A generation desensitized: trading outrage for attention

Max Miranda, A&E Editor

“Madonna makes out with immensely popular rapper (who is literally half her age) on stage at Coachella.” 20 years ago this headline would have called for widespread outrage and not just because the rapper would have had to be 18. The reason is that a new generation of listeners and viewers has been largely desensitized to such crazy celebrity actions.

Though celebrities and artists have been doing outlandish things to get attention for decades, there has been a clear trend towards doing it more often in the more competitive marketplace in which artists live today.

For example, upon finding out that his music is getting less popular, competing with the hundreds of other rappers popping up, Kanye West decides to do something outrageous like name his daughter “North,” or jump into an Armenian lake, or interrupt people at the VMAs, or Grammys, or compare himself to Jesus, God, Walt Disney or Shakespeare simply for the free attention that comes with it.

Now you might ask, “Why is this a problem? For the public it serves as entertainment and they never really hurt anyone anyways.” Well the answer to that question is simple: by pulling petty stunts, artists are making it inconceivable for consumers to be able to take their music, their art seriously. Any message that artists are trying to portray will come across as foolish because they brand themselves as such. Nobody wants a complete dilution of an artform that has been beloved for years.

To clarify, this critique in no way applies to the crazy things artists occasionally do within their music as that can be described as taking creative risks and expressing one’s true self. The issue comes when “expression of self” corresponds to making a fool of yourself to get attention on camera.

Lady Gaga is a prime example. She may be expressing herself in her music, but when she flaunts meat suits and emerges from eggs at award shows, its clear that she is doing so to keep her brand relevant.

After a period of time, Americans become unsurprised with Gaga’s little shtick and so she elevates her strategy, doing even more insane things, and when the people can no longer be shocked, her brand takes a hit and she starts the long and slow decline towards complete unpopularity.

The damage is really done on the way down, however, when artists like Gaga will often attempt to create songs with meaning. Regardless of what the truth is behind their message it will very likely be received as a joke if she makes it seem that she is a joke.

Through this devastating cycle, the process of creating music will be diluted and formerly popular songs with meaningful lyrics will be replaced by “Pokerface” and “Jesus Walks.” In order to prevent such a downward spiral for music the only option is to kick artists out of the mainstream for doing crazy things, or for the artists themselves to stop with their outrageously useless stunts. Otherwise, not only will legitimate artists always be held back by the Nicki Minajs and Ke$has of the industry, but the art that those types of musicians try to portray will find itself diluted and useless.