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Kelly Clarkson’s Ron Paul Twitter Endorsement — Should Pop Stars and Politics Mix?

Affairs of the heart and affairs of state. The two have been intertwined in music—sometimes harmoniously , sometimes cacophonously—since around the time Bob Dylan declared that the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

In the ’80s, pop stars added a humanitarian angle, which spawned Band-Aid, USA for Africa and, since 9/11, the occasional celebrity-studded telethon during which stoic actors and reverent musicians seek monetary relief for victims of international catastrophes. Pop stars pose with world leaders; political hopefuls adopt rock classics as campaign themes; Lady Gaga and Madonna stand up for gay rights; Sonny Bono even ran for Congress and won.

In recent years, the politics of dancing—of music, in general—have been less about policy and more about moving and feeling good. That hasn’t stopped top stars from making political stands onstage and off. But if you’re going to try to save the world in five minutes of song—as U2 has been doing for the better part of three decades—or publicly put your faith in a specific candidate on the eve of a Presidential election year, you’d better do it well.

Which is exactly what Kelly Clarkson didn’t do on December 29. The woman best known for being the first American Idol winner and scoring frothy hits like “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “My Life Would Suck Without You,” publicly endorsed US Presidential candidate Ron Paul for the Republican Party nomination on Twitter—of all places—and, unfortunately, with all the insight and depth of a high school student discussing student-council elections.

I love Ron Paul,” she tweeted via her WhoSay page. “I liked him a lot during the last republican nomination and no one gave him a chance. If he wins the nomination for the Republican party in 2012 he’s got my vote. Too bad he probably won’t.”

Newspapers, fellow politicians and even Hollywood stars endorse and support candidates every election cycle, and pop stars show up every four years to perform at Presidential inaugurations, regardless of their political affiliation. But when they enter the political ring with their ringing endorsements in 140 characters or less on Twitter, it can be dangerous for both parties—and not just the political ones.

The stars risk not only alienating fans who support the opposite side but sounding uninformed as well. (It’s hard to get coherent points across in Twitter’s tiny comment box.) The candidates risk guilt (and plummeting poll numbers) by association with shallow pop stars.

It’s hard to tell whether Paul’s subsequent placings in the Republican primaries—No. 3 in Iowa on January 3, No. 2 in New Hampshire on January 10—had anything to do with Clarkson, and his effect on her album sales are equally unclear. Her fifth album, Stronger, has racked up ho-hum sales since its release October, and while the first single , “Mr. Know It All,” reached No. 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100, overall, response to it has been tepid. For Katy Perry, it might be considered a flop.

Depending on how you interpret the numbers, Clarkson either flourished or faltered in the week following her Twitter alliance with Paul. According to Billboard.com, “Mr. Know It All” sold 123,000 downloads (it’s highest weekly tally in seventeen weeks of chart action), and jumped from No. 32 to No. 20 on the Hot 100, but Billboard credits the normal holiday sales surge for active singles. Though its 55 percent digital sales increase was the second largest in the Top 50, all but three titles in the Top 75 enjoyed a boost in sales.

Meanwhile, overall sales of the album actually dropped 40 percent for the week ending January 1 (41,000 to 25,000), while digital sales increased 232 percent (to 14,000). As Billboard sees it, however, that boost probably has more to do with iTunes’ heavy promotion and $7.99 sales-pricing of Stronger (which also may have influenced digital sales of the single) rather than the artist’s political stance, which, in the end, might damage her reputation among her more liberal Democratic-leaning fans.

She’s a formerly apolitical singer with a substantial gay fan base backing a candidate from a party that doesn’t support gay marriage. Does that mean she feels the same way? In the hours after her tweet, Clarkson engaged in a war of words with some of her “followers,” many of whom dubbed Paul racist and homophobic. (Incidentally, Clarkson’s fellow pop singer Michelle Branch, sided with Team Kelly, tweeting “I wholeheartedly agree” to her Paul endorsement. Luckily for Branch—in this context, at least—she’s not exactly tops of the pops anymore, so few seemed to notice.) Eventually, Clarkson took to WhoSay in her own defense.

“I am really sorry if I have offended anyone. Obviously that was not my intent. I do not support racism. I support gay rights, straight rights, women’s rights, men’s rights, white/black/purple/orange rights. I like Ron Paul because he believes in less government and letting the people (all of us) make the decisions and mold our country. That is all. Out of all of the Republican nominees, he’s my favorite.”

Too bad she didn’t say that in the first place. Pop singers are entitled to their political opinions like everybody else, but when they begin publicly endorsing controversial candidates like Paul, who has been targeted for racist newsletters sent out under his name in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s (which he’s disavowed), they should proceed with great caution.

In the Twitter age, when stars can interact directly with fans, it’s more important to be mindful of what you say and how you say it, which makes entering the political fray an even more slippery slope, especially for stars like Clarkson, Katy Perry, Rihanna and Adele, who are among the most influential people on the planet. Young people want to dress like them, act like them, be them, even many who are over the voting age of eighteen.

When fans start wanting to vote like them, too… Well, if they don’t have something insightful and enlightening to add to the political discussion, it’s probably best to stay out of it and just shut up and sing.

