Art in the Age of the Non-Artist

The Entertainment Toilet

The Entertainment Toilet

Let’s face it, Music, Television, Cinema, and all forms of mainstream entertainment are in the crapper.

Why? Because they are marketable. And if something is marketable, the ones who pay for the marketing will do everything in their power to find the laziest, least expensive way to market it. Sadly, this practice translates into recycled, watered down versions of something that was once great.

We went from James Brown to Chris Brown. At least when brother James beat his woman I actually gave a shit whether or not he would pull himself back together and make things A-OKAY. Why? So he could get back to being the badass performer he was. The guy lived a long, amazing life, changed music and made it okay to say “I’m Black and I’m Proud”… and made it okay to say it loud!

That said, How has Chris Brown’s “art” helped our society? It’s pretty clear that he is nowhere near being a badass at anything except for being a tremendous disappointment. When the music you create sounds like everything else that’s currently popular, you’re not contributing, you’re just adding water to the gumbo. You are just another generic, replicable artist who clearly didn’t realize how lucky you were to be in your position. A position that will most likely enable you to star on HasBeen of Love or some other lame attempt at retaining some form of spotlight. And now Chris Brown is trying to salvage his post punch-the-woman-you-claim-to-be-in-love-with-in-the-face career by launching a new tour with ALL FEMALE MUSICIANS in his band. Is this some transparent, pathetic ploy to win over some semblance of a fanbase? I lean towards a YES. The utterly tragic thing is, with good marketing, it might actually work for him.

Parties and Expense Accounts FTW!

Parties and Expense Accounts FTW!

There was a time when record labels had real A&R people. Artists and Repertoire… These were the cats that went out and found new artists and signed them to their hot, happening record label. Talent scouts. The whole goal was to find some singer or band out there that was so good you just had to share them with the whole world. And, undoubtedly, this undeniable talent would rake in the cash when their audience found them. Now the goal is to hit SXSW for all the parties and max out the expense account like a mofo. Why bother going to a show when all the “artists” on your label have never played a live gig?

What happened to top radio? What happened to music?

I am going to play snitch here and pick on two main offenders who unknowingly destroyed the need for a performing artist to have actual “talent” while they were most likely just trying to have a good time. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Poison and New Kids On the Block.

The Guilty Pleasures That Never Realized The Damage They Would Do

- The Guilty Pleasures That Never Realized The Damage They Could Do -

I admit, am not without sin. I sang along to tracks like Talk Dirty To Me and Every Rose Has Its Thorn. However, I never liked NKOTB. My sister did. She had every poster of every size, including an 8″x6″, life-size-New-Kids-and-their-New-Kid-crotches wall tapestry.

So what is it that’s so terrible about these bleepin’ bands that would make me so easily send them before the firing squad? Marketing.

NKOTB was an act put together for the simple act of making money. Producer Maurice Starr was not trying to create a band that would make songs that could change the world, he wanted to put together an act that would make the PHAT money. The recipe was simple in the ’80s:

  • Assemble a group of semi-talented teen boys
  • Teach them to dance (naughtiest moves you can get away with)
  • Dress them in whatever fashion is currently popular
  • Pay song writers and producers to create an easy to chew (hard to swallow) album
  • Watch the cash roll in.

That is, until the audience gets sick of them or they get too old to attract the teens. Then roll out your NSYNCS, Backstreet Boys, and so on. That’s how we ended up with the current atrocities we are plagued with like the Jonas Brothers and any other of the dozen whiny-white-boy bands that are in heavy rotation on top 40 radio. I will admit the NKOTB could dance and a couple of the guys seemed to be able to carry a tune, but the ones bands that have been created in their image don’t even have those basic skills.

And what was Poison’s main offense? They helped prove that you didn’t need real talent to sell records as long as the package was really pretty. All you need is a couple of catchy tunes, cute band members, specifically a lead singer and lead guitarist, and voila! Multi-Platinum success. Ricky Rocket, god bless him, was one of the worst “drummers” to ever attempt to beat the skins. Listen to Poison’s rendition of the Kiss classic I Wanna Rock And Roll All Night and you’ll hear the horror of his no-tempo chops. And CC Deville… I’ll just say god bless him too and leave it at that.

