Fireworks and Teenage Dreams: The Music of Katy Perry, Pop Music History, and Our Geek Generation (Part 2): The Icon of Cool, T
In her May 7 video, Blonde Girls Then and Now, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Ke$ha, the Nostalgia Chick (hereafter will be refer as NC), gave a commentary, about the reemergence of Blond Female Bubble-Gum Pop-Stars, such as, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, etc, and comparing them, to the Blond Female Bubble Gum Pop-Stars of late 1990s, which were Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Mandy Moore, Jessica Simpson.
She argues that the both eras of Blond Female Bubble-Gum Pop-Stars, from Britney to Lady Gaga, represents the triumph of image (For example, better PR Marketing and Wacky Outfits) over content (For example, actual music talent and signing ability). Additionally, she argues that this overbalance of image over content is a deciding factor, on why, a majority of music listeners, in general, tends, to dismiss and disregard pop music because it represents a cultural mind-set that they find objectionable because, in her view, the music of Blond Female Bubble-Gum Pop-Stars past and present, conveys a highly simplistic viewpoint, “on the priorities, of a teenage girl.”
Therefore, the NC argument inspired me, to research, to determine, if her claim is true or not because I grew up listening, to the Motown Sound, R & B and Soul, which are, now, known, now, as, “Old School Music.” Old School Music was a vital part of the pop-music era, from the mid-sixties, to the mid-eighties. However, a paradigm shift happened, in pop-music, during the mid-eighties that would be the real baseline or starting point, of the rise Blond Female Bubble-Gum Pop-Stars.
The shift began, with the launched of MTV, in 1981, then, reached the point of no return when Madonna gained pop-music/culture prominence, with the release, of her second album, Like a Virgin, in 1984.
MTV and Madonna changed not only Pop-Music forever, but they also changed how female Pop-Music singers were promoted and marketed, to the now, MTV Generation. The MTV Generation era of Pop Music altered the model of promoting and marketing Female Pop-Music Singers, from no longer prioritizing content, which was the model, from the 1966 until 1984, which was the Baby Boomer Generation era of Pop-Music.
The Baby Boomer Generation era of Pop-Music showed, more content than image, of Female Blond Pop-Music Stars (and Non-Blond Female Pop-Music Stars) because there was no 24-hour network dedicated, to playing, live or recorded music performances, on television.
However, this generation produced the first Blond Female Pop-Music Star, who became known, as the Icon of Cool, Nancy Sinatra, who sang the classic hit, These Boots Are Made for Walkin,” which was released, in 1966.
In fact, Madonna has stated that Sinatra, as a singer, and her signature song made such a strong impression, on her, that she said ‘”it (the song) summed up her own ‘take-charge attitude,’ [of her Pop-Music career].”
However, Nancy Sinatra was not a skill dancer, nor were the other Blond and Non-Blond Female Pop-Music Singers, of that generation, such as, Cher, Michelle Phillips, Cass Elliot, Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, Debbie Harry (Blondie), were not skill dancers because, in that era, in which, most music performances, were performed, on variety or recorded live music shows, for example, American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show, meant that the priorities were, on pure singing ability, or talent, than, image.
However, this model of promotion and marketing changed because pure singing talent was not enough anymore, with the arrival and later the dominance of MTV, as the primary source of distributing music, to teenagers, who saw a Pop-Music video first, more often, than, listening, to the Pop-Music, on the radio.
Now, of course, the MTV dominance did not necessary mean the complete abandonment, of the Baby Boomer Generation era model of Pop-Music, until the release of Madonna’s Like a Virgin album.
In the words, of author J. Randy Taraborrelli, who wrote a biography, about Madonna, wrote that “Every important artist has at least one album in his or her career whose critical and commercial success becomes the artist’s magic moment; for Madonna, Like a Virgin was just such a defining moment.”
However, Like a Virgin had many defining moments when it was release, in 1984, and the most defining moment of all is when Madonna performed the song, at the first MTV Music Awards (VMAs), at Radio Music City Hall, in New York City, during that same year. Madonna gave what is her career defining performance that transformed her, from mere Pop-Star to Pop Icon, literally, in a sense, over night. she wore a combination of a bustier/wedding gown; including, wearing, her trademark “Boy Toy” belt, and she danced very provocatively, on the stage, showing her lacy stockings and garter.
