Posts Tagged ‘Madonna’

Why Everyone’s Going GaGa at the Grammys

Stand by – the Lady GaGa Grammy show is heading to town! The awards season is upon us and the stars have been camping on the doorsteps of designers and rounding up the usual suspects when it comes to kitting themselves out. And they all have to up the ante to match GaGa.

No camping out on designers’ doorsteps for last year’s attention-grabber supreme, I’m betting – it is surely fair to say that GaGa is cooking up something spectacular this year, after 2010’s meaty extravaganza. And, given the hoo-ha, furoré and small cyclone of speculation and excitement about that outré outfit, and given Gaga’s tendency to want to outdo herself, it’ll be fascinating to see what she turns up in this year, especially for the Grammys.

Things are changing already – the Mail has just had a little huff of shock that Leona Lewis has ditched her wholesome image: “…she turned up at the Never Say Never premiere with dark brown hair, razor sharp fringe and new style clothes,” wrote the Mail. “The top had a pair of red padded lips to cover her chest but left her stomach bare. She wore a pencil skirt and high heels. She’s supposedly starting her own clothing line. What has brought about this change from wholesome to vamp?”

What else but GaGa?

According to reports, GaGa has been knocked off the ‘most talked about fashion icon’ top spot by Kate Middleton this year. She’s going to have to pull something spectacular out of the hat if she’s going to beat the ‘modern princess’ phenomenon into second place again. But she shouldn’t have to worry too much if Leona’s makeover away from the princess mode is anything to go by.

GaGa has an astonishing ability to mould the media narrative and is doing her level best to make everything she does newsworthy before her performance at the 53rd Grammy awards. She’s already brought forward the release of her single Born This Way.

However many awards she wins or costumes she wears this year, it is most likely she will clean up in the news stakes. GaGa is a clever woman – as sharp as Madonna. She has “it”; the “stuff”. Her audience and the media are at her mercy. Whatever costume she comes in, it’ll be something new – she knows how to keep people paying attention. The only thing she could do wrong now is to oversaturate the market with things that are less than worthy of her individualist brand.

All this suggests that pure talent is no longer enough for the stars. GaGa has changed all that. Now lesser lights like Leona have to look and act the part at award ceremonies as it is not enough to just win an award for the music – one has to win the headline awards too.

Karaoke Culture

We are living in a karaoke media culture – everything we see is a pale, recycled copy of something that’s gone before and, worse still, this sincere flattery of icons and iconography past is being actively encouraged.

Miley Cyrus is heading off down the well-trodden path of over-sexualised image that has been presented 1000 times before and is well known to end in ruin at least half the time. Even Kylie has got in on the act, kissing Ana Matronic from the Scissor Sisters; a direct echo of Madonna and Britney’s “lesbian” kiss.

Prince Albert of Monaco is doing a karaoke version of his father by marrying an American celeb, who is a pale imitation of Grace Kelly. And then there’s the Princes, William and Harry: William is currently back with Kate Middleton, whom the press insist shares much in common with his mother, Princess Diana; Harry is off clearing mines in a bid to be like his mother. A Freudian could no doubt get some considerable mileage from the undercurrents created by the media’s presentation of them.
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My Edinburgh

Here’s an unedited version of the piece I wrote for yesterday’s Independent, on My Edinburgh.

Trawling Edinburgh Festival for the sites of my old publicity stunts, celebrated in the #Twithibition I have just launched, has been a contemplative experience. The stunts celebrated 25 years of mischief, but that was then. What is now? I thought it worth considering how the Festival has evolved as I trekked around the city putting up posters.

I have been going to Edinburgh for years and there is always much that is astonishing, vibrant and beautiful on offer at the Festival – of this year’s crop, Sian Williams’ one-woman show for The Kosh at the Gilded Balloon and Shed Simove at Belushi’s are two to look out for. Sian Williams is the same age as Madonna and considerably sexier; she is compelling to watch. Shed, inventor of the Clitoris Allsorts, is like Trevor Baylis on crack.

But despite the amazing things that are, as ever, on offer, it’s clear that Edinburgh is at a crossroads. Arguably, some City grandees are not able to organise a piss up in a distillery. Princess Street has been dug up just as the Festival started. What planning genius came up with that one? Producers report resources have been pulled away from the Festival; the Assembly Rooms, mid-renovation, was a building site in week one, with one of its auditoria unfit for purpose – the council should be shot for not readying it for the Fringe. The insanity of moving the Film Festival to June is nearly as bad as serially under-funding the International Festival.

I believe that the blame for all this lies at the door of the city fathers, who appear to be unconsciously frittering the spectacle of Edinburgh away, dissipating the energy that has, for many years, seen journalists fighting tooth and nail to get up there every August to run up their expense account and discover the latest bright young things on the international arts scene. Even the bright young things are being discouraged from coming, as student accommodation gets ever more expensive in the city.

