Marié Digby and “popcorn music”

Monday, September 24, 2007

Marie Digby I kind of dig this girl, Marié Digby (pun unintended), who recently announced she had been signed to Hollywood Records after being “discovered” on YouTube only a few months ago. Check out her acoustic covers of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Nelly Furtado’s “All Good Things (Come to an End).” Only two months after originally posting her now-famous “Umbrella” cover on YouTube, Marié (pronounced Mar-ee-ay) was invited to perform the song on Last Call with Carson Daly. Now that’s what I call fast fame! Hopefully her label/agent/publicist won’t try to turn her into a scantily dressed “pop tart” to sell more records once she finishes her full-length album next year. We have plenty of those girls in music already.

But wait . . . Marié Digby has actually been sponsored by (and consulting with) a record label this entire time . . . apparently she “was signed by Hollywood Records (a Disney label) in 2005 with the idea of using social media tools to build her career. After a lot of work, music videos, and social networking, Digby built herself a large and loyal fan base.” But she did not reveal that she had been signed by Disney until late this summer. That’s sort of brilliantly manipulative marketing, à la lonelygirl15. The Wall Street Journal states “that Ms. Digby’s career demonstrates something else: that traditional media conglomerates are going to new lengths to take advantage of the Internet’s ability to generate word-of-mouth buzz.” Basically, there is no escaping corporatized music, even when you think you have.

But Marié does actually write some of her own music. Check out this live performance of her original song “Unfold.” Among other songs, Marié has also recorded a video of “What I’ve Done” by Linkin Park, which is one of those tracks that I always enjoy listening to when I happen to hear it on the radio and yet it’s not something I would buy. Land of Confusion There are a handful of hard rock bands I feel this way about . . . artists like Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Incubus, Disturbed . . . a lot of their songs are really good to drive to and I like to listen to them . . . but I don’t go out of my way to find or buy them. I guess because it feels like catchy disposable corporate-rock to me. I don’t have a problem with any of these bands and I do think they are talented, but I don’t know how to describe it any other way. Like blockbusters or “popcorn movies,” the radio-friendly songs these mainstream bands create are like “popcorn music,” filtered through the major-label studio system for rapid consumption before we get distracted by . . . oh, hey, what’s that? It looks shiny!

These overproduced popular songs might bounce around in my head the same way a commercial jingle does, but they don’t challenge me or make me think. But I still like driving to them. And I still like seeing blockbuster movies. But I end up buying mostly indie rock and cult/foreign films, because that’s what feels meaningful and most artistic to me . . . things that have been created outside (as much as possible) the studio systems that tend to inhibit creativity in favor of commerce. But there are always exceptions . . . sometimes creative vision is enhanced by a bigger budget. (You can see what movies I like at Filmometer.)

As a side note: Baby vs. Cobra I think popular metal bands often do their best work when they apply their heavy/guttural aesthetic to well-written pop/rock songs, like Disturbed’s covers of “Land of Confusion” by Genesis and “Shout” by Tears for Fears. Or Marilyn Manson’s many cover songs, including “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics and “Tainted Love.” I also think it can be great when singers/songwriters or indie acts reinterpret well-known metal, hip-hop, rap, or even cheesy pop songs acoustically (and sometimes ironically). I think this is what I like about some of Marié Digby’s work. Tori Amos is particularly excellent at cross-genre song reinterpretation.

Here are two more YouTube videos to enjoy: Boy vs. Cobra and the amazing Battle at Kruger, which is a clash between a pride of lions, a herd of buffalo (a baby buffalo, in particular), and two crocodiles at a watering hole in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. Everything wants to eat everything else! It’s the circle of life and whatnot.

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