Q&A with Entertainment Weekly’s Tanner StranskyPosted: April 18, 2011
For a press person’s perspective, I chatted with Tanner Stransky, correspondent staff writer for Entertainment Weekly and EW.com, who reviews the latest servings from pop divas in addition to writing about TV shows, books, and movies. He also wrote the book, “Find Your Inner Ugly Betty: 25 Career Lessons for Young Professionals Inspired by TV Shows,” about taking career advice from the show as well as other programs on the air then. Here are some of the highlights from the interview, where we dished about the latest trends in pop music and what it takes to get noticed by the media.
1. Have you noticed any trends within pop music?
Music is more dancey and poppier than it has been in a long time. Music now is really clubby, like Britney’s new album is club music. Rihanna launches with her “Only Girl (In The World) single, and it’s a total club jam. It’s a Gaga effect: her first single was “Just Dance” and it cascaded from there when everybody jumped on that. It’s cyclical – we’ll be in this a little while longer and then we’ll do something else. America is the only place where pop music gets dancey, then it doesn’t, and then it gets dancey again.
2. When discussing pop music, you mentioned many females. Is there room for more male pop stars?
There’s always more female pop stars, since pop music is more of a medium for females. It lends itself a little bit more to a female audience, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a trend or not a trend. People who like pop music are generally girls and gays. They love a diva, a big female singer, and it lends itself because of the kinds of topics. No guy is going to be able to do a J.Lo-like song or a Britney song because it’s a female medium to do trance, dance kind of stuff.
3. What quality does a successful pop star have to possess?
The most important thing is not even necessarily in terms of voice. You have to have a point of difference and some originality. I don’t think that’s something you have to have for today, I think 30 years ago that applied. A couple of the new acts that were successful have been Ke$ha and Nicki Minaj, and both have a point of difference. Nicki Minaj fills a role that is missing: Lil’ Kim’s iconic, dirty-mouth, sassy black female rapper role. Ke$ha, as much as everybody was doing dance-pop music, she took that to a trashy drunk party level, which nobody was doing at the moment.
When Katy Perry started, her shtick was “I kissed a girl.” Is she a lesbian? Is she a faux-lesbian? Is she bisexual? From a press point of view, there has to be a reason to talk about her. There needs to be something for her to talk about when she goes on “The View” and “Good Morning America.” That’s why Ke$ha and Gaga are fascinating – they have something to talk about. I’ve seen these pop acts come and go, and it’s because they don’t do anything special. You have to set yourself apart.
4. What do audiences look for in a pop star today?
What an audience is looking for is to be entertained, and I don’t think that’s changed. The people that are most entertaining are the ones that stick around. People who are entertainers from head to toe: Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and J.Lo, who are putting on a show for everybody.