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Sound And Vision: Why Hasn’t Tabloid Notoriety Turned John Mayer into a Total Joke?

“John Mayer Gets a Haircut After Katy Perry Split!”

As breaking news of the day goes, it’s not exactly groundbreaking. Still, there it was, in multiple variations, splattered across the online pages of E!, Us Weekly, Entertainment Weekly (which called it a “hair break-over”), People magazine and so many other websites devoted, in large and small part, to such trivialities. You’d think Samson had risen from the dead and taken up guitar.

But wait! Shouldn’t Delilah — I mean, Katy Perry — have been the star of this life (and a new ‘do)-after-love story? Traditionally, the celebrity tabloids and gossip websites pursue female celebrities about whom they date, whom they marry, whom they divorce, to search for baby bumps, and fashion dos and don’ts. Guys generally get in only when they’re dating one of them. (Why do you think Nickelback singer Chad Kroeger, who once went from long to short without causing so much as a media ripple and is now engaged to Avril Lavigne, is suddenly “newsworthy”?)

By those standards, John Mayer must be some kind of publicity-baiting genius. In the last several years, he’s made himself as much of a tabloid fixture as an A-list starlet by dating a succession of them: Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Aniston, Taylor Swift, and most recently, Katy Perry, his pop-star paramour of a few months. Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Why Hasn’t Tabloid Notoriety Turned John Mayer into a Total Joke?’

Sound And Vision: Growing Up Is Hard to Do, How To Make The Leap From Teen To Adult Pop Superstar

“I will sit right down, waiting for the gift of sound and vision,” David Bowie sang on his greatest hit. Sound and vision: essentials to the life of any great musician. They were the foundation of my beat — music, movies and TV — when I launched my journalism career in New York City as a People magazine writer and realized my dream of interviewing Bowie — twice. Editing stints at Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly followed. Next up was Buenos Aires, where, over the course of four and a half years, I discovered siestas, Mercedes Sosa and blogging. Coming soon: Australia, where, as I settle into this column, I will continue to explore sound and vision, and how those gifts merge to create my greatest love of all: pop music.
In pop music, as in life, getting older can by a tricky, treacherous uphill climb. Growing pains can be as hard on the eyes and ears of fans as they are on a teen star’s psyche. For every Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, both of whom emerged on the scene as wet-behind-the-ears teens and continue to flourish on the cusp of thirtysomething (Timberlake blows out 30 candles on January 31; Spears will on December 2), there’s Aaron Carter, Charlotte Church, Hanson, Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, New Kids on the Block, Bobby Brown, and cut-out bins filled with other ex-chart-toppers for whom platinum pop stardom wasn’t meant to last. Brandy, Monica, Christina Aguilera and Avril Lavigne may still be kicking around, but the shining stars of these former teen queens have dimmed considerably.
How did the Justins and Britneys of the world do it? For all those aspiring adolescent pop-stars, the next Justin Bieber looking for a place to happen — and even, perhaps, for Bieber himself — here are some helpful hints.
Grow with the musical flow. Pop trends are fleeting, so if you enter the scene latching onto one, know when to let it go. Former ‘N Sync memberTimberlake, who rode the last big boy-band wave to fame, is the perfect example of someone whose perfect timing aided and abetted his staying power. Yes, talent helped, too, but he exited ‘N Sync and went solo just as boy bands were about to go out of style — again. More recently, Nick Jonas (through his side project Nick Jonas and the Administration) and Joe Jonas (via acting gigs on 90210 and Hot in Cleveland plus an upcoming solo album) have begun establishing individual identities outside of their Jonas Brothers family act. Smart move.
Don’t grow too fast. Yes, Miley Cyrus, I’m talking to you. If your fans fall for you as a squeaky-clean teen, don’t overhaul your image overnight. So far, Taylor Swift has played it wisely, sticking with the tried-and-true girl-next-door persona for three albums. Beyoncé, who turns 30 on September 4th, hasn’t strayed too far from the 16-year-old we met when she was a member of Destiny’s Child. Even LeAnn Rimes waited until she was well into her 20s to leave her husband for another guy.
Grow some funk of your own. You can’t depend on the likes of Max Martin to keep cranking out your hits forever — unless you’re Britney Spears. Like Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson before him, Timberlake has evolved from a perfectly packaged underage singer of other people’s songs into a formidable songwriter, even helping other artists turn out great music (like “Cold Case Love” on Rihanna’s Rated R album as well as Madonna’s “4 Minutes” and several other tracks on Hard Candy). The ability to multi-task may end up working in favor of pop’s other famous Justin. In addition to being a pretty good vocalist, Bieber also writes and plays piano, guitar and drums, skills which should come in handy later on. Twentysomething Katy Perry can have teenage dreams and still go to No. 1, but Bieber won’t be able to get away with frothy pop like “Baby” forever.
When the growing gets tough, keep going. Britney Spears survived scandals, divorces and one seriously embarrassing MTV Video Music Awards performance, and she still comes out on top with her music, like her latest quick hit “Hold It Against Me.” Usher’s taken his private romantic travails and turned them into fodder for hits — something he did most spectacularly on his 2004 Confessions album, which, in part, documented his split with TLC’s Rozanda “Chili” Thomas. Demi Lovato is the latest teen star staring down personal demons. She entered a treatment center in late 2010 to seek help for emotional and physical issues, thus avoiding any embarrassing Lindsay Lohan-style public meltdowns. Right now, her biggest career hurdle might be differentiating herself from Selena Gomez.
Ah, Selena Gomez! She’s got problems of her own, now that she’s receiving death threats on Twitter after being caught making out with Justin Bieber, which brings us to the final piece of advice: Before you grow up, don’t forget to date a fellow teen idol. Justin and Britney were once joined at the hips and lips. Nick Jonas romanced Miley Cyrus. Both Demi Lovato and Taylor Swift loved and lost Joe Jonas, though Swift rebounded nicely with Twilight‘s Taylor Lautner. It was only a matter of time before Bieber’s Romeo found his Juliet — hopefully, without the tragic denouement.
Once the furor dies down, and it always does, this might end up being Gomez’s best career move yet. Some girls will go on hating her for it, but they’ll want to be her, too. And that, kids, is key to being both a teen star and a grown-up icon.