Sound & Vision: Hard Times for TV-Launched Pop Stars — Can Adam Lambert Save Them All?

Susan Boyle is underperforming on the charts with her recently released third album, Someone to Watch Over Me. American Idol‘s Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery missed a cue and was caught lip-syncing his single “The Trouble with Girls” at the 85th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Speaking of trouble and girls, on the same day, 10th season runner-up Lauren Alaina flubbed the words to the National Anthem Christina Aguilera-style before an NLF game between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers.

November was cruel to the stars of TV’s talent searches. Frankly, though, they were already in danger of becoming an endangered chart phenomenon before the month kicked in. As of last season, Idol still brought in gargantuan ratings, but though McCreery is selling considerably better than his two Idol predecessors, the show hasn’t launched a runaway success since Adam Lambert three seasons ago. And despite decent ratings and a spin-off hit for two of its judges with Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera‘s “Moves Like Jagger,” The Voice failed to produce a single chart sensation in its first season.

The jury is still out on the US version of The X Factor, but with viewership well below half of Idol‘s 10th-season average (and an erosion of some 4 million viewers between its September debut and November), it’s hard to imagine that Simon Cowell and company will be able to create a star bigger than Idol has in recent years.

Continue reading ‘Sound & Vision: Hard Times for TV-Launched Pop Stars — Can Adam Lambert Save Them All?’

Sound And Vision: Why I’m Seriously Considering Boycotting Music Award Shows

On November 9, Nashville celebrated itself (again!) with the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards. For the fourth consecutive year, the event was hosted by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley, but the masters of ceremonies weren’t the only thing that gave me that old deja vu feeling. Hadn’t these accolades already been handed out just a few months ago?

Wait, those were the Country Music Television (CMT) Music Awards in June. And before that, there were the Academy of Country Music Awards. And, just in case that’s not enough Music City honors for you, there are the 2nd annual American Country Awards coming up on December 5.

Pop and R&B are just as self-congratulatory, offering the MTV Video Music Awards, the MTV Europe Music Awards, the Billboard Awards, the American Music Awards, the Teen Choice Awards, the BET Awards, the BET Hip Hop Awards, the NAACP Image Awards and the Soul Train Music Awards.

Then, of course, there are the GRAMMYs, which following so many other back-slapping fests, have been losing their lustre for years now—though that’s hardly the only reason. Winning one used to be the musical equivalent of snagging an Oscar, but now its just more clutter for the awards shelf.

In a few weeks (November 30, to be exact), the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences will announce the nominees for the 2012 GRAMMY Awards (to be held on February 12). Doesn’t it already feel like we’ve been there and done that over and over and over already this year? Am I the only one who doesn’t doubt that we’re in for another repeat of The Adele Show, with a very special appearance by Lady Gaga. Good as it is, like Christmas, I only need to sit through it once a year.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Why I’m Seriously Considering Boycotting Music Award Shows’

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Your Country’s Right Here: Lauren Alaina Blossoms with ‘Wildflower’

Lauren Alaina has turned her hometown of Rossville, GA., about 10 minutes south of Chattanooga, TN., into a tourist attraction.

Yes, the sixteen-year-old runner up on American Idol, who won praise from none other than judge Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, still lives in her hometown with her parents J.J. and Kristy Suddeth and attends high school there. Just don’t expect to see her working at CiCi, the pizza parlor where she held a part-time job before she became a professional recording artist. With her debut album Wildflower blasting up the charts to No. 2 so far, Alaina isn’t in need of the job.

“I just looked at a house with my parents,” said Alaina. “We are having to move because the house I live in now we moved into when I was like four years old. We didn’t have a lot of stuff and we’ve collected a lot of stuff. This house [we’re considering] is big. It’s got three stories and it has a pool. That would be fun!”

The smart money bets that Alaina is just beginning a life full of fun now that her singing talent has been discovered. Although she’s one of the youngest contestants ever toappear on American Idol, critics note Alaina sings with a maturity reminiscent of one-time Idol contestants Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson before her.

Although such success would turn some people’s heads, Alaina seemed very grounded, chatting about how nervous she was thinking of her upcoming road test for her driver’s license. But, she said, even if she passed she wouldn’t be driving the new Ford Mustang that she won for placing second on American Idol.

“I’ll be driving my mom’s 2011 Kia Sorrento,” said Alaina of her vehicle of choice, at least for now, because she doesn’t want to damage the powerful Mustang. “We’re actually going to switch cars for a while.”

Continue reading ‘Your Country’s Right Here: Lauren Alaina Blossoms with ‘Wildflower’’

Vocal Points: America’s Got Talented Singers

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know about the show American Idol. Since the show’s start in 2002, it’s unbelievable success has created a series of stars—Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Kris Allen and most recently Scotty McCreery. But Idol‘s popularity is now on a whole new level, as evidenced by a crop of similar shows. The X-Factor, The Voice and The Sing-Off are just a few shows which focus on vocalists and their journey to become stars. But which of these programs, if any, actually completely focus on the singer and the importance of a voice above all else?

