DUE TO HACKERS AN ABUNDANCE OF LOW/HIGH QUALITY LEAKS...WE ISSUE THIS POP MUSIC EMERGENCY...MONSTERS SPREAD THE WORD— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) August 12, 2013Her tweets, it seems, also have to be all caps. Sort of anti-e.e. cummings. Mind, I've got no proof that Gaga's track was leaked deliberately. But the coincidence of so many artists claiming the same security problem in the same three-month period and enjoying relatively the same smashing success as a result makes the probability that this was actually "leaked" about a million to one. That's "a million," as in dollars. ARTPOP in pre-order is selling like hotcakes and Applause is currently aiming for the range of just over 200,000 downloads in its first week, according to Billboard. The same article estimates Katy Perry's Roar at over 400,000 downloads. "Leaks" work as a marketing strategy because it builds excitement among core fans who feel they're getting a glimpse into the artist's secret world. Curiosity about the music blends with the psychology of being first in line, of taking ownership of a song. As a result, a "leak" gains a few extra headlines, fueled further by the artist's camp feigning outrage. The notion of the "leak" is popular now, in part, because of WikiLeaks, Edward Snowden, et al. Quite literally -- not a marketing gimmick at all -- leaks are a big part of our culture, a global problem that threatens international political stability. When a song is "leaked" it makes the artist seem important. An illusion. The information in a pop song doesn't threaten or liberate anyone. It's a pop song. Charitably, you can say these artists are building on that common theme, making it an aspect of their work. More realistically, you could call it a scam to sell downloads. Making her work seem more important than it is, in itself, is an important feature of Lady Gaga's career right now. Her stated goal for ARTPOP, due Nov. 11, is to unite the entire art world behind her at center stage. There will be big-name visual artists, videos, a star-studded opening gala, an app. Lord knows there will have to be a documentary. Taken at face value, Applause isn't half bad. It has some of the stripped-down, machine-inspired groove that is becoming popular, particularly in the wake of Kanye West's success with that style on Yeezus. And it plays on the growing appetite for late disco.
The fans + music scholars are the best critics because they know the artist intimately. #STOPHarassingTheArtist we are here to entertain you— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) August 11, 2013Well, OK, but this music scholar and blogger says you can't have it both ways. You can't represent all of culture and then turn around and say, I'm just here to entertain you. That's not what culture is. To be fair, that tweet came in a flurry of messages defending Katy Perry, telling her to ignore the blogging critics. Perry can say she's just here to entertain. Despite the activism she may be involved in, she's exhibited few pretensions to anything greater as an artist. Other artists have been able to successfully act like scoundrels, playing on their own hypocrisy and self-aggrandizement and get away with it. Some have even made a career out of it. ( Cough, cough -- sorry, I've got a little Yeezy caught in my throat.) But Lady Gaga represents something very personal to her Little Monsters. They need to her be both larger than life and painfully real. She isn't just their star, she's their avatar. Maybe they'll forgive her if she is dishonest with them or promises them something she can't deliver. Maybe not. -- Written by Carlton Wilkinson in Asbury Park, N.J. Follow @CarltonTSC