Pop Goes Political

Following her record-breaking rack up of eight MTV VMA’s for her single “Bad Romance” and collaboration with Beyoncé on “Telephone,” Lady Gaga gave fans a taste of what’s to come when she belted out lyrics to her future single, “Born This Way” at the podium: “I’m beautiful in my way, because God makes no mistakes, I’m on the right track, baby I was born this way.” The reigning Queen of Pop was escorted by three discharged US soldiers to her big night, a move made to raise awareness for the repeal of the controversial Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy employed by the US armed forces. There’s no mistaking the pointed message of the song, but was it also a call to action to her fellow superstars?

The “It Gets Better” campaign, sponsored by the Trevor Project, has celebs rallying around the LGBT community, urging troubled teens to seek help and hope, not suicide.

Tyler Clementi

It comes at the heels of a national string of gay suicides, most recently Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old Rutgers student who leapt to his death after his roommate used a webcam to film him having homosexual sex. Clementi’s suicide was the fourth time in four weeks that gay youth suicide made headlines, prompting big reactions from some serious stars.

Ellen DeGeneres, Cyndi Lauper, Wendy Williams, Aubrey O’Day, Ke$ha, Ashley Tisdale, Leanne Rimes, Jason Derulo, Joe Jonas, Jewel and Eve are just a few of the stars who have lent their time and their stories in personal video messages directed at teens struggling with their sexuality and its harsh repercussions. Also reportedly in the works is a special episode of hit show, Glee that will broach the subject of bullying and tolerance.

Cyndi Lauper's personal message. http://www.wegiveadamn.org/videos/

Rumors are swirling that Pink, this year’s recipient of the Ally For Equality Award at the Human Rights Campaign’s 14th annual National Dinner in Washington, DC, will actually marry a gay couple in her next video, “Raise Your Glass.

With today being National Coming Out Day, it seems that finally, the art reflects the time and artists and fans are uniting to be heard.

By Cortney Wills

Cortney Wills is a pop culture journalist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has lived in LA, Chicago and NYC and enjoys all things entertainment.