American Idol, despite its longevity and success, has never been focused on just the voice. While these artists obviously are judged on their singing, the competition is more of a popularity contest, rather than an in-depth examination in vocal technique. And while ex Idol judge Simon Cowell‘s The X-Factor has a different approach, the show is really about contestants with the whole package deal. Premiering earlier this fall, this show boasts a $5 million prize to the one person who can wow the judges with their X factor—the ”thing” that  makes someone a star.

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Live Wired [Review]: iHeartRadio Festival

iHeartRadio is all about well…radio, and taking it to the next level. Not only does the site allow you to live stream talk and music radio stations locally and nationally, it also enables you to create your own custom stations based on your musical tastes. This past weekend, iHeartRadio went all out to promote their new and improved Web site, along with the launch of the iHeartRadio mobile app that grants users listening access from their phones. For the launch, they put on a giant, star-studded festival in Las Vegas, which sold out about ten minutes after tickets were made available. The theme of the night was very much focused on the diversity and popularity of the festival’s artists.

For the majority of fans who weren’t able to get a ticket or make their way to Vegas, iHeartRadio streamed the entire two-night event on their Web site. Here at Live Wired, we were part of that majority, and since we’ve been talking so much about streaming festivals online, we’re here to tell you what it was like. The evening kicked off with a half-hour “pre-show” hosted by two personalities from NYC’s popular radio station z100, followed by the first performance of the night. The Black Eyed Peas, who apparently are not on their hiatus yet, took the stage first and were pretty underwhelming. Not that they’re exactly known for their live shows (See: this year’s Super Bowl performance), but the audience didn’t seem too entertained either.

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Soundcheck: Hip Hop Hits iheartradio Music Festival

The “biggest live music event in radio history” hit Las Vegas this weekend when Clear Channel’s iheartradio Music Festival kicked off Friday night at the MGM Grand. Thousands of fans came from across the country to see the impressive line-up, which included the best of the best in every music genre.  The festival marked the launch of Clear Channel’s new iheartradio app, which is designed to make users the program directors for their own fantasy radio station. Abandoning the traditional set-up of genre-specific set-lists, iheartradio allows fans to hear the latest and greatest music from their favorite artists, whether its Jay-Z or Rascal Flats. For a true music aficionado, the resulting playlist would probably sound a lot like the incredible mash-up of music offered at the two-night event.

Black Eyed Peas kicked off the show with “Boom Boom Pow” to an ecstatic crowd comprised of die-hard pop, country, hip hop and rock fans.  The night went smoothly with stellar sets from Jane’s Addiction, Carrie Underwood, Bruno Mars and Kelly Clarkson, all of whom were there to celebrate radio and prove why they rule the charts.  Coldplay delivered an amazing set including “Clocks” and Chris Martin came off as the ultimate front man.  The set was enough to convert me into an instant Chris Martin fan.

Alicia Keys was a beaming beauty when she hit the stage to perform a medley of hits including “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart”, “Unthinkable” and “Empire State of Mind.”Shealso debuted a new song, teasing fans, “Is it OK for me to play something brand new?” The inspirational number, “A Place Of My Own” was classic Keys, who delivered airy vocals over her perfect piano playing.

Next up was Hova himself, who seemed to be in a particularly good mood when he hit the stage for his forty-minute set.  With Memphis Bleek by his side, he delivered hit after hit from his sixteen-year career.  He repped The Black Album pretty hard and touched on his most successful singles, including “Jigga What”,  “99 Problems”, “Give It To Me” “Run This Town”, “Big Pimpin’” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder”.  He closed the show with “Empire State of Mind” after Alicia Keys returned to the stage to belt out the huge hook.

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The EditoriaList: Best And Worst #1 Singles 2000-2010

This was a brutal exercise, listening to at least large chunks of every Number 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 for the years between 2000 and 2010 (I should have stopped at 2009, but I’m a glutton for punishment). Anyway, in order to avoid repetition, if a song was a Number 1 in more than one year (carried over from a previous year), I only considered it for the first year in which it hit the top spot. I thought I might see some kind of trend in quality of pop music, but no such luck—highs and lows abound throughout.

2000

Best: “Smooth” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas. Rob Thomas tries really hard to wreck this song with his awful singing, but it’s still really catchy. Sorry Rob, but I’ve come from the future to tell you that you’ll have more success offending listeners with your solo record.

Worst: The epic and universal terribleness of “Arms Wide Open” by Creed beats out such dreck as “Everything You Want” by Vertical Horizon and a song called “I Knew I Loved You” by a band that wrote the name “Savage Garden” on a piece of paper, looked at it and said, “Yes. Let’s name our band that. That’s not totally stupid at all.”

Dishonorable mention: “Independent Women Part 1” by Destiny’s Child, for opening the song with a shout out to Charlie’s Angels, the movie in which it is featured, and for kicking off the verse with the lyric, “Question: Tell me what you think about me.” Yeah, that’s not a question, that’s a command. What do I think about you? I think that you’re too pushy and have a tenuous grasp on parts of speech.

Continue reading ‘The EditoriaList: Best And Worst #1 Singles 2000-2010′

 


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