Music Blogs

Style over Substance?

  • By Greta Aherne
  • 1 March 2011

In today's current Top 40, how much emphasis is on the music rather than the fashion or image being portrayed? A prime example of this is Lady Gaga's. She originally burst on to our radar as an innovative and quirky guilty pleasure. Her style originally was definitely out there but it seemed more confined to her videos rather than her live shows. But now it seems we're focusing more and more on her more unique stylings. Whether you love her or hate her, we've all discussed at one time or another her interesting outfit choices.

Recently the only thing that overshadowed her egg entrance and her performance of her "Born This Way" was her choice in latex dress, if you can call it that. Even the murmurings from critics and fans about the similarity of her track to Madonna's "Express Yourself" only came to the forefront of debate, once her prosthetic or surgically implanted horns had become old news. There is a clear divide between loyal "monsters" and those who simply enjoy her music.  I have been impressed with Gaga so far on her musical career, no one can deny loving at least one of her tracks and belting out the lyrics. But I think the brand in which she has now become is starting to take over and own her music, rather than being a glorious addition and a guilty pleasure for many.  Gaga "Monsters" could argue that she is a refreshing and unique artist. In their opinions there is no one quite like her in todays current charts and the ethos behind her dramatic style and political stances, have always been part of her music and her plan for worldwide music domination.

As I mentioned earlier the comparison to Madonna musically, is this where it ends? Madonna was and still is hailed for being the ultimate music chameleon. She has been marketed not only for her ever reinvention in fashion but also for her music. She has been able to attract and keep her many legions of fans through this. So it is hardly surprising that others have taken her formula and are adapting it to fit their personas. But at least the ever changing fashion was not the main reason fans were drawn to Madonna. Even Elton John in the 70's who wore outlandish outfits, was still credible then for his music. It could stand alone in an era that didn't have as much visual exposure as today.

It is true that having a interesting gimmick can separate you from the competition but the music still has to stand alone, stripped bare of all this in my opinion.Look at the longevity of bands such as The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, The Foo Fighters, Metallica to name a few. They haven't relied on costumes and big stage productions to sell tickets. They have maintained their fans, by constantly producing great singles and great albums over decades. Artists know that nowadays they have to not only sell their music to the industry but as a marketing brand rather than identity to get signed or more importantly stay signed.

Every time you go on youtube or switch on music tv channels you are bombarded with videos vying to be bigger, bolder and more innovative than their competitors and their own back catalogue. But when you hear a track by an artist for the first time on their music video, how much attention do you actually pay to the song and how much do you pay to the video? I think we would all be surprised if we think about it, what do we actually remember from the video. Was it the crashing guitars or catchy chorus or was it what was going on visually? It is true that the music industry is an ever changing quagmire but have the scales of music and branding tipped to far away from what made it work so well in the first place? There are many that choose not to not be taken in by the videos, fans, producers and artists alike. But is this becoming specific to certain genres, where it's still expected to produce great tracks and to sell albums based on this first and foremost? Will fans finally put their foots down and force the music industry and it's artists to be more about the music rather than the fashion? I may be more old school in my way of thinking and maybe I'm not. I just feel passionately that an artist should be successful for their music and anything else they do that makes us buy in to them is just an added bonus.

Maybe I'm being to hard on Gaga and the reality is as much as I'd like it to be true, its not all about the music anymore?