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees announced

Champagne’s a flowin’ at the homes of Bon Jovi, Neil Diamond, Alice Cooper, Tom Waits, LL Cool J and Dr. John, who among others, were all nominated into the 2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this week. The induction ceremony will take place on March 14th in Cleveland, Ohio. We would like an Alice Cooper/Neil Diamond duet please … to whoever is taking requests.

Joe Jonas is ridin’ solo

Following in his little bro’s footsteps, or maybe heeding the advice of Jason Derülo, Joe Jonas announced plans to record a solo all by himself. Something with “a sexier, Justin Timberlake vibe,” says the Middle One. Sexier than “Camp Rock”? Can it be done? We’ll all find out in 2011…

The Bad

Mariah Carey falls in Singapore

If you’re gonna fall, fall with class. Like Mariah Carey, who took a tumble in Singapore but smiled the whole way down. Then things got a little more diva-ish when Carey yelled for her assistant to come help her take her shoes off while the band kept playing “Make It Happen.” Check it out below.

Katy Perry avenges her “Sesame Street” snub

On SNL this past weekend, Katy Perry avenged her Sesame Street-banned bust by donning a low-cut Elmo t-shirt and bouncing around on a sofa. Those muppets must be seeing red!

The Ugly

MC Hammer starts beef with Jay Z

This would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Back story: On Kanye West’s song “So Appalled,” Jay-Z delivers a line about “blowing through $30,000 like Hammer.” Well, Mr. MC Hammer was none too pleased about that, and responded on Twitter by linking to a video of himself beating up a punching bag. “You want my attention [Jigga] you got it.” Punch, punch, punch. It’s all kind of embarrassing and feeble, but we’ll play along. Please Hammer, don’t hurt him!

Miscellany

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Lourdes Leon launches Material Girl blog

Madonna and Lourdes Leon

Lourdes Leon and her somewhat famous mother are launching a fashion line together. It’s called Material Girl, naturally. Leon introduced the line with a blog entry that is as adorable as one might expect from an excited 13-year-old. “I am totally obsessivo [sic] about ‘80s shorts … you know the kind that makes your butt look kinda big,” she says. Look out Women’s Wear Dailywe’ve got a fashion writer on our hands. Leon goes on to extol the greatness of My Chemical Romance (“They are so awesome it hurts”) and reveal that come October and her 14th birthday, she’ll finally get to dye her hair (“THANK YOU MOTHER!!”) The blog entry is richly rewarding – take a look at it here.

The Bad

Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas subject of badly-timed Teen Vogue cover

Lovato and Jonas

Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas’s cover for this month’s Teen Vogue is a mix of denim and awkward. Lovato and Jonas shot the cover and inside photo spread whilst still dating. Alas, their chaste love ended but two days later. Teen scandal! Read the issue and remember the way they were.

The Ugly

Woman buys MJ’s star-studded glove for $190,000

Marking the year anniversary of the King of Pop’s death, $1 million worth of memorabilia went up for auction, including the iconic Swarovski-studded glove Jackson wore on his 1984 Victory Tour. That item alone was expected to fetch between $20,000 and $30,000, but ultimately sold for $190,000 to Wanda Kelly of Los Angeles. Her hand must have looked fierce waving goodbye to all that dough. Hope it was worth it.

Chris Brown cries through MJ tribute performance

Chris Brown

During his four-minute dance tribute to Michael Jackson for Sunday night’s BET Awards, Chris Brown broke down in tears and was unable to finish performing his set. And it wasn’t because he lost the auction for the glove. So which song reduced the troubled performer to a sobbing wreck and delivered a big dose of schadenfreude to his haters? Was it (A) “The Way You Make Me Feel,” (B) “Billie Jean” or (C) “Man in the Mirror”? We’ll give you a hint it’s C.

Miscellany

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Ellen starts music label, signs Greyson Chance

Greyson Chance on Ellen

OK, remember last week when we made up that big lie about wunderkind Greyson Chance being signed to Interscope? Kidding! Yeah, looks like that was just one of those Internet rumors. Sahhrrry. Chance was actually signed by Ellen DeGeneres — he’ll be the first artist on her brand new label, Eleven Eleven Records. We’re not sure if Eleven Eleven is actually an imprint of Interscope or an indie, and until we’re sure, we’re not saying a word.

