It wouldn’t be the start of a new year without this blog being overly critical of the artists asked to perform on Ryan Seacrest’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. C’est la vie. I’ll do us all a favor this time and keep this post focused on some artists and topics that I haven’t talked as much about; Taylor Swift was the headliner of the show, but she’s already received an entire post dedicated to her here, and she certainly didn’t change my opinion with her performance.
I’ll start with Meghan Trainor. Apparently, the powers-that-be at Sony Music Entertainment have decided they want to take her past the one hit wonder stage with Lips Are Moving. She is the only mainstream artist I’d classify as “bubblegum pop” other than maybe Ariana Grande, so if she’s lucky, that niche will undergo a revival on her watch.
Speaking of genres undergoing a revival, I got to watch the boyband sensation One Direction completely outclass Nick Jonas’ solo effort. They are a well-oiled machine. I am kind of curious how well One Direction will hold up as a “wussy” version of the newly-launched pop-punk band, 5 Seconds of Summer. When I first heard She Looks So Perfect last year, I started laughing. It checks every requisite “pop-song” box so deliberately that it’s no surprise the band took off. They and One Direction look very similar, and are close to sounding very similar if 5SOS softens up (Amnesia). They’re on different record labels, and I’m very curious to see how they influence each other’s sounds while targeting the same demographic.
An interesting demographic I’ve started to pay more attention to is the subset (of an unknown size) of latino listeners whose taste in music is dictated by their latino “identity”. These are the people to whom I attribute the ongoing success of Enrique Iglesias in the US, and more intriguingly the fact that Pitbull got his own New Years Special on Fox this year. Pitbull frequently references his upbringing in Miami because he knows that it is important to (some of) his fans. My question is “Why?” Is it really so important that one listens to a spanish-speaking artist that it overrides any desire to pursue other music? I suspect that for the aforementioned contingent of Pitbull and Enrique’s fanbase, the answer is yes.
This concept of one’s identity shaping or corrupting their taste in things has been on my mind for a while. The show briefly cut to Elton John’s New Year’s Eve concert at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The song choice was “I’m Still Standing,” and the song felt (and is) extremely dated, especially in the context of the rest of the show. It seems odd to me that someone felt it necessary to even cut to the song.
Elton John represents a generation and an era, and his lasting fanbase likely considers that part of their identity. It is amusing to think that in 40 years, the media will have Taylor Swift come to perform her outdated music in order to appease our generation. It can only happen because enough of her fans today will refuse to let go of her as time moves on. Elton John and Taylor Swift are just pop artists, but to many people they are pop idols. It’s not about the music, obviously. It is about saying “I am a Taylor Swift fan,” and having that define a part of your identity. For the most hardcore fans, it is their entire identity. And like the hopefully small subset of hispanic listeners who prioritize the language and heritage of the artist above his actual music, these fans are missing out on a lot of good music, and one wonders what else.
I can’t help but think that this idol worship has no upside.