From the very beginning, this blog has harbored a disproportionate hatred toward Lady Gaga. Out of all the nominally terrible pop artists, only Lady Gaga has earned a mention in nearly 1/5 of all my posts. I guess it can be attributed to that magic as an artist which only she possesses. Unfortunately, it did not prevent her newest album, Artpop, from failing to meet sales projections in the first week¹. With sales coming in at around 260,000, Lady Gaga also underperformed when compared to her competition: Katy Perry (PRISM sold 286k) and Miley Cyrus (Bangerz sold 270k).
Apparently this defeat came as a surprise to Interscope Records, who invested $25 million into marketing for the album. For some reason, Lady Gaga as a product is not selling the way her peers are², and not for lack of trying.
Before I present some conclusions, it is worth disclosing my current thoughts on Lady Gaga “as a product.” The main reason I’ve presented in the past for disliking Lady Gaga is what I perceived to be a lack of integrity: “Lady Gaga” was just a character designed to attract attention; a masquerade of the much less-palatable Stefani Germanotta. However, I’ve come to find that Lady Gaga as a person is actually very down-to-earth. She is humble, respectful, and kind, which is honestly more than I’d ask of any pop star, and more than some of her peers have led me to expect. Is the Lady Gaga character still an attention whore? Is her music still terrible? Yes. I simply have a harder time holding that against her than I did in the past, because she has earned my respect (somewhat).
Billboard performed some analysis of Lady Gaga compared to Katy Perry, and discovered that Perry holds the lead in digital singles, but is absolutely decimated in album sales. You get a similar story when comparing Gaga to Ke$ha and Miley Cyrus. She is an artist who has been carried by the popularity of her albums, not her singles. What Billboard fails to explicitly point out is that Katy Perry saw an 80% jump in sales from her debut album to Teenage Dream (we shall see about PRISM), while Lady Gaga experienced a 50% drop in sales from her debut album to Born This Way. They call that “falling off.”
I can’t profess to know what the kids these days are interested in. Neither can Interscope Records, it seems. Attention whoring is apparently not the way to sell records, and I guess someone should warn Miley Cyrus before it’s too late. Perhaps people are longing for the relative normality of an artist like Katy Perry. Of course, you wouldn’t know it by the reception given to similarly bland and unimaginative pop artists like Alison Gold³.
In a complete change of pace, I’m going to talk about an electronic/chillwave band I found this past weekend, Vondelpark. I have not heard a tremendous amount of chillwave myself, although it bears similarities to several genres I’ve talked about in this blog. It is a very relaxing genre, with soft sounds and usually refreshing beats. While I personally think the music video is awful (and I recommend just opening it in a background tab and listening w/o watching), California Analog Dream will tell you what Vondelpark is about. That’s a groovy song, right there.
My personal favorite is HipBone, which has a slightly more experimental vibe to it. It uses a repeated dissonant synth to great effect, and it has the airy, layered vocals I’ve come to be a big fan of.
Another good emo track
Anyone who was a fan of my Snowing post, or Mineral, is going to enjoy I’ll Take You Everywhere by Penfold. Just sayin’. As a remark, people often give the impression that the style of music I praised in Snowing was common — I disagree. There were a lot of midwestern emo revival bands, but not many that sounded like Snowing. The “sound,” at least vocally was there, but the instrumentals, the loud-quiet effect, and the ability to keep one’s interest are part of that same “sound,” and were not nearly as easy to come by.
¹Billboard speculates it will pass “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” by Eminem for #1 this week, but understand that Eminem’s album debuted with 792k units sold last week, and we’re comparing Artpop’s week 1 to the presumed drop-off of MMLP2 in week 2.
²One of the commenters on the Billboard article took it upon himself to perform a comparison of first week album sales for several mainstream female pop artists across 2012-2013, and found that Gaga was beat out by Taylor Swift, Madonna, Adele, Beyonce, Perry, P!nk, Miley, and Carrie Underwood (in that order)
³Who incidentally hit 29 on the Billboard Hot 100, which goes to show you how meaningless a Youtube dislike really is in the face of infectious music and the people who listen to it.