after their media moment passed. In that media moment, it looked as if the gates opened by Nirvana were also letting in women who would not play to the typical female roles in pop. But commercial alternative died and teen pop became the true reflection of the pop marketplace. (There was a book called Like Punk Never Happened that had as its subject the same reactionary reflex in UK pop after 1983.)

It was all basically a fluke:

Hatfield: […] In a way, things have come full circle. I think the fact that my music and Tanya's music reached such a large audience at one point was a weird fluke. It only happened because of what was going on we just kind of got swept up in it. And I don't know if it will happen again.

Donelly: I remember there was a day when I realized that wasn't my destiny, it was just a freak occurrence. And there is some adjustment you have to make after you figure that out there's a period of adjustment. A long fall [laughs].

Now, compare that to this New York Times article “Who's That Girl ?” (with the cover headline “Building the post-Britney.”). Shiny teenpop is basically over, but the machinery is still there:

"With some artists, only one style fits them,'' says Diener, who is wearing a leather porkpie hat and is never far from his cellphone. ''Fortunately, Amanda has the looks and the attitude to carry off many different ideas.'' His phone rings. ''Some artists are resistant to ideas,'' Diener adds, checking the number of the incoming call. ''Amanda is not resistant.''
Now, this is just pop music, and authenticity is far from everything, but I just have to laugh. Here we are treated to a discussion of the troublesome semiotics of belly exposure:
Mazer and Latona discuss her first video. ''All I know,'' Latona says, ''is that I don't want to show my stomach like everyone else does. I want to relate to the girls as being a cool girl, not someone they are intimidated by.''

Mazer agrees. ''Look how much more successful Mariah was when she didn't take off her clothes,'' he says. ''Now, it's, like, Just get naked already! Same with Britney. After you start stripping, there's nowhere to go but naked.''

Latona pauses. ''But Pink has a hot record now, and she shows her stomach,'' she says. ''So does Gwen Stefani.'' Latona has an idea that she could be a rock singer, something like Stefani, who fronts the group No Doubt.

The irony of the article is that Latona eventually convinces herself that she's a rock chick like Joan Jett (mostly by saying “dude” a lot); at first she was going to just cover a song of Jett's to cover another marketing angle, but now playacting the authenticity angle might just help her in a pop marketplace where Pink and Avril Lavigne are selling records. And so it goes…

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ex_snej373
Aug. 5th, 2002 09:47 pm (UTC)
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss
Yuck, what a disturbing article.

It seems like once in a while pop music gets blown up by some unexpected catastrophe, and there's a discontinuity where for a little while genuinely interesting things can happen and become prominent. Roughly every ten years or so, it seems. (Rock'n'roll, psychedelia, punk, house/techno, grunge...) So maybe we're due for one now; that's why I feel glad whenever I hear about the chaos in the music industry and how no one knows what's going on. Just let me know when it becomes safe to turn on the radio again.

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