The record labels found a much lazier way to sell records than searching for new talent to market. In the 80’s world of Rock & Hair metal, these marketing wizards quickly realized that cute lead singers and virtuoso guitarists do not equal a great band. This formula could not magically produce hit songs, so the labels started assigning song writers to these bands to assure hit magic. Desmond Child is a nice example of the hired-gun songwriter. I will admit this cat has definitely written some good songs. However, it is pretty clear that you don’t write songs with Kiss and Aerosmith and then turn around to write songs for Cher and muthafuckin’ Michael Bolton without bullshitting one end of the spectrum. One of those two extremes is getting a real song-writer/artist in his element pouring his heart and soul into his work, and the other one is getting a dude who’s just picking up a paycheck. This kind of hired gun behavior tends to lead the hired-gun into forgetting about the whole artistry side of things all together and to simply focus on the collecting a paycheck side of things.

Oh My, The Irony of this Album's Title...

Oh My, The Irony of This Album's Title...

Speaking of Aerosmith, I’d like to point out that the hit single Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing from the hit box office movie/turd Armageddon still causes a sandwich I ate back in 1993 to come up and gurgle around in the back of my throat.

So how do you fix a bad band with cute members that can’t play worth a shit? You let real musicians play on the record. Ever see the band Jet live? Listen to the record, then listen to them live. Something does not add up.

Fortunately, Jet brings us to the issue of SHELF LIFE. The longer you keep a hit artist or band around the more money you will eventually have to pay them. So you just replace them with an equally marketable clone. Does anyone reading this blog actually even remember Jet? They were HUGE… for about 2 years. Most of the top 40 artists on the airwaves last about that long. My guess is these artists will all eventually segue into reality TV. Can’t wait for Lady GaGa of Love.

Brittany Spears, Jonas Brothers, and Hillary Duff are all little kids who were dressed up as whores to sell sex to other kids AND adults under the guise of artistry. They don’t write their own songs, they can’t sing worth a shit, and the “CDs” they have recorded will ultimately be forgotten. Want to create your own artist of this caliber in today’s market?

  • Find a cute kid, ATTEMPT to train them to dance
  • Teach them to lip sync.
  • Record their CD with studio musicians playing songs written by hired-guns.
  • (A) Auto-tune the living piss out of their voices or (B) Use real singers on the tracks so you have a polished product to sell
  • Parade your manufactured sex child around as the megastar brainchild behind the sub-turd CD that has their name on it
  • Watch the cash roll in.

The only thing you need is the money for the marketing and people will go for your product. Even if they know it sucks ass.

This is my jumping off point to the current state of CINEMA. How do you make people pay to see a movie they already know is gonna suck? Don’t give them any other options.

The only thing coming out of Hollywood today is movies based on TV shows, remakes, sequels, prequels, and the latest FULL OF SHIT LABELING HOLLYWOOD HAS BRAINWASHED AMERICA WITH… THE RE-IMAGINING. Right, the Re-Imagining of a title they already own the rights to so they don’t have to pay for an original idea that they might lose money on. Why spend the dough coming up with a smart marketing campaign for an original movie when you can just let a previous incarnation (eg. 1970’s Starskey and Hutch TV Series turned unwatchable piece of crap movie) be it’s own marketing. You don’t have to market something that’s already familiar to ticket buyers. They count on you to jump into the chipper with everyone else and swallow these filmed turds as quality entertainment. Seriously people! Transformers 2??? You paid to see that shit?

Our society is being dumbed down and trained to accept lazy, half-assed crap as viable entertainment. I’ve heard many people say things like “It was better than most of the other crap that’s out there, so by comparison it was good.” If your choice is between a cancerous tumor the size of a golf ball or one the size of a grapefruit, it doesn’t matter which one you choose. You still end up with a cancerous tumor! Here’s a little fact… if you don’t pay to see the new G.I. Joe Movie they won’t make another one. But you have to commit to NOT PAYING TO SEE IT. And when indie films are mostly limited to Los Angeles, New York and a handful of other markets, it’s hard for most of moviegoing America to NOT pay to see a bad movie.

Case and point, the 2003 Hulk movie directed by Ang Lee is one of the worst cinematic puke fests I’ve ever scene. It is dumbfoundingly terrible. But people still paid to see it. EVEN AFTER THEIR FRIENDS TOLD THEM IT WAS TERRIBLE. So, what happened? Everybody knew the film was a big piece of flaming tick-shit, but it still made over 137 million dollars in theatres. And you can double that figure for DVD sales. That’s real money that was made on a giant green turd. But people paid to see it because it was marketed to death.

Both of these films made over 130 million dollars

Both of these films made over 130 million dollars

Which brings us to 2008 and a new Incredible Hulk movie that story-wise completely ignores the fact that only 5 years prior the Ang Lee Hulk was made. And this new Incredible Hulk, Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, Liv Tyler as hottie/hero love interest still sucked. Sure, I will easily admit that it wasn’t as bad as the other Hulk movie… but it was still fucking BAD. Cancerous golf balls can kill you!

