The passing of Prince at his recording studio officially makes what looked like a bad year for music even worse. The death of David Bowie was bad enough for a lot of people. Now, well, it’s basically the rockapocalypse. Jokes and made up words aside, it fucking sucks.
Interestingly, I’ve noticed a common lament on social media since news of the Purple One’s passing:
All the people who taught me it’s ok to be different are gone.
I apologize to anyone from whom I may have lifted that verbatim. I saw some version of that expression repeated over and over again on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and the bathroom wall in Sligo Pub. It’s poignant, and it’s a great way of quickly explaining why so may people were so effected by the deaths of these musicians. I get it, and I can sympathize even though I generally get my creative reinforcement from whack job authors and eccentric professional wrestlers rather than musicians.
(I mean, just look at this guy. LOOK AT HIM. He’s glorious. If you don’t want to be just like him then I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you. You probably need some medication. NO, NOT THE DUDE IN THE REFLECTION OF THE TV. God.)
But fear not, oh beloved readers of mine! Modern music has provided us with many superstars ready to take up the mantles of Bowie and Prince and inspire the next generation of creative souls.
I mean, there’s Flo Rida! He dares to put the same song out every few months!
Oh. Right. Well, how about Katy Perry! She dares to have big boobs and big eyes and generally be completely acceptable to the widest possible audience!
Fine. Oh, look, it’s Miley Cyrus! She’s got the balls to defy genetics that clearly state she should have a billowing mullet!
Ahhh, ok. I know! Justin Bieber! He’s so creative, he looks just like Miley Cyrus!
Uh, Kanye? That Yeezus nickname is kind of cool.
Hmm. Maybe we need to change genres a little bit. How about those singer/songwriter bands with stupid names? Yeah. You’re right. Their names are all too stupid. And they all wear the same plaid button down shirts all the time. I would know; yours truly is an expert on wearing the same plaid button down shirts all the time. I could teach classes.
Is Marilyn Manson still a thing? Who’s the Disney Channel Starlet of the Month for April 2016? I’m pretty sure they lobotomized Britney to keep her out of trouble, so she’s out. Rihanna? That dude that’s at all the Toronto Raptors games? Beyonce? Whatever the hell a Fetty Wap is? The Tupac hologram?
(Quick aside: I cracked open the iTunes charts for inspiration here, and most of the top selling tracks are Prince jams. You people who loved Prince so much don’t already own multiple copies of this stuff? This is weird to me. Anyway.)
Hold on, guys, I think I found one! Lady Gaga! How’d I miss Lady Gaga? I’m not quite ready to put her on the same tier as Prince and the Thin White Duke, but at least there’s hope. Kind of. Because here’s the rub: when you allow pop culture to become corporatized and sanitized and monetized and (arguably) weaponized to the point we have, you end up with the pile of bland oatmeal-looking mush I dictated above. True talent loses out to celebrity. Anything even slightly different is unacceptable, unless those differences start off cloaked in the appropriate veneer and then explode outward when it’s too late for the gatekeepers to do anything about it because they’re already addicted to the money that’s been rolling in. Hence Ms. Gaga. That’s not meant as a slam, mind you; I’m really impressed with her, and with how well she’s played the game. But the game is rigged, and the game is fucked. Any artist that doesn’t fit in the precisely tailored uniform doesn’t stand a chance.
So what’s the point I’m trying to ramble my way toward? I’ve got multiple, because I’m not real good at organizing my thoughts at 8:30 in the morning before a video game convention. First, hold those Prince and Bowie records close, because chances are no one even remotely like either of them is coming along any time soon. Keep talented artists like them at the top of the charts before tragedy strikes. Check out smaller shows and see if anyone interesting is hiding in the dumpy venue up the street. And above all, dare to be different. Shit’s getting way too bland lately. That’s right: most of you people are fucking boring. Fucking stop it. Prince and Bowie would approve.