Superstar? Jesus Christ...

Categories: Pop Rocks

Sorry, but no.
There's a scene in Penelope Spheeris's excellent documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, Part 2: The Metal Years where she interviews a number of struggling musicians about their career prospects and their fallback options should they fail. Almost to a man* (and woman), these hopefuls respond with fierce conviction that they absolutely will make it, doubtless because it was hammered into them from a young age that as long as they worked hard enough and, sigh, believed in themselves, success was inevitable.

It's equal measures poignant and pathetic, because their sincerity is unfortunately counterbalanced by their mediocre music. And yet they still plugged away, practicing for hours on end and tirelessly putting up flyers in the hopes fame might one day be theirs.

If only they'd waited around another 20 years, they'd have realized stardom isn't something to strive for, it's actually ours by right. At least, that seems to be the lesson of today's pop music.

First let's hear from Ke$ha:

We're dancing like we're dumb, dumb, du-du-du-dumb
Our bodies going numb, numb, nu-nu-nu-numb
We'll be forever young, young, y-y-y-young
You know we're superstars
We R who we R

Leaving aside the questionable lyrical tactic of rhyming "numb" and "young," the obvious inference here is the natural state of "superstardom" one can achieve by merely listening to Ke(Dollar Sign)ha. And then there's Katy Perry:

'Cause baby you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, oh
As you shoot across the sky

Feeling down? Looking for a new start? Who better to motivate you than a couple of Autotuned dingbats who champion female empowerment by making their breasts the focus of every music video or singing about "the dudes lining up?" You go, girls.

Pink and Lady Gaga are a little more discriminating. The former's "Raise Your Glass" singles out the "underdogs," while Gaga has carved a niche for herself by championing gay and lesbian causes. This is all well and good, but describing yourself as a "dirty freak" or "little monster" probably won't go very far in that job interview.

Now, I understand children need to be nurtured and encouraged so that they develop healthy self-esteem. I'm also pretty sure Perry and Ke$ha, with their Reddi Wip brassieres and lyrics about brushing teeth with whiskey, aren't for the booster seat set. That leaves adolescents and young adults, which makes even less sense, because these are the people most in need of a slap in the face about today's economic realities.

Kids, the sad truth of it is that almost all of you are going to end up like most of the "next big things" in Decline II: manning the receiving desk at a mid-level manufacturing company, or working in home health care, or jockeying a desk, and the thing of it is...there's nothing wrong with that. This is how the world operates: The vast majority of us make a living and raise our families while a few others, deservedly or not, get all the glory.

You see, the very word "superstar" denotes superlative fame and recognition, and only a handful of people can claim the title at any given time. Everyone can't be one ("Born This Way" notwithstanding), otherwise the word loses all meaning and can essentially be swapped out with "dude" or "hey you."

Who cares if you're not "special," especially if that means little more than aping your favorite singer's fashion sense and mouthing their platitudes? We can't all be #1 singers, or Academy Award winners, or writers who actually make a living at their craft (*cough*). That doesn't mean you should give up on your dreams, but try to have a little perspective. There are far worse things than never winning a Grammy.

Now that I think about it, most things are better than winning a Grammy.

* Amusingly enough, London -- the only band evincing any resignation at their fate -- are still active. Though hilariously named lead vocalist Nadir D'Priest is the only member remaining from their Decline lineup.

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the first 3 paragraphs of this article are the reason why the american idol audition episodes exist. honestly, what girl feels like she couldn't be a pop star after listening to katy perry or ke$sha 'kind of' try to sing? oh no, wait a minute: i should have said "perform" becuase there's no way what either of them do could be called singing.

they call themselves musicians and quote unquote write their own material but seriously...they are media-friendly thin women with big boobs who can follow choreography, photograph well in pictures and make cute sound bites for late night talk shows. singing or any kind of musical ability is waaaay down on the list of their achievements.

i'd love to see any record company give an artist contract to a woman who was the visually groomed equivalent of zac brown, because let's face it, a group of women the same age and size and talent as zac brown and his band would never be remotely considered for a record deal without a plastic surgery/fashion/dietary overhaul.

wet rag
wet rag

I think people need to realize you can be an artist whith a dayjob that keeps you above the poverty line. It just takes hard work. And no, playing music all day isn't hard work, its fun. I mean getting up, working a full day, and THEN playing six hours of music. I have a buddy who writes music for Indie films in Austin, but he was an online ad exec to keep himself afloat for the longest time. I got a post graduate degree and make a healthy living. I'm not a star, but thats because I simply don't have the talent my buddy has. It wasn't lack of practice. Make art a passionate pursuit, and MAYBE it can become a lucrative career. But, for God's sake, don't bank your family's ability to pay medical bills on it.

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