Tech Appeal

(This piece was written in Spring 2010.)

The girl next door has left the building. In her place, we have the pop star from outer space, who references the future with edgy stage wear and robots.

Musically and stylistically, today’s most popular singers are looking to the future for inspiration in a high-tech strut into the 22nd century. Musicians have adopted a futuristic style of stage wear that evokes the look of robots, with getups that are metallic, angular and hard-edged, while the robot itself has made a number of appearances in music videos and on stage.

Christina Aguilera, "Bionic" (2010)

The point was driven home again this month, when Christina Aguilera announced that her anticipated fourth album, which will be released this summer, is called “Bionic.” On the album’s cover, Aguilera comes across as the lovechild of Princess Leah, Marilyn Monroe, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator. Half of her face shows the Xtina we have come to know and love: fair skin, blue eyes, and lips bathed in rouge. The other half is an android comprised of bolts and wires: the inner workings of a pop star gone robotic. Aguilera gushed about her makeover to InTouch, saying, “I’m so excited — I’ve had an idea for a futuristic feel for many years now. It’s always been in the back of my mind to do a more futuristic sound.”

Her new space age image places her in a league with music’s current fembots such as Lady Gaga, who is resurrected as Fritz Lang’s robot in Metropolis in “Paparazzi” after being thrown off of a balcony by her boyfriend. Beyoncé, with a golden Thierry Mugler metallic bodysuit, also becomes a robot in her surreal video for “Sweet Dreams.” Rihanna got into the robo-craze when she suggestively danced with two big robots during her performance of “Rude Boy” at this year’s Kid’s Choice Awards in Los Angeles. Read the rest of this entry »


Q&A with Entertainment Weekly’s Tanner Stransky

Tanner Stransky, Entertainment Weekly, provided by Stransky

For a press person’s perspective, I chatted with Tanner Stransky, correspondent staff writer for Entertainment Weekly and, 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. Read the rest of this entry »

USC Sociology Professor on pop music

Dr. Mathieu Deflem, USC professor of “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of the Fame,” Photo by Michael Brown/provided by Dr. Deflem

Seeking the definition of pop music, I contacted Dr. Mathieu Deflem, a sociology professor at the University of South Carolina who teaches the course “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of the Fame.” This is the insight that he had to share on how pop music compares to other genres.

1. In terms of music production and cultural significance, how does pop differ from other music genres?

Culturally, pop is more popular, by definition, and therefore more significant in terms of reaching people. As music is always a form of communication (or, music is not music until it has an audience), pop music is more socially significant than any other genre. Music production has mainly changed over the years because of technological advances (synthesizers, digital recording etc).

2. How does the current pop music scene compare to that of previous decades? If not, how is it similar?

Not sure, but as always, musical genres go through waves of popularity, and right now pop is at the top of popular music, absent any decent rock music except those rock genres that stay underground.

Read the rest of this entry »