Modern Stardom


This is what the internet has wrought. It hasn’t made everybody a star, hasn’t lifted the obscure to ubiquity, but it has muddied the water with so much information that it’s nearly impossible to break through. You may be on television, you may be on the cover of a magazine, and still most people are clueless as to your identity.


It takes too long to check things out. We learn about you from seeing your name everywhere. To investigate, to dig deeper, that’s a spontaneous reaction caused by a confluence of factors that cannot be codified. It’s the sheer number of name encounters, it’s the field you work in, it’s the trusted filters saying you’re worth it. That’s another change in the last three years, we don’t even have time to check out what our trusted filters recommend, at most we click through our Spotify Discover Weekly playlist, because we know it was made just for us. We’re looking for more that is made just for us.


Lin-Manuel Miranda won Tonys in 2008 for “In The Heights.” “Hamilton” got raves at the Public Theater. “Hamilton” opened on Broadway and got the best reviews of any musical in years. The soundtrack album was released…crickets. Then the cast appeared on the Grammys, finally there was some awareness outside the bubble, and that’s what NYC is, a place for the wealthy and hip. D.C. is for the government. SF is for the techies. And L.A. is where those without a CV go to become famous, a land of wispy trends that rarely gain traction. So, you live in one of these enclaves and you think what you’re involved in is happening, but that’s rarely the case. “Hamilton” was the talk of the town but it wasn’t until Lin-Manuel Miranda stepped up as its star, in the very recent past, that the show started to move across this great country of ours. We need a focus, now more than ever, we can believe in individuals more than projects, because we are individuals. The fact that someone who is flesh and blood created such greatness…we’re wowed. And when he makes up a ditty for a podcast, raps on “Last Week Tonight”…he starts to become part of the public discussion. Modern stardom is about becoming part of the public discussion, for what you’ve done in the past and what you are doing now. Miranda is on his way to becoming not only the biggest star in America, but the most anointed, someone who truly everybody will know and adore. And he’s 36. So, if you think flash in the pan is everything, if you think you’re too old to make it, if you think sans charisma you’re toast, you’re wrong. Now, more than ever, we’re looking for substance. And when we find it the drums start to pound, people start to talk, that’s when you’re truly on the stardom gravy train. And the funny thing is youngsters hit a wall, oldsters and press with gravitas doesn’t care. But the three-dimensional…this is their time, if they’re willing to hang in there, wait and create.


You’ve got to create constantly. Making an album and milking it only works for the biggest of superstars, like Taylor Swift and Adele. And Swiftie understands the new paradigm, it’s only recently she stopped promoting, stopped creating circumstances that got news. She invited the hoi polloi to hear her record in her house, she delivered Christmas gifts, she had guests at her show… Give Swift credit, she’s young and understands the game. Meanwhile, oldsters keep wishing it would return to what once was. As for Adele… She’s neither here nor there, she had thunderous publicity around her album release and now there’s silence while she plays her dates, getting local publicity at best. Might work for Adele, she’s the biggest of the big, but not for everybody else. You don’t want to be out of the public eye. And the best way to stay in it is to create something new. And it’s not about flogging it as much as making sure it exists. An artist today is…an artist today. Not a pretty face, not a public figure, but someone who is known for what he or she does. Kanye gets it too. Sure, he’s boasting and bloviating, but he’s also making videos, creating clothing, giving us something to react to and talk about. As for Beyonce… She knows that advance work is worthless, especially because it’s not monetized. You sell as soon as you are ready. But beware of blowing your complete load at once, it’s very easy for the public to move on, what’s big news in the morning can be forgotten in the afternoon, which is why you must keep creating.


The blander you are, the less chance you’ll stick. What rises to the top is what’s different, what makes us question our preconceptions and ourselves. Trainwreck can get looky-loos, but if there’s a backstory there’s a greater chance of longevity.


That’s right, stars today leverage their stardom, to make political statements, to move the ball. I’m not sure whether the Boss’s boycott of North Carolina will change conditions in the state, but it certainly boosted his image and his career. As for those who don’t care…there are always those who don’t care, you’re doing a disservice to your career by playing to them. And the funny thing is, so many detractors ultimately come on board, they’re sick of being left out, they sample your wares and get addicted to your talent, this is the story of Howard Stern. Stern also focuses on truth. In the social media world, where everything is exposed, cultivating image is a mistake. You reveal your true identity and dig deep, knowing everybody makes mistakes and you will too. Mistakes are plowed under by the endless news cycle, don’t worry about getting it perfect.


The newspaper is not where you build your career, publicity there is nearly worthless, unless you’re a niche artist building your career on cred. And late night TV just gives these same wankers something to talk about, active buyers, certainly millennials, believe television is something you watch on demand, they might view comedy clips culled from late night shows online, but to sit there and watch an entire program…that would be torture. Kind of like 24 hour cable news, which gets anemic ratings and is mostly just people shouting at each other, or purveying biased opinions. News is an on demand item online. And people are going to Facebook to get it, not the homepage of the vaunted periodical. Carefully plotted media campaigns can be executed, but they rarely achieve their goals. Today you walk into the morass and just start spewing. If you do something newsworthy it will spread online, amongst users first and the news media last. Look inward, not outward. If it feels good to you, do it. If it seems phony or just done for eyeballs, don’t.


One Direction’s music was unknown by so many, but the act sold out stadiums. World domination is a thing of the past. We lived in a monoculture where MTV minted stars overnight, today we live in a Balkanized world where nobody knows the truth and despite all our online connections we feel socially isolated, that’s why everybody’s posting their activities online, they want to be known, accepted, move up the food chain. We look to art to explain all this, the human condition. We bond with art. TV is in its heyday. Movies have gone off the deep end, in pursuit of worldwide profits to the point where the title of the movie about comic book characters is the entire plot. Music is the x-factor. Music is personal. It evidences the thoughts, feelings and identity of the creator. People look to music to not only soothe and inspire them, but to educate them. Technology is the story of the last fifteen years, the story of the next fifteen is the art. We’ve got all the tools. Have you got something to say?


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