A recent article about using shock as a marketing tool got me thinking about a different approach. Lady Gaga, The Gourds & The Chemical Brothers all share one characteristic, that of achieving success via creatively shifting the context of aesthetic content and surprising audiences.
So, instead of going for the shock, one goes for the creative surprise.
Lady Gaga is the most complete example because so much of what she does is lifted from avant garde & performance art then mixed with high fashion and presented in the context of pop culture.
For example, her much remarked wearing of meat has many art and performance world precedents from Carolee Schneemann's "Meat Joy" to Zhang Huan's "my new york". More generally, Marina Abramović is a popular reference point.
But there are other ways to catch people's attention and then refocus it on one's work without taking such extreme paths.
One of my favorite examples is The Gourds' cover of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice". It's a surprise whose shock is rather pleasant, especially as one realizes what a great song they've revealed! Rather than parodying themselves or Snoop, they've ended up with a song that entertains fans and newcomers alike without confusing their own identity.
Changing the context can also be used in a marketing campaign, as Astralwerks did when marketing The Chemical Brothers to America, and moving the context away from the rave:
"Exit Planet Dust...redefined how an electronic-dance album looked — specifically, nothing about the album's packaging suggested 'rave.' There were no floating gobs of color, no videogame-reject graphics, no winky-winky references to MDMA (except, of course, the Chemical Brothers' name)...Wohelski refers to the Chemicals' packaging — and subsequently, that of Astralwerks' cannier groups — as 'scene-neutral.'"
The idea of changing the context of aesthetic material may sound rather academic but is clearly powerful in the hands of someone like Lady Gaga. However, in practice, as The Gourds and The Chemical Brothers have shown us, it can also be a powerful way of giving audiences a fresh look without betraying one's values for short-term attention.
Hypebot contributor Clyde Smith is a freelance writer and blogger. He is currently relaunching Flux Research to pursue his long-standing obsession with web business models. To suggest music services and related topics for review at Hypebot, please contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.