From, my perspective, her performance marked the true end, of the Baby Boomer Generation era of Pop-Music, and the true beginning of the MTV Generation era of Pop-Music, which, in some way still continues, to this present day even though MTV is no longer a music video cable channel anymore, yet the network still set the tone, of Pop-Music, but it no longer has the dominance that it had, in the eighties and the nineties.*
Nevertheless, September 14, 1984, the day after, Madonna’s performance the entire Pop-Music and Pop-Culture World would never be the same again.
Madonna ushered in a new era of Pop Music, with Blond Female Pop-Stars taking prominence, over the this era, and many of them, during the next quarter century would try through various degrees of success , to match Madonna transformation, with only one who did manage, to achieve it not only once but twice, at the VMA s, but a few days, after that second performance both the Pop-Culture World and the Real World would never be the same again.
Five years later, Madonna managed to strike lighting twice, with the release, of her fourth album, Like a Prayer. In many ways, the album completely outdid, Like a Virgin, in terms of its success and its backlash, from conservative critics and the Pepsi-Cola Corporation.
Time Magazine declared that the album was one of 100 greatest albums, of all time. However, the most defining moment, of the album, upon its initial release was the backlash, from conservative critics, towards Madodona’s Like a Prayer music video that made Pepsi-Cola, one of the world’s two major soda corporations, to drop a Pepsi commercial that featured both Madonna and the song because of the video’s religious imagery.
For me, the only true criticism that I have, about the video is the cross burning sequence because I will always equate that image, with the Ku Klux Klan, but the rest of the video religious imagery is an expression of free speech, which is protected, by the First Amendment of Constitution of the United States.
When Madonna accepted the Viewer’s Choice Video, for Like a Prayer, at the 1989 VMAs, in Los Angeles, she, in her acceptance speech, summed up her view, about the entire controversy, by thanking the Pepsi-Cola corporation for “causing so much controversy,” in the first place.
With that statement, Madonna demonstrated the dominating influence, of both herself and MTV that would reach their zenith, in coming decade, of the 1990s.
Yet, two months later, an event happened, to me, which, in-retrospect, had a profound impact, on me, becoming a geek.
On November 22, 1989, Back to the Future: Part II, was release, in theaters, and became third high-gross movie of the year behind only Indiana Jones and The Last Crusadeand Batman.
Two or three days later, I saw the movie, along with my brothers, at our local theater.
Even at that young age, the movie captured my imagination, and Christopher Lloyd’s performance, as Doc Emmett Brown, just absolutely amazed me and sowed the seeds of my geekness.
The film has some of the best geek lines, from my point of view, of all time. I will only quote two passages, in this Blog post.
First one is when Doc Brown explains, to Marty, about why he invented the time machine.
He said, “Marty! I didn’t invent the time machine for financial gain. The intent here is to gain a clear perception of humanity. Where we’ve been, where we’re going. The pitfalls and the possibilities. The perils and the promise. Perhaps even an answer to that universal question, why?”
For me, this passage means the drive, to ask questions, about anything, within the human experience and, within human history and, to attempt, to answer those types of questions, to gain knowledge, about us, as human beings, and how we live, our lives, in the world.
Second passage is from, after, Doc and Marty rescued Jennifer, from Future Marty’s house, and they prepared, to go back, from the future.
Doc said, “time-traveling is just too dangerous. Better that I devote myself to study the other great mystery of the universe: women!”
I assert that the majority of us, as geeks, or at least, geek guys, do our best, to study this great mystery of the universe, with passionate intensity, and, with deep thought, in our lives.
Therefore, I ask a question, to all geek guys and all geek girls, everywhere and anywhere, this question.
What event, whatever it may be, a movie, a TV show, a book, a comic book, or video game that either sows the seeds of your geekness or made you realize that you are a geek?
*I will write, about the decline of MTV dominance, in later, Blog posts, of this series.
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