Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Disappointed Consumerism: The Transparent Hard Sell of VV Brown, Plus Regina Spektor

Last November, friend Annissa sent me a link to a video by up-and-coming artist VV Brown. The song -- "Crying Blood" -- was not a sad ballad about my cat's eye infection, but was actually a fun little tune that was making a bit of stir on music blogs:

I thought it would be a good drag number to learn so I went online to purchase it, but -- huh? -- the single wasn't scheduled for release until 2009.

It seems to me that, at the time, I read that the single was being delayed "in order to create interest." I didn't think about it much -- I didn't have a wad of cash to spend anyway, and I figured that if the song stuck in my head I'd get around to buying it when it came out.

Today I found myself wondering, "What about that VV Brown song?" So I looked on iTunes and discovered...nothing. Not a peep. I finally found my way to the Island Music store and the baffling information that the single -- in all of its myriad forms -- will not be available until March 11.

So I thought, what? The song is finished. The video's been online for months. The remixes are available for download, so the delay isn't apparently due to the Dust Brothers being too busy dusting. No, the only reason I can think of is..."in order to create interest."

I understand that most products -- movies, video games, gadgets -- are released at strategic times in order to maximize their consumer impact. That makes sense when you've invested lots of research and development time -- and therefore need maximum return -- or you're in a highly competative environment where you need to clobber your competitors with a single rollout or your board of directors kicks you out.

But this is a SINGLE. It's a relatively small part of VV Brown's supposed future output. The video has already appeared online. Singles are NEVER delayed for months...

...unless this is Island Record's way of generating HYPE. Us consumers are supposed to be tantalized by the opportunity to finally buy this song, waiting patiently until the big day arrives. They've dangled the video in front of us and then said "You like it? Wait for it. Chuckle."

For this reason I decided not to buy the single. I felt bad, thinking that perhaps VV Brown was a brilliant indie artist being unwittingly manipulated by her label...and then I noticed the way that her press releases are written, all establishing how mavericky her writing and composing style is. It all sounded so "Vanilla Ice," a carefully coordinated campaign to establish her "cred."

This, to me, is a total backfire. It appears to be a blatant attempt at "going viral." It's like your grandfather telling you that if you clean your room he'll give you an apple, and then asking you "What do you hip cats rap about these days, bro?"

I hate being given such a clumsy hard sell. I hate when people try to hype by using some form of anti-hype. And after viewing VV Brown's annoying and frankly subnormal "blog" -- a pop-up window without any facility for making comments -- I decided I can live without her music.

Maybe I'm selling her short. Maybe she's a talented artist simply bursting with a genuine creative impulse.

Or maybe she's somebody that a talent scout at Island Records picked up because he thought she could "rap with the hip cats, bro, using that internet thing," as long as they could prepare her and the world for each other.

Bonus: Regina Spektor

I've just discovered this wonderful song ("Fidelity") which I imagine everybody's already heard to death. It's new to me at least.

Excited by someone who seemed truly original and interesting, I bought the "Begin to Hope" album. Some of it's quite good, but I find the majority to be awfully...well, Tori. And I'm referring to all those songs I skip on "Little Earthquakes" and "Under The Pink," the solo piano numbers with pretentious stream-of-consciousness lyrics.

They're totally different from the finely-crafted brilliance of "Fidelity." I wonder if, once again, I've been duped by a carefully-manufactured single.


Anonymous said...

props on her houndstooth sheath dress though

Adam Thornton said...

Oh yes...or do you think somebody at Island Records hired a hip fashion consultant to dress her?

R.M. Lupo said...

Muffy, did you listen to Regina Spektor's albums 'eleven eleven' and 'songs'? I find they are very much different from Tori, but i'm not a musician at all, so your experience might be different...

Adam Thornton said...

Tricky, the one one I've heard is this album. Maybe it's atypical...I might get around to sampling the others just in case.