And what has been killed? Quality. Talent. Artistry. All victims of our cultural demise. When you go to the Sundance film festival and the biggest, most newsworthy celebrity siting is Paris Hilton you know that culturally we’ve gone terribly wrong. Celebrities used to have to earn their fame and respect by being talented. All the flash in the pan, one-hit-wonders that have always been a part of this world used to just fade away. The truly talented always endured. The Bay City Rollers are now a trivia question, or at most, a guilty pleasure. But Paris Hilton? We will be plagued with her existence forever. Why? Because we fucking pay attention to her. The talentless celebrity trainwreck is fun to watch. And between the internet, the media, and reality TV we can watch these trainwrecks 24/7.

If I’m lucky enough to see a live band today who actually plays their own instruments with the talent and conviction a true musician should, I am left shellshocked. Why has seeing real music played by real artists become such a rarity? When you pay to see a comedy why are you blown away when it’s actually funny? Because the bar is so fucking low now anything that registers slightly above mediocre is now considered amazing. How pathetic is it that Hannah Montana is a measure of what passes for good writing/good music/good entertainment today? It makes me miss The Monkees. At least the Monkees could really sing and dance and knew how to make with the funny.

The New Monkees 1987

The New Monkees 1987

I fear that when the powers that be make the New-New Monkees (that’s right, they already made The New Monkees in ’87) the show stopping talent of its members will be the ability to lip sync really awesome to pre-recorded computer made music and to each do one (and only one) hella-cool dance move. The tragedy is, if they market it, people will watch. Just gotta keep lowering the bar until people don’t know what entertainment is anymore.

So why the concern on my part? Because entertainment… Music, Movies, Television… is what I live for.  Aside from my family and friends they are the main things I enjoy in life. And I have found myself trying to break through to the mainstream, where the real money is, for my entire adult life.  so what do you do when you realize that you are smack dab in the middle of a business you detest? When all you want to do is make movies, music, and TV shows that don’t suck but the only opportunities out there require you to sell out and make something you know will be CRAP, what the hell do you do?

whitewall2We, the Perry Brothers, SAP and the mighty Ponceman, will not dumb things down. If we make a fart joke, rest assured that it will be a fart joke of the highest quality. If we make a feature it will be one that we WANT to make and not one producers sell us on based on its “marketability”. Creating “art” is the only thing that keeps us going. If the only option for success in the entertainment world is to create crap we’ll leave the entertainment world and create a world of our own where we can create our “art” without sucking the quality and soul out it for “marketability”. We’d rather raise the standards of what passes as entertainment and, hopefully, let the talentless celbrities, musicless bands, and recycled Hollywood dogshit do what it used to do… just fade away.

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Milli Vanilli: Visionaries

Milli Vanilli: Ahead of their time

Milli Vanilli: Ahead of their time

Every now and again, throughout history, a new artist rises from the ashes of creative genius and burns brightly across our entertainment skies.  Often, these new artists are misunderstood and rejected by the masses.  Misunderstood and rejected until the rest of the world finally catches up with their groundbreaking work that our society, sadly,  just wasn’t prepared to accept when they first broke onto the scene.  These artists and their under-appreciated (at the time) works are later touted as “visionaries” who were “ahead of their time”.  In many cases, this praise is bestowed long after the artist has left the building.  From Van Gogh to Mozart, the list goes on.

And now, dear reader, I humbly submit yet another artist that has fallen through the cracks.  The passing of time has finally given us the proper perspective to view and appreciate their work… their art.  I speak of the misunderstood genius that is Milli Vanilli.

It is only now, 20 years after their 1989 debut album Girl You Know It’s True and it’s 6x Platinum selling same-year-release All or Nothing: The U.S. Remix Album, that we can look back to where Milli Vanilli was then and, finally, to where we as a cultured society have arrived today.

It took an incredible amount of courage for Milli Vanilli to NOT sing any of the songs on these albums… albums that shot them to the top of the charts and garnered them a Grammy for Best New Artist 1990 (which they had to return) and three American Music Awards (they are actually from Germany).  This simple, selfless act of NOT performing even a single task on these albums is one of the reasons that the petty, pre-requisite, walls of actually having talent and skill at what you do to help propel yourself into the realm of mega-stardom and celebrity in this world o’ ours have ultimately been smashed down.