Ludacris builds playground for Atlanta school kids

Ludacris

That Luda, bless his heart. When he’s not going door-to-door reminding people to fill out their Census forms, he’s providing for the children. This past weekend the rapper joined volunteers to help construct a playground for Venetian Hills Elementary School in Atlanta. The charity event was a collaboration between KaBoom — a national nonprofit that provides play areas to underserved areas —The Ludacris Foundation, United Healthcare’s “Do Good. Live Well” campaign and EIF’s iParticipate program. Look, we knew how low he could go, we just never knew he was such do-gooder to boot . Hats off to you, Mr. Bridges.

The Bad

Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato break up

Sniff. Sad. Moving on …

Lady Gaga tested for Lupus

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga revealed to the London Times this week that she underwent testing for Lupus after collapsing from exhaustion and cancelling shows in March. But when it comes to the results of those tests, she’s keeping her lips sealed. “I don’t want anyone to be worried,” she explains. The singer lost an aunt to the disease, which is genetic and causes the body’s immune system to attack itself. Lucky for all of us little monsters, Lady Gaga is superhuman and immortal. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

The Ugly

Liza Minnelli sings “Single Ladies” for SATC2

Liza Minnelli

Looks like Liza Minnelli will be croaking out Beyoncé’s hit in the new Sex and the City movie. According to SATC2 promos, the 64-year-old performer tackles the number during a wedding scene. And, since Minnelli has a brand new replacement knee, maybe she’ll even attempt to do the choreography, too. That would be infinitely better than watching the chicken dance.

Key of Awesome spoof Owl City in “Electronic Wuss”

Ugly for Owl City, but hilarious for the rest of us.  Musical parody group, Key of Awesome,  delivered a sonic smackdown to the maudlin vomit that is “Fireflies” with their spoof, “Electronic Wuss.” Enjoy.

Miscellany

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

iamamiwhoami artist revealed?

iamamiwhoami

Maybe you’ve been following the enigmatic (and fairly disturbing) videos of mystery artist iamamiwhoami on YouTube. If not, do check them out. Most are one-minute vignettes set to alternately ambient and jarring electronic music, featuring a feral blonde woman with freakishly long eyelashes. First guess is Lady Gaga, naturally. Who else would wrap themselves in plastic to play the piano, or lick a tree? Well, looks like there may be another wildly eccentric pop performance artist out there. For the mystery reveal, click here. Check out the video here.

The Bad

Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” finally debuts

Lady Gaga's "Telephone"

(And by “bad” we mean Michael Jackson-style, you know, with dancing thugs, leather and snarls.)

The wait is over for the Lady Gaga and Beyoncé collaborative video for “Telephone.” For your patience, you get nine-plus minutes of women’s penitentiary sexy times, sandwich making, mass poisonings, multiple costume changes and good ol’ fashioned, Thelma and Louise-style, female camaraderie. (Sweet Beyoncé even swears!) Get an eyeful here… and lookout for cigarette sunglasses to become the next big thing.

Alex Chilton dies

Alex Chilton

The untimely deaths keep coming. This time it’s Alex Chilton, former front man of ’60s pop act the Box Tops and later, Big Star. Chilton died in New Orleans on Wednesday at the age of 59 from what appears to be a heart problem. If you’re unfamiliar with Chilton’s work, we suggest you go to your music source of choice and download “The Letter” by the Box Tops and “September Gurls” by Big Star. Another sad day for music.

The Ugly

Miley Cyrus says a bunch of dumb stuff in Teen Vogue

Miley Cyrus

Oh Miley. The soundbites from your latest interview are like potent little vitamins to fortify all your haters. When you’re not dissing the public at large by declaring you and your boyfriend’s superiority (“I think we’re both deeper than normal people, what they think and how they feel,”) then you’re contradicting yourself. Exhibit A: “The more I make music that doesn’t truly inspire me, the more I feel like I’m blending in with everyone else. So after this next album, I’m taking some time off.” Exhibit B: “I don’t really believe in breaks.” Once you figure it out, let us know. We’ll have to make do in the meantime with our shallow thoughts and feelings.

Miscellany

 


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