Venue controllers bemoan the lack of media attention outside of Scotland. Spreading out the festival over five weeks is a mistake; they should be condensing it to three! Considering it is the largest Festival of its type in the world, the coverage Edinburgh gets, outside a few broadsheets, is pitiful, with little or nothing in the news pages. The fledgling Manchester Festival seemed to get it right, but Edinburgh has slipped – it’s not seen as one of the greatest shows on Earth any more.

Tellingly, the BBC sent fewer staff to cover Edinburgh than went to T in the Park. Even the Scotsman is only using six reviewers. In a tenuous economic climate, it is foolhardy of the Edinburgh council to disregard the impact, and undermine the vitality, of the Festival and the revenues it brings.

There is, at least, good digital representation being developed to help build audiences – I am addicted to the iFringe app for iPhone – but the Festival needs to keep drawing in new talent and audiences and media. It can’t rest on past laurels as, to punters in their 20s, the Festival icons of 30 years ago are vastly distant and mostly irrelevant. Forget the past – the Festival needs to focus on what’s happening now. Stretching the Festivals out so that the Music, Film, Book and Fringe, etc, become ever more separated is preventing the sort of international coverage that Cannes enjoys from happening in Edinburgh. Something needs to change if the Festival is to remain relevant in another 30 years time.

To read the article as printed, click here.

To follow my #Twithibition, click here and search the site for #twithibition. For more information on the stunts recorded in the #Twithibition, click here.

Jacko and the power of Twitter

Michael Jackson’s done it again, surprising all the nay sayers who had written him off as a wash-out and a has-been. He’s sold out 50 dates at the O2 arena and will, assuming everything goes according to plan, play to around a million fans over that period.

Clearly all the web chatter on Twitter and other social networking sites has helped; this has been the venue for the hardcore fans of Jacko to turn the tables on the now-isolated traditional media who had written the newly re-crowned King of Pop off in the wake of court cases, alleged child abuse and years of hiding in unspecified venues around the world.

They have clearly forgotten the sheer number of committed Jackson fans out there, who worship regardless of scandal and who are an affluent global community. The media and Jackson’s record company are quite simply out of touch with the importance of such a huge and motivated fan base – in much the same way, Cliff Richard was written off and yet still sold records and concert tickets.

OK, this residency at the O2 won’t convert new fans to the Jackson cause, but it is proof of two things:

  1. if anyone underestimates the power of social networking, they are fools – this residency was being tweeted about weeks before any official announcement was made and it was this as much as anything that drove the astonishingly speedy sales of all tickets;
  2. that there is hope for the economy – people are prepared to spend on feelgood moments such as reliving their youth by seeing Michael Jackson in concert.

Of course, it helps that Jackson – or more likely his people – have cannily kept that starting price for tickets for the concerts low. £50 to £75 is nothing when Madonna was charging well in excess of £100 for a basic ticket recently. This has brought fans from Germany, Italy and France flocking to the O2 Arena, which is surely now the world’s premiere music venue, having played host to Prince, Led Zeppelin, Madonna and a forthcoming 50 date residency from Michael Jackson

Entertainment is a potent economic driver and, if sales for Jacko’s concerts are anything to go by, it may yet help reduce the drag and friction of the recession. But there is no room at the moment to spend big on advertising in the traditional sense; any entertainment, be it rock concerts, theatre, cinema or books, needs to tap in to the word of mouth bonanza that is the social internet.

There’s a long way to run of course – the dates wind to a close early next year and Jackson is a relatively frail man. The pressure of 50 shows could really take it’s toll. But at the moment, the Jacko phenomenon seems unstoppable. I’d say that this is the first hopeful sign for the economy I’ve seen in a while. Now let’s hope everyone learns the lessons it offers.

Borkowski on Madge

Madonna v Guy: Mudslinging in Vogue as war begins

WHEN their divorce was announced earlier this week, celebrity commentators queued up to tell us that Madonna and Guy Ritchie’s break-up would not follow the muck-raking Mills-McCartney model.

Publicist and media analyst Mark Borkowski said it was common practice for stars to leak information by means of close friends.

He added: “When something is a known truth, the newspaper will sometimes put it down as ‘a friend’ to protect themselves – but they have to be fairly sure of their facts.

“Somebody in the camp will give a story which is absolutely reliable but won’t put their name to it. That would have to come from somebody who is very well connected – they take it on trust that the story will be written in a sympathetic way.

“In these legally sensitive times, newspapers have to know if they are getting a piece of information from an insider that it is absolutely solid.”–