Sign up to my newsletter here, prole.
For a few months Kevin Federline was reasonable tabloid fodder, and he decided to use his fame as Mr Britney Spears to launch a career as a rapper. This was his big break. Failure was not an option. As Vanilla Ice once put it, “opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo.”
The results were a purported Brazilian ass-shaker called “Popozao”, part of an unfinished track with lyrics inveighing against “all the Pavarottis followin’ me” over a backdrop of fart samples, and a studio album called Playing with Fire, which was described by the press as a concept album dedicated to spending Britney Spears’ fortune. With the ink drying on divorce papers, and his career plummeting so hard it never got off the ground in the first place, Kevin embarked on a tour to promote the album. I have a friend who’s worked as a sound man for rappers. He says you’ve got to give them a wireless mic, because they keep making 180 turns in the same direction while walking on stage and if there’s an XLR cable it ends up kinked and twisted. But I go off course. Just like rappers with a mic cable.
Tickets to his shows weren’t selling, so management started giving them away for free. They were prepared to lose money just so they could have full houses. Was it worth it?
Some people view fame as a luck-based enterprise, like gambling. In some ways, it’s even worse than that, because unlike gambling, the past effects the present. A roulette wheel doesn’t care if you struck out the last fifty times, the 51st will still be an honest spin. But if an entertainer has his name attached to a notorious flop, future opportunities can dry up. You just can’t afford to be known as a guy who’s stuff fails. In show business, you’re only as good as your last hit.
So yeah, his label was reasonable in deciding throw money in a furnace so that The Artist Formerly Known as Mr Britney Spears didn’t have to play to an empty house. And he wasn’t the first, or even an especially notable case. K-Fed was merely a lowly white-belt in the ancient dojo of Paying to Avoid Looking Like A Failure.
Remember KISS? As the 70s wound down, and KISS was oversaturated to the point of being uncool, they pulled off a stunt where each member released a solo album on the same day. They actually pressed and shipped a million copies of each to record stores, so they’d be certified platinum (the RIAA’s gold, platinum, and diamond certs are based off albums shipped, not albums sold. You could theoretically go platinum and sell zero albums.)
Unfortunately, nobody really wanted to hear Gene Simmons’ cover of “When You Wish Upon a Star” or thirty minutes “will this do?” from Peter Criss. Very few of these solo albums were sold, and their record company Casablanca took a body blow to the tune of millions of dollars. But they got their platinum records. Score! History recorded KISS as paper champions, even though they got battered and bloodied for all twelve rounds in the marketplace.
Other examples of large scale “fake it till you make it” include:
2. WWE promoters pumping “canned heat” through the PA at quiet events (ie, pre-recorded cheering and booing noises). Any attempt at charisma and stage presence becomes obsolete, as you can make anyone look like a hero or a villain.
3. Qatar trying to pump up hype for their nonexistent soccer prospects by building stadiums and filling them with hapless Nepalese slaves, who dutifully pretend to be cheering fans.
The fakery can be a bit overwhelming to keep track of. Sometimes you wonder if anyone honestly represents themselves in any venture.
No Comments »
“One trick pony” is usually used in a disparaging way, but really, it depends on how good the trick is. Drugs are a one trick pony, but based on various after school specials I’ve seen, they’re certainly worth doing, and are probably the only thing worth doing.
Fuan no Tane is the ultimate one trick manga. It’s a barrage of ghost tales and urban legends, 3-4 pages each, with no characters, no stories, and sometimes hardly any text. Like snowflakes, none have much effect on their own, but when they come at you as a blizzard, you soon feel very cold. And addicted. It’s hard to stop reading Fuan no Tane, but I recommend it in only small doses. You can’t exactly marathon this stuff, it’s like too many dances with China White, you overdose at a certain point and your brain shuts down.
If you were raised on urban legends about men with hooks for hands and killer toilet seat spiders, you’ll feel right at home here. Some are brutal and gory, with “The Ear-Slashing Monk” being the most memorable in this category. Others have a strong element of camp. Still others bypass camp completely, and enter a Daliesque world of postmodern absurdism. “The Eyes that Seek”, for example, involves an army of detached eyeballs rolling down the highway.
Japanese humor notoriously inaccessible to Westerners. I don’t know if these ghost stories are Japanese in origin, or if Nakayama has adapted western material, but the terror impulse is probably far more universal than laughter. A lot of these are definitely creepy – although some of the cartoony ones do take the edge off the proceedings a little. It’s a great formula from a quality assurance standpoint, too. It doesn’t matter that some of the chapters fall flat, because there’s another one straight away to take the taste away.
Nakayama followed this up with Fuan no Tane Plus (aka, More of the Same™), and more recently Kouishu Radio, (aka, More of the Same™: The Samening, Electric Boogaloo). I think this might be the only trick he’s capable of.
None of which matters to an addict, of course.