That’s right.  Artists like Hillary Duff, Brittany Spears, and the Queen of Zero-Fucking-Talent: Ashlee Simpson, can now basque in the glory of success, fame, and fortune with no fear of repercussions like public shame, artistic exile, or allegedly committing suicide as Rob Pilatus did on April 2, 1998.  I say “allegedly” committing suicide because Rob Pilatus’ death was ultimately ruled “accidental” as a result of mixing a ridiculous amount of prescription drugs and alcohol.  For the record, he did attempt suicide on more than one occasion between Milli Vanilli’s 1990 speed-of-light spiral of shame that completely destroyed their careers and his death in 1998.  I personally prefer to think his death was the result of him finally, successfully, committing suicide… something he alone can take full credit for without having the honor stripped from him as the doctors who labeled his death “accidental” have done.

Yes, thanks to Milli Vanilli, the doors are now wide open for anyone without talent to soar into the ether of celebrity.  I know, you can argue that Milli Vanilli did have some talent.  After all, they did actually know how to dance and they gave a hell of a “live” show.  But having actual talent is just a hurdle that the true non-performer need not hurdle in today’s world of entertainment.

Brittany is probably the closest offshoot to Milli Vanilli.  She could really dance, at least, before she went bat-shit crazy.  And the lovely Hillary Duff has superbly capitalized on her NO-TALENT voice, making a huge career, an actual empire, out of being paid to do something she can’t do.  To be fair, she can physically perform the act of “singing”, but her real voice sounds like a turd in a vacuum compared to the tracks she lip-syncs to and the ones you hear on her CDs.  And like Milli Vanilli, Hillary was also busted for lip-syncing.  Where?  At the 2004 MTV New Years show.  But did she let that stop her?  Nope.  Her camp blamed the “technical difficulties” on Hillary’s background singers (the only ones onstage who COULD REALLY SING) and had them fired.  STELLAR MOVE!  Who needs real singers around when you’re making money as a singer who doesn’t really sing?

There’s also a special place in my heart for the one I referred to earlier as the Queen of Zero-Fucking-Talent: Ashlee Simpson.  Why?  Because, not only can she NOT-sing and NOT-dance, she has allowed herself to be completely stripped of anything resembling, well, herself, in the quest of becoming one of America’s most beloved and successful NOT-SNGERS MAKING A LIVING PRETENDING TO SING ever.  I don’t even know if the Ashlee Simpson that shows up to not sing at events and TV shows today is even a real human being.  She could be a cyborg.  A cyborg who can’t sing, like the original not-singer she was based upon, but a cyborg nonetheless.  Just look at these pics of the OG Ashlee Simpson and the new My sister had a huge career with her blond hair and smaller nose than me version.  Where did that cute girl who didn’t look like a carbon copy of every other manufactured NOT-SINGER out there go?  There was a human behind those eyes once… I’m sure of it… but, alas, she is no more.

Just change your face to the more popular model and super stardom can be all yours too!

Just change your face to the more popular model and super stardom can be all yours too!

Of course, all credit can’t be given solely to these NO-TALENT superstars.  They do have managers, agents, and in many cases, fathers who act as all aforementioned.  Without these guiding forces, they might have never realized the full potential hidden beneath their non-potential.  So a shout out goes to all the guiding hands that help these wonder-duds along on the road to multi-million dollar careers.  Yes, I’m talking to you, Frank Farian, the puppet master that created Milli Vanilli and helped water down the artistic standards of the paying public.

My, how the game has changed.  The public has become much more sophisticated than they were back in the days of Milli Vanilli.  And just look at how much better our world is today.  J-lo, Paris Hilton, all those Disney Kids… we now have music and artists whose work will surely last an eternity.  And why stop at singing?  Please, invade our televisions and movie screens too.  You earned it… by not being able to actually do anything you are paid the big bucks to do.  Who wants to listen to music played by people who actually wrote the songs, or can sing the songs, or has even one single thing to do with the songs other than putting their names on them, when we have people who are this weak in spirit and devoid of any self-worth to listen to instead?  I find it hard to respect any “artist” who is not willing to claim the efforts and talents of others as their own for personal gain and, ultimately, to aid in the demise of our culture.

To all the true artists out there who can really sing, dance, act, paint, or whatever… Try to suck a little more and get that nose job you’ve been waffling over for so long, and you might just be the next giant fucking pathetic shell of shit that’s draining the souls of people like you… and you’ll even get paid to pretend to do whatever it is you’re supposed to be able to do.  The world is yours if you just market yourelf right.