by Dom Jones
I’m angry. And I’m writing this, in part, as a musician and, in part, as a journalist. Fame is not the end goal for every musician, but I think every musician who decides to make music their profession wants to be recognized by the industry to some capacity. We put in hours of practice to hone our craft. We listen to a massive amount of music to study different styles, to develop our own styles, and of course for the pure enjoyment of it. We attend concerts as students of the medium, and spend thousands and thousands of dollars on music equipment, instruments, music software, and for those of us who are being formally trained, education. We sacrifice time away from our families on tours or in practice and lose sleep to create. We do these things all because we love what we do, what we create, the possibility of music, the art AND the science of it. And then some random girl who appeared on the Dr. Phil show and should have been a blip in the history of internet sensationalism and memes inks a record deal for… (insert reason here). Imagine how painful watching music devolve in this way must be for an actual musician.
Here’s the thing: I knew it was all downhill when Soulja Boy went viral, got famous, and inked a deal off of “Crank Dat,” way back when it came out… the below video has over twenty million views.
Let’s be real: when Interscope signed Soulja Boy, we knew that there would be no artist development. It’s even been reported that his first album was recorded using the demo version of FL Studios (no shade to FL Studios, it’s actually one of my favorite Digital Audio Workstations). But Soulja Boy represented a shift in the music industry, with the internet creating a free platform for aspiring artists to attain massive fame. In some regard, the process of being acknowledged by the music industry was being tossed asunder. Just as there was no development to be had, there were no dues to be paid, and the creation of artistry that was aspirational was now being traded in for an assembly line model, where labels would make as much money off of sensationalizing mediocre to weak “artists” until they’d run their course, and be off to the next mediocre to weak “artist.”
I want to be clear: we all understand that pop music isn’t always going to be deep, meaningful, and transformative. Sometimes, it’s just going to be fun (and kind of empty). Music is so amazing because of its diversity: India Arie and Alanis Morrissette exist in a world with Beyonce and Carrie Underwood, Kendrick Lamar exists in a world with Future, and Coldplay exists in a world with Bruno Mars. The Temptations existed in a world with The Beatles and Roberta Flack existed in a world with Diana Ross. BUT WHY DOES QUINCY JONES HAVE TO EXIST IN A WORLD WITH THE CASH ME OUTSIDE GIRL?! Seriously.
And where Soulja Boy gained notoriety for being a watered down version of a culture that he was actually a part of, Danielle Bregoli is gaining it for a culture that she is appropriating. Her single, “These Heaux,” slaps us in the face with the idea that when black women express themselves in a certain way, they will be labeled “ghetto,” but when white women adopt the same behavior, they will be called “a real star with undeniable talent.” That’s an actual quote about Bregoli from a record label executive. Just like her predecessors (Kreayshawn comes to mind), she is attempting to wear her simple-minded perception of “blackness.” The entirety of her “artistic” allure and the bulk of the currency behind her value is based on the notion that blackness is performative, that is, can be performed by anyone – that it is a monolith which can be dissected, simplified, styled, and fed back to the masses by faces who have never lived the black experience. So, just as Bregoli is an insult to musicians who have honed their craft via time and sweat, she is an insult to a culture and a lived experience that she has not had the pain or the pleasure to partake in (and never will).
Danielle Bregoli is not the cause of Danielle Bregoli, though. She is an effect of the wild, wild West that the music industry has become. The internet has been a part of our lives for a while now, and where other industries have learned to integrate its existence into their existence, the music industry is still floundering at every level. With the click of a few buttons, anyone can be an “artist.” Clicks have currency. Shares have currency. The culture of going viral has eclipsed the idea of being talented. And don’t get it twisted, musicians… you’re culpable. Because you clicked, too. You shared that trash artist, too, thinking that your social commentary above the video link was somehow helping, when you were actually helping that person go more viral. What’s better? Commenting on the horror in hopes that people will shift their attention towards something that’s more meaningful or giving the horror no attention, no clicks, no acknowledgement at all in hopes that it will go away? Honestly… I don’t know.
But for now, Bregoli has attained what some musicians spend their lives chasing… and all because she needed therapy. What a world.
DO YOU THINK ATLANTIC RECORDS SHOULD HAVE SIGNED DANIELLE BREGOLI? SOUND OFF IN THE COMMENTS!