As we continue to hurtle through 2011, popular culture continues to move forward at break neck speed.
A decade or so ago, a new release by an artist might have been accompanied by a couple of print interviews, some syndicated TV one on ones and maybe a little bit of advertising along with the usual music videos and radio promotion.
But today, in the advent of the MP3 (or MP4), we are no longer helped by the slow build. Now its instantaneous. We need to be assaulted with worldwide promo tours, deluges of blogs and online appearances, and general saturation style promotion in order to get the next big hit on its way, or to keep an artist in the limelight for another month or so.
If you think about the way Lady Gaga is kind of everywhere today compared to how her predecessors made the odd, special appearance now and then, you get an idea of what I am saying. People in pop culture are chewed up and spat out now more than they have ever been. We have shorter attention spans than we have ever had before, and we're a lot more unforgiving. Things are reviewed before they are released, and if they are on the receiving end of a bad review, there is no clawing back there after. Janet Jackson was one of the first high profile victims of this approach.
Yes, there were some mitigating factors. Let's see, she made the same album over and over again; Damita Jo, 20 YO and Discipline were all basically copies of 2000's All For You, which in turn was nowhere near as special as her Velvet Rope album that came two years earlier. Then she had that unfortunate nipple gate episode, which was blown way out of proportion, really. It was a nipple. Walk on a beach in the Mediterranean and you will sometimes wish for a far more dramatic backlash to occur.
But for over a decade, she was right up there, at least in the States, where she was on par with her brother and Madonna in the hearts of youth culture. Part of her problem with longeivity is that she never really held the same international appeal outside the States, and thus, didn't have that wide support net when things started to go a bit nipple cripply for her.
The tide also changes in the pop culture world. A hot director or model or artist is only hot until the next best thing comes along, and then its up to the adoring fans and fanbases as to whether or not they are worthy of longterm support. Unfortunately, long term support has gone the way of pensions in most countries, severely diminished, reduced in length, and not much in the way of distinction between the poverty line and a government payment.
JJ was loved. Her videos were cool, she was a little dorky, but also knew how to turn on the edge when it suited her, and she made the best of her talents. She won't ever be in the league to compete with the Gagas or Rihanna or even Katy Perry again, and her current small venue world tour is probably more likely to be a farewell tour than anything else, but, I'm gonna hold on to the love, fondly remember the Rhythm Nation and all those super punch dance moves, until the next of the newbies gets relegated to a has been, and then I will have to reconsider her place in my heart.
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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