We hear our grandparents, our parents, and our jaded friends in their early 20s complain about how now music these days is all about costumes and bands following one trend after another.
Gimmicks in music span all genres and always have. Nothing is exclusive to the Top 40. For every shell bikini Lady Gaga throws on, there are lesser-known pop-punk bands like Masked Intruder who wear colorful ski masks, or whatever Black Veil Brides is – think if KISS had a sponsorship with Cirque du Solei – running around in.
Around the same time Madonna was sporting her pointy bra, punk vocalist GG Allin was eating his own excrement and harming himself on stage, and David Bowie’s entire career was transforming from one persona to the next.
“I suppose practically all artists brand lifestyle, image, looks, trends, accessories and antics,” said ARC music business professor Eric Chun. “This has also been a management and label directive to focus music and appearance together.”
As he listed a page’s worth of examples of gimmicks that include clothing, recording techniques and instrument choices, Chun mentioned that it’s not always the record labels who work up these trends. Sometimes the artists have a say – which doesn’t always turn out well.
“A real success, yet a fail at the same time, has been everything surrounding Miley Cyrus,” said sociology major Nina McVane. “It was successful because people (are) talking about her, but it was a fail because it has only been bad talk. You can’t go anywhere without hearing a side (conversation) of someone talking about a funny Miley vine or a tweet she tweeted.”
You think the banjo is going to be as huge next year? Of course not. Mumford and Sons didn’t invent the banjo, they just brought it back and popularized it.
So why do we as consumers keep buying in? We are bored. And why do these trends eventually run their course and die out? We get bored. We are so finicky.
These things always come full circle, and we’ll eat up and then complain about the same things in 15 to 20 years. Miley’s breakdown and “I don’t give a damn” attitude isn’t much different than Joan Jett’s was during the ‘80s. And we’ll have a whole new gimmick to complain about in 2014.