Everything else is just marketing
I know we covered this with breathless abandon over at geek-chick.net, but I couldn’t let another day go by without discussing Vanessa Carlton’s upcoming album on my site. For those of you who haven’t heard, you should take a look at Vanessa Carlton’s interview/blurb available at Rolling Stone. Let me start with a choice quote:
“I’m singing about suicide, insomnia and paranoia,” Carlton says about the album, which isn’t due until next year. “There’s nothing piano recital-y about it. It’s goth.” Asked to explain, Carlton answers with a question of her own: “Do you know what Wicca is? I believe in like spells and stuff like that…”
I’m just gonna say that again for those of you who didn’t fall over laughing the first time.
“Do you know what Wicca is? I believe in like spells and stuff like that…”
And I, like, think you’re an idiot, sweets.
Somewhere out there, I can just imagine The Powers That Be (cue image of troll) sitting around a table and trying to figure out how in the world they’re going to market Carlton’s sophomore album.
“Teeny pop seems to be over. We tried grunge. That worked for a while, but then everyone realized those plaid flannel shirts itched. She’s too white for bling, and Shakira is going to sue our asses off if we copy her dark-brunette-goes-bleach-blond look.”
“Are there any subcultures we haven’t sucked the soul out of yet?”
“Well, punk’s pretty much a lost cause. There’s not enough makeup in the world to make her look like the second coming of Joe Strummer, and I really don’t fancy getting on Johnny Rotten’s shit list. You remember what happened the last time that guy went on the warpath.”
“We tried squeaky-clean. Bad thing about squeaky-clean: it sells…once. The only way we can make her seem to ‘evolve’ as an artist is to force some out-of-the-mainstream change on her.”
“What about pseudo-goth? It worked for Evanescence.”
“True. She does have black hair. Everything else is just marketing.”
“Right. Call her and tell her she’s goth now, and to get her ass out of that tanning bed stat. We can only airbrush out so much tan on the album cover.”
Later, another phone call.
“But I, like, don’t know what goth is.”
“It’s simple, really. Think of it as a world of opportunity to explore types of songs you never would have written, otherwise. We want songs about pain. Suicide. Blood. Death. Goat sacrifice.”
“Goats? Ewwww. I’ve never, like, actually seen a goat.”
“Right. Forget the goats, then. Just think dark. Remember how you wanted to kill yourself when you were thirteen because you didn’t get that pink shirt you wanted? Focus on that. Think about the pain. The humiliation. The rage. Focus that rage. We’ll adapt some of those pretty melodies of yours and make them raging angry melodies. Think goth. Write goth. Be goth. “
“Can we have the songs by next week?”
A week later, the songs are reviewed:
“This just isn’t edgy enough. We have to find ways to cross genres in a way that no one’s ever seen before. I mean, think about it. Find two genres that are totally opposite and slam them together for an album. We have to make people buy, buy, buy! I mean, think about it. Take an orchestra. Who would you never, ever expect an orchestra to play with? Metallica. Crunching guitars and soaring strings. That’s be fantastic. Get my boss on the phone. We’ve got to record this.”
“Um, they did that already.”
“Shit. I hate it when someone beats me to a perfectly good punch.”
“What about Christianity? Kids want albums that stand for everything their parents hate. Slam Christianity and we’ll have the best word-of-mouth marketing possible: parents and ministers telling the kiddies that the music is evil and wrong and that they shouldn’t listen to it.”
“Worked for Elvis.”
“Not to mention the Beatles. What I wouldn’t give to have those album sales.”
“Get her on the phone. Tell her she has to go contra-Christian this time. Buddhism’s too pacifist, and I’m not having her pull a Cat Stevens, so Islam’s out. Tell her to be Wiccan. That’ll work.”
“Pity we couldn’t get this album out in time for Halloween.”
“Yeah. Wouldn’t that be a great promotion? Imagine: ‘A Very Wiccan Christmas.’ People would buy the CDs just to burn them.”
Several weeks later, when Rolling Stone asked her about her progress, she had the following to say about her song ‘She Floats’:
“[It’s about] the kind of the euphoria that someone gets when they’re tortured by being dead…”
There’s shooting yourself in the head. It’s painful, and generally permanent. There’s also shooting yourself in the foot. Embarrassing, and only permanent if your friends never let you live it down.
Then there’s shooting yourself in the ass. That takes, like, effort.