Gaga and Abramovic, Macklemore and Le1f, Katy Perry and Visionist: here's 10 things we weren't expecting to see or hear this year.
If you thought Rihanna doing seapunk in 2012 was weird, then this year was a whole lot weirder. "Marketing difference", the K-hole coined concept of "mass Indie" and the creative free-for-all of trend-snatching, cherry-picking popstars heralding total capitalist subsumption emerged in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Thank you, internet.
Lady Gaga’s ‘ART POP’ album, although relatively crap musically, is probably the best way to sum up 2013, where pop became art and art became pop – or something. 2013 saw Jay Z go meta at the Pace Gallery while rapping Picasso Baby to Marina Abramovic, who in turn posed on the cover of Vogue with James Franco, who in turn is an artist/writer/director/demigod who occasionally dresses like Riff Raff and sings Britney Spears covers in Harmony Korine films to tween Disney stars. There was a lot of rage from Kanye, most of it warranted, but no one really listened because he selected Zane Lowe and Jimmy Kimmel as his ciphers, while acknowledging his own helpless complicity in corrupt economies like the rest of us.
Jesus, I mean, Yeezus did employ Evian Christ, HudMo and Arca for his record though, so presumably he’s spread some of that $$$ around, in the same way that his bootleg NYC fashionista team tapped into some of that brand power, echoing early days M.I.A. street appropriation (until she sold everyone out to Donatella Versace). Weeks later, Lady Gaga was playing the Youtube Awards with “no make-up” and wearing a cap reading “DOPE” where it should’ve said “NASA” and a grassroots cottage industry of counterfeit wearables, sprung from exploited "emerging" economies, made it through the city streets, across the catwalk and on to the moon. Yes, that final frontier of human progress that those great phallic rockets lift off to, taking their million-dollar passengers with them.
Meanwhile, a Busta Rhymes cameo on Zebra Katz’ mixtape goes unnoticed, along with the potent message of M.I.A.’s 'Matangi'. Why bother? It’ll only fall on deaf ears, while one cringes at the thought of how many of the world’s servers are devoted to “Google: Miley Cyrus” and underground art electro band Extreme Animals provides the most on-point remix of We Can’t Stop with ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE US. Cyrus and Sinead O’Connor are too busy quibbling over the corpse of the "rock as vehicle for radical politics" debate to notice, while Beyonce takes the sentiment and bathes it in feminism-as-capitalism-and-individualism on a pop album for the everywoman, named after herself. Come to think of it, that Riff Raff and Skrillex collaboration never eventuated, coming full circle through a promotional stunt in favour of that same damn Harmony Korine film where Skrillex did the soundtrack, James Franco looked like Riff Raff and the rich girl uni students killed all the poor people. Spring Breakers: a movie that’s of the moment; one that’s well and truly fucked.
Here are 10 other examples of why this is true:
10. SARAH SILVERMAN AND WILL.I.AM COLLABORATE VIA SKYPE
Why limit collaborations to artists and performers, Skrillex and Riff Raff, Bing Crosby and David Bowie? Here, Will.i.am and controversial comic provocateur Sarah Silverman join forces to collaborate via Skype on the elaborate non-partying ode to the loser because “shit’s about to not get crazy”.
9. S CLUB 7, DJ LUCK, MC NEAT APPEAR ON THE SAME BILL
2-Step garage meets dance-pop circa 2000 by three of the original S Club 7 members. If there ever was any doubt that a) the world is running out of ideas and b) the 20-year fashion cycle has well and truly reached Y2K years early, then this rendition of Reach should have you convinced.
8. SINEAD O’CONNOR AND MILEY CYRUS ARGUE
Being no stranger to controversy, Sinead O’Connor seemingly courted it again this year in an open letter to Miley Cyrus asking her to watch herself after the fallen Disney angel referenced the Irish singer-songwriter’s Nothing Compares 2 U as an inspiration. A public row ensued, starting with O’Connor announcing “rock n roll is being murdered” and ending with Amanda Palmer doing a mash-up of Nothing Compares 2 U and Wrecking Ball, but that’s less interesting.
7. LAUREN DEVINE’S TRY SEXUAL WASN’T DECLARED THE BEST SONG OF ALL TIME
I watched this video back to back with Rihanna’s Pour it Up and I still fail to see the distinction between Lauren Devine’s take on sexy times and the US pop star’s. Directed by frequent Gatekeeper collaborator Anthony Valdez, produced by ex-Test Icicles member Sam Mehran and Natasha Roozrokh (aka Mykki Blanco and Brooke Candy producer NAR) as burqa and featuring someone callled Adaron and Nick Weiss of Teengirl Fantasy, Try Sexual kind of represents the nice bit about globalisation: #eatprayf*ck #livinlavitacoco
6. LADY GAGA GOES NUDE FOR MARINA ABRAMOVIC
As it turns out, Jay Z and Lady Gaga were part of slew of artists banding around celebrity performance artist Marina Abramovic for her kickstarter campaign to fund her education centre. That didn’t stop the art world from going wild for Jay Z’s "performance art", me from watching Gaga do the Abramovic method in the nude or the campaign from raising over $600,000.
5. THERE’S ACTUALLY AN AWARD FOR ‘BEST VIDEO WITH A SOCIAL MESSAGE’
No stranger to Twitter call-outs, NYC rapper Le1f was justified when suggesting that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ win of the award at the VMAs for Same Love was just one in a string of creative thefts they’d benefited from with this beauty: "that time that straight white dude ripped off my song then made a video about gay interracial love and made a million dollars”. That’s not only referring to Same Love but the fact that Macklemore’s bouncy hit Thrift Shop sounds uncannily like Le1f’s much better Wut.
4. IGGY AZALEA ENDORSES ANGEL HAZE
Possibly the most confusing occurrence of the year, after a rousing rendition of New York-based rapper Angel Haze’s brilliant New York at London’s Scala, controversial and not very good Australian rapper Iggy Azalea (who, incidentally, has a subsidiary on the same Universal Music Group multinational as Haze) appeared on stage to endorse her. In this show of female solidarity, it was hard to miss the fact that both rappers had had very recent, very public spats with Azealia Banks, and that Angel Haze is by far the superior artist.
3. KATY PERRY SOUNDS LIKE VISIONIST
Loudly declaring herself a part of the rich celebrity Illuminati as per her NSA-referencing album title, ‘PRISM’, Katy Perry is evidently also spying on musical counterculture (along with everyone else), if the acapella vocal sampling in Dark Horse is anything to go by. This track – featuring Juicy J on mundane rap insert duties – sounds uncannily like London grime-producer Visionist’s Pain. Trap music is probably the more likely source of Perry pilferings, but in these days of the internet making a trend scout’s life easier, who’s to know.
2. JAMES FRANCO COVERS BRITNEY SPEARS, LOOKING LIKE RIFF RAFF, SURROUNDED BY TEEN DISNEY STARS
As if it wasn’t already weird enough that Riff Raff and Skrillex were going to work on an album together (which sadly never eventuated), James Franco shows up as the spitting image of the Texan rapper in Harmony Korine’s Springbreakers for which Skrillex did the soundtrack. Not only that but Franco goes on to serenade four teen celebrities in pink balaclavas and bikinis wielding machine guns with Britney Spears’ 2003 ballad Everytime. Enough said.
1. ROCK N ROLL IS DEAD, BY THE WAY
Just in case you had any doubts about the above, this band from Poland appeared on breakfast television without any trousers on to perform a song called Krzyk that translates to "scream". In the words of Dummy Editor Aimee Cliff, "that is the best pretending to play instruments I have ever seen". Proof that Sinead O’Connor was right.