The 2017 Tease

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Last year us pop fans were treated, or in some cases subjected, to a number of BIG pop teaser campaigns. In order of appearance: ANTI, Lemonade and Joanne all offered very different interpretations of the pre-release come-on, in which fans were thrown breadcrumbs across social media as they anxiously awaited the arrival of a new era from their fave.

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Rihanna’s ANTI was an agonisingly chaotic, strung out and seemingly expensive pre-album roll out, which took over a year to come to fruition. In contrast, Beyoncé’s Lemonade was an almost guerilla-style cultural event that teased the audiovisual album just a week before its release. In even further contrast, Lady Gaga’s Joanne was a more straightforward tease that gradually re-positioned ‘Mother Monster’ as a homegrown country gal over a 2-month period.

The ever-evolving and ever-saturated world of social media has completely flipped the idea of a ‘traditional’ album roll-out on its head. Pre-social media, I have the fondest of memories of bounding into HMV to pick up Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor on its release day (9th November 2005!) after the blast that was the Hung Up single campaign. The truth of the matter is, before digital downloading and streaming shook up the music industry into the unstable mess it is now, pop megastars tended to enjoy fairly fail-safe promotional campaigns.

This might be one of the last relics of that period:

Sigh.

The anticipation back then felt both magical and measured; only the artists/record labels themselves could really control the medium and the volume in which you were teased, be it through TV, radio or print media. Nowadays, that thrill is spread thin across social media and too often overshadowed by the gimmickry which follows – namely memes. For that reason, it takes a true wave of hype and mystique (+ a considerable marketing budget) to cut through the crap and really grab your attention on social media… Lo and behold, the return of Ms. Katy Perry:

Thankfully, after the constant uncertainty of 2016 it seems like we may be about to encounter not only a disco-pop (!) revival but, most importantly, a new era from a pop star who just ‘gets on with it’. Harking back to the golden age of big pop comebacks, the stars feel aligned for Katy to re-emerge on Friday with new single Chained to the Rhythm, its accompanying video AND an exclusive Grammy performance this Sunday.

At a time when there are now teasers for teasers, digital treasure hunts, or maybe no tease at all through surprise releases; it is strangely reassuring to know that pop stars such as Katy Perry still exist to guide us through the memory of what it felt like to be an expectant pop fan before the dawn of social media.

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Good Ol’ Gaga

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How could I NOT write about Artpop aficionado herself: Lady Gaga and her Super Bowl halftime hoot!? (That’s enough alliteration for now, but it was a hoot.) Unfortunately, due to the very nature of hyper-internet-journalism there’s already a fair few articles out there which cover the sociopolitical side of things pretty succinctly. Both of these are worth a click and a read:

 

So what about the setlist itself? Bar the gloopy Million Reasons, which has been rubbing me up the wrong way ever since that god awful video, the choice of tracks was pretty on the nose:

It’s hard to argue with the inclusion of such pop behemoths as Poker Face, Just Dance, Telephone and Bad Romance. Even Born This Way and its ham-fisted, but well-intentioned, representation of queerness felt utterly vital in the backdrop of a strange, new America. As many critics have already noted, when Gaga said: “We’re here to make you feel good” – she meant it. The fact is: Gaga’s music has never really been designed to be deeply analytical or inward facing. Much like some of ABBA’s biggest and best hits, Gaga’s brand of pop often deals in big universal emotions which somehow feel completely personal to you, the listener. 

The magic behind these songs doesn’t really need explanation. To my ears, the chants of ‘Ra Ra-ah-ah-ah, Roma Roma-ma’ just feel that little bit epic and evil. I don’t know why, they just do…and I love it. This is why Gaga’s performance was both authentically Gaga and widely applauded. Don’t be fooled by the elaborate fashion and academic interpretations; at its core, this is pop all about pure, unadulterated FEELING.

However, in order to completely contradict the purpose of this post, I started to think about what a setlist with a healthy dose of politics would look like. Additions would include: 

  • Americano – a batshit pro-immigration opener
  • Do What U Want – a defiant nod to anti-abortion legislation
  • Perfect Illusion/Bad Romance medley – just a general sense of chaos (?)
  • Born This Way (The Country Road Version) – a liberal call-to-arms for conservative country lovers
  • The Edge of Glory – a positive vision of what America could be + a bangin’ closer

So there we have it. It’s probably just as well Gaga avoided my suggestions in light of the heavy backlash received by past performers Janet Jackson (nipple-gate) and M.I.A. (finger-gate). Nevertheless, have a listen to my alternate reality setlist below: