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What's up with Ashlee Simpson?
October 28, 2005 1:20 PM   Subscribe

Somewhat of a pointless question, how come Ashlee Simpson still gets media attention? She's not paticularly attractive, nor can she sing. To top it all off she was blatantly caught lipsyncing on SNL, yet she's scheduled (I believe to be on it again, or was on it a short while ago). Are differing media companies that well-connected?

As in, was enough money invested in Ashlee Simpson that they feel the need to keep pushing her. She's on the front page of CNN today, and she continues to make those infotainment shows. Does no one have a spine? I think more seriously my question is obviously there are a lot of obligations owed that keeps getting her in the spotlight. She's not being propelled by talents (good performer, extraordinary looks, voice) ergo something else is at play here. Are her PR firms so powerful that they dictate to magazines and television that she will be on? I would think some editor would be independent enough to say, "This will make us look bad putting on someone so much of a phoney."

I'm not saying that Ashlee Simpson is the first, but her lip-syncing and public booing really was hard to ignore or gloss-over. I thought her career was done (she doesn't exactly have a Maria Callas voice to change genres or reinvent herself). I would think that it'd be much easier to start over with a girl who's cute and can kinda sing then it would be to repair Ashlee Simpson's image.

So what's going on here?

NB my confession is beyond hearing her in public, I haven't really listened to her -- so if she clearly is gifted in singing I'm all wrong
posted by geoff. to Society & Culture (44 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Her album sold a lot of copies. As long as there's a demand for her, she and the corporations who have invested in her are more than happy to supply. I don't think her image really needed any repair. Ashlee Simpson fans don't seem to care if she lip-syncs or writes her own songs. For whatever reason, they're still interested in the Ashlee Simpson product. She's also known for being on TV besides her "music career."
posted by ludwig_van at 1:28 PM on October 28, 2005


Didn't her new album just rise to #1 on the Billboard chart? I guess one answer to your question is that the public buys her records, and record companies like to sell records. Is that how the charts are calculated? I may be wrong on this, but if they think she will sell records even while the world laughs at her, it's worth it in the long run.

I have never listened to any of her music, either, but I can imagine it's as wonderful as the rest on those Top 100 charts, or maybe fits right in.
posted by dual_action at 1:28 PM on October 28, 2005


Talented/attractive or not (and my vote, too, is with "not!"), she's on top of the Billboard charts right now. Next year, there will be another mediocre pop star on top of the charts and on the cover of magazines. Just like last year. And the year before that. It's all about the insanity of celebrity culture, the crappiness (imo) of most mass pop culture these days, and the billions of dollars the media makes from them both.
posted by scody at 1:30 PM on October 28, 2005


It is with pop culture as it has always been, and always will be. Ashlee Simpson is just the latest instantiation of $POPSTAR.
posted by xmutex at 1:32 PM on October 28, 2005


Perhaps I'm not making my question clear. I was hoping a PR person or someone familiar with the industry can explain how this all works and the economic incentives to keep Ashlee Simpson in place instead of replacing her with another pop idol (if they are, indeed, manufactured this would be possible, right?).

I just don't get how the PR machines manage to convince editors, executives of various media outlets to keep playing someone with such bad press. Millie Vanilli were ruined after they were outed (not the same situation I know). It would seem to me if I were editor of the entertainment section of CNN or whatever and they asked me to do a piece on Ashlee Simpson when I know she seems to be much of a sham would not only violate whatever dignity I have but in turn bring down the reputation of CNN. What incentives are provided to them in this case? Are enough 10 year old girls watching CNN to generate ad revenues?
posted by geoff. at 1:33 PM on October 28, 2005


You could ask this about any untalented pop flavor of the month from the 50s to today.
posted by matildaben at 1:36 PM on October 28, 2005


The lipsyncing is fun to laugh at, but if you didn't cover any lipsyncers, you couldn't cover pop music.
posted by smackfu at 1:48 PM on October 28, 2005


the SNL thing made her newsworthy, and worthy of continued coverage in non MTV/teenybopper circles.

(sorta like Paris' sex tape)
posted by amberglow at 1:59 PM on October 28, 2005


This episode and this episode of Frontline have great breakdowns of how/why people like Simpson get pushed and pushed and pushed on us.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:01 PM on October 28, 2005


I think your question is backwards: It's shouldn't be "why do the media cover her?", it should be "why is she so incredibly popular?"

The media is going to cover whatever is popular. Ashlee Simpson is incredibly popular - with a huge reality TV show and a #1 album. Why wouldn't the media spend time covering her career?

Why she is so popular is a more difficult question to answer. I saw her on SNL a few weeks ago and I swear the two songs she played were two of the worst songs I've ever heard. No hyperbole needed. Her performance was pretty bland too. She's basically attractive - but there are millions of attractive girls out there. Her voice is not horrible, but it's nothing special. The song writing is absolute trash.

If anyone out there does like her - tell us why.
posted by crapples at 2:05 PM on October 28, 2005


I think the interpretation of "something is owed to her PR people" might be mistaken. Or rather, it's a misreading of capitalism in general. Ususally what appears in media or gets pushed in ads is just a reflection of what we're buying.
Put simply, there has to already be some consumption of the product being sold. Advertisement and spin doesn't create demand, it only makes people aware of a product. CNN wouldn't put her on the front page if they didn't have research showing it would earn hits.

The stark reality is people are buying, or have been shown willing to buy, Ashlee Simpson. Her media footprint is just a reflection of this. Blame the folks who buy the record, not the PR industry. (Or to be philosophical, it's a collective action problem from below, not somebody pushing something on us from above.)
posted by generichuman at 2:09 PM on October 28, 2005


I think that geoff had the order correct. Simpson is popular because she is marketed, not marketed because of her popularity. How is it that bands you've never heard of become #1 sellers overnight without a massive media machine?

sorta like Paris' sex tape

ParisParamis did a sex tape?

If you haven't seen the episodes of Frontline I linked, well, sit yourself down and learn something. They are some really interesting shows.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:11 PM on October 28, 2005


My theory is that she's popular because she is so mediocre. She gives hope to the countless non-talented, non-especially-attractive girls out there. They can live vicariously through her. The inanity of the album title "I am me" says it all, really. WE ARE ALL ASHLEE SIMPSON RESISTANCE IS FUTILE
posted by speicus at 2:15 PM on October 28, 2005


I realize I sort of gave you a non-answer, here. Bluntly: shes popular not because we're told she is, but because a whole whack of people with bad taste are willing to pay $20 for her CD. So now the question is "why do so many people have crappy taste?"
posted by generichuman at 2:16 PM on October 28, 2005


But the process is a circle rather than a strict A --> B thing, isn't it, generichuman? Millions of people with bland taste wouldn't just independently run out, en masse, and buy her CD unseen/unheard. She's not some sort of indie performer that's been off the pop culture radar screen for years, whose popularity eventually grew to critical mass -- she was marketed first. And in the case of Ashlee Simpson in particular, she's been marketed as Jessica Simpson's sister and promoted by her crazy/powerful/mastermind father Joe Simpson. So the whole star machinery was behind her before people even started buying her records.
posted by scody at 2:22 PM on October 28, 2005


I think your question is backwards: It's shouldn't be "why do the media cover her?", it should be "why is she so incredibly popular?"

This presupposes that people, as a group, actually choose what's popular. I'd posit that it's precisely the media (especially in this case) that creates the popularity out of thin air. People accept that she's popular because she's always on TV.

I'm not connected to the entertainment industry, so I can only guess that this is correct, but I would love to hear from someone who does know (though I doubt anyone would come forward).

It's much a form of viral marketing, like ilovebees. Nobody cared about ilovebees until they were told they should, and so on.
posted by odinsdream at 2:39 PM on October 28, 2005


When you get your answer on why people keep paying attention to Ashlee Simpson then please explain to me why people keep paying attention to CNN.
posted by any major dude at 2:41 PM on October 28, 2005


geoff., I'm a PR professional but I don't think this is really a PR issue, its more of an investment issue. It costs alot of money to create a popstar so that, once they have one that makes money and doesn't molest children backstage, they will ride that popstar into the ground, talent and looks be damned.

Don't think of her as a person, think of her as a product. She's got a demographic she's marketed to, messaging, spinoff products and everything. Maybe not a very good product but a product that seems to resonate with some people for some reason (my wife's niece is a fan of Ashlee's in part because of all the negative media attention, she ended up feeling sorry for her).

For my own part, I'd rather listen to rats fornicate than sully my ears with her awful singing and bad music.
posted by fenriq at 2:42 PM on October 28, 2005


My theory is that she's popular because she is so mediocre. She gives hope to the countless non-talented, non-especially-attractive girls out there.

I think that plays a big part in it. Of course, her consumers wouldn't describe it in the same terms, but I think the basic concept has merit.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:54 PM on October 28, 2005


I think the answer you're looking for is marketing synergy.

Nobody has mentioned this yet, but Ashlee is famous largely because of her older sister Jessica. Jessica's career (like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake et al) was decades in the making; many years and many $$$ of dollars were spent by the Simpson family and various record labels and agencies to manufacture Jessica. Ashlee's subsequent rise to prominence is just a "value add." Buy one pop star, get another one free!

A new pop star has to spend many years singing at local shopping malls and opening for other acts before she builds enough recognition (and performing ability) to be ready for prime time. It's both time-consuming and expensive, and for every Britney Spears there are 4 or 5 girls trained and promoted by a record label who fail to catch the public's imagination. They're essentially a wasted investment -- a very expensive investment.

Ashlee on the other hand is a sure thing: she gets a decade's worth of recognition instantly by being related to Jessica. The negative media attention is just proof that she has recognizability; her connection to an establshed star makes her newsworthy despite the lack of talent. Recognizability is more important than talent to both record labels and celebrity magazines -- and much harder to buy.

Britney Spears' sister Jamie Lynn and Lindsey Lohan's sister Aliana are the next examples of "famous by association" celebrity marketing. It's a formula that works, unfortunately.
posted by junkbox at 3:08 PM on October 28, 2005


I think that Ms. Simpson might be in the very early stages of becoming one of those famous-for-being-famous people. It's kind of interesting to watch, from a distance, and provided you can keep the bile down.

As for the secret of her popularity, that's easy, by which I mean it's very difficult--just for starters, one must understand accelerated adolescence (and the broader picture of children as a consumer juggernaut), media consolidation, mass-market culture, the psychology of pop music and the madness of crowds. A good reading list might include Douglas Rushkoff, Ben Bagdikian, Salon's reporting on ClearChannel, Queen Bees and Wannabes and Consuming Kids. But here's the easy version: not only do children and teenagers mostly have terrible lowbrow limited tastes, they also mostly like the same stuff.

And yeah, ludwig and whoever he's agreeing with make a good point. Ashlee is marketed as kind of an anti-Jessica. Pop music fans are presented with a false dilemma, and many of them decide to be Ashlee fans rather than Jessica fans. And it's not hard to see why. While Jessica is blonde and tan and vacuous and self-absorbed and personally-trained and fashion-designed and controlled by poorly-concealed Svengalis, Ashlee, on the other hand, is a brunette.
posted by box at 3:10 PM on October 28, 2005


Fenriq has it right: she's a product, plain and simple. No diffferent than peanut butter M&Ms. She was conceived by people who had a hit product before her (Jessica Simpson) and they simply did it again. So right from the get-go, many doors were open for her, and the money was there to push her thru. So she had a TV show before she had a CD, that built awareness and media exposure, then CD sales followed, and that created more media exposure, and got her on SNL, where she fucked up, and that got her more media exposure, and so on and so on and so on. The cycle ends when the price she demands to perform/record/whatever begins to exceed the money made off of the nimrods who buy her concert tickets/CDs/whatever. Then -- and only then -- do the powers that be release next year's model from the test tube. But as long as she's making money, she'll be the flavor du jour.
posted by spilon at 3:15 PM on October 28, 2005


Ashlee, on the other hand, is a brunette

My soul is dying a little because I have the knowledge to refute this; Miss Ashlee recently bleached herself back out to blonde. Buttlescutt says it's so she can further capitalize on being Jessica's youhger, beakier-nosed sister.
posted by angeline at 3:17 PM on October 28, 2005


Er, I mean younger, not youhger.
posted by angeline at 3:17 PM on October 28, 2005


It's much a form of viral marketing, like ilovebees. Nobody cared about ilovebees until they were told they should, and so on.

Here I think you're confusing awareness of a marketing ploy with the product itself. This distinction is important. ilovebees made you aware of Halo2 (or whatever it was advertising.) But did it actually make you want to buy it? My guess is no. If you bought Halo2, you bought it because you liked it.

A lot of this "she's popular because we're told she is" stuff is based on (what I think) is an incorrect assumption of critical theory: that we're somehow duped into acting against our own interests or preferences by advertising or media. If you'll allow me the indulgence, I'll take you through the assumption.

1 Ashlee Simpson lowers the overall quality of music.
2 Rational people wouldn't buy her CD, or want to lower the quality of music.
3 Large numbers of apparently rational people are buying her CD, lowering the overall quality of music.
4 Therefore, we must be being fooled or controlled somehow.

I think this is mistaken. Music companies started selling Simpson because the public has demonstrated a willingness to buy her music, or the music of those like her. (Making it a pretty safe bet by the music industry.) We started buying her CD's because we were aware of their availability, and like the music. CNN picks up the story because we like Ashlee Simpson, and her face will sell hits, or papers, or ad time.

At root, what I'm saying is that consumers are smarter than critical theory usually gives credit for. Ads and hype fail all the time because the product is stupid. (New Coke, Seguay, etc.) We're aware of these products because they were advertised, but they were never popular.

She's popular and getting attention because we're buying her CD's buy the thousands from Wally-Mart. Advertising to buying to a spot on CNN. We could have nipped her in the bud, so to speak, by not buying her records when they were advertised to us. But we did, so now she's on CNN.

Never blame a conspiracy when a collective action problem explains it so much more simply. The problem isn't the ad industry jamming things down our throat. The problem is that a whole lot of people actually like Ashlee Simpson. A lot of people, even the majority of people, just aren't that cool.
posted by generichuman at 3:29 PM on October 28, 2005 [1 favorite]


It's not that all media companies are well-connected; it's that the media is a actually a very limited oligopoly and each conglomerate is vertically integrated.
posted by klarck at 3:36 PM on October 28, 2005


The problem is that a whole lot of people actually like Ashlee Simpson.

Sure. But they'd have to hear her first to decide they like her -- which means she'd have to get on MTV/SNL/ET/etc. to begin with.
posted by scody at 3:39 PM on October 28, 2005


Sure. But they'd have to hear her first to decide they like her -- which means she'd have to get on MTV/SNL/ET/etc. to begin with.

This is sort of backwards. She wouldn't be on MTV/SNL if they weren't sure that we would. The music industry folks have all sorts of data on what we like to buy. All they do is give us what we want.

But now I think I should stop turning this into some kind of critical theory argument.
posted by generichuman at 3:47 PM on October 28, 2005


her second album sold 227,477 albums sold the first week.

anyone notice the guy on her show, ryan cabrara, and how he just emerged because of that show.
posted by chuckforthought.com at 4:12 PM on October 28, 2005


Ashlee Simpson is a marketer's dream. She's your classic skinny white girl with none of the Britney-trashy overtones and, most importantly, her sister is already a proven product. She's not exactly famous for being famous but she does practically sell herself. She smiles, shakes her skinny ass, and screams out some generic love song and people will eat it up. It's easy money and you'd be a fool to pass it up. And yes, there's a collusion of sorts between the many organizations that make up the media machine. They all salivate over somebody like Ashlee and push her, including CNN, precisely because she's a product that's easy to move. It's not that the PR firms tell the television networks what to do, it's more that they're all eating at the same table. Who benefits the most from celebrity coverage--the celebreties, Hollywood, or the networks? It doesn't really matter. Everybody gets rich and we all go home.
posted by nixerman at 4:52 PM on October 28, 2005


A lot of this "she's popular because we're told she is" stuff is based on (what I think) is an incorrect assumption of critical theory: that we're somehow duped into acting against our own interests or preferences by advertising or media.

On the contrary, I think that's exactly what advertising is designed to do, and does very well in a majority of cases. A previous question explored this.

Sure, you and I might claim to be immune to advertisements, but the fact is - advertising does work, and it works by making us want things we would otherwise not want.
posted by odinsdream at 5:07 PM on October 28, 2005


Another factor in this is that there's a sizeable percentage of the population who likes music that they hear a lot. They like top 40 artists simply because it is played a lot on top 40 radio stations. So getting in the door is very, very valuable.
posted by smackfu at 5:36 PM on October 28, 2005


The problem is that a whole lot of people actually like Ashlee Simpson.

I like Ashlee Simpson. Being in the UK, I know very little about her as a person or a celebrity, but her first album ("Autobiography") is really rather nicely put together. It's not as good as either the Hilary Duff or Lindsay Lohan albums ("Most Wanted", "Speak"), but it's still incredibly competent in the way most "real" bands fail to be. That it required very little involvement from Simpson herself is one of the most intriguing things about it, especially considering the title.

Haven't listened to the second album ("I Am Me") much yet, but am hoping it's just as good.

Signed,
A starlet rock connoisseur

(btw Liking or not liking music based on whether the performer lip syncs on TV is the lamest thing ever)
posted by cillit bang at 7:18 PM on October 28, 2005


"...the economic incentives to keep Ashlee Simpson in place instead of replacing her with another pop idol..."

Simple. Think of her as a piece of industrial machinery. This one's already been bought, paid back the initial investment, and will continue to stamp out cheap plastic widgets (sorry, pop songs...) until it is broken or wears out. Then they'll just buy or build a new one.

The market is built, the product recognition is there, and to re-design all these ancillaries around a new product would be a waste of money while the old product still produces the expected profit.

To finish off, a favourite sig:
"Why anyone should find Ashlee Simpson offensive, while U2 walks the earth, is beyond me."

posted by Pinback at 7:20 PM on October 28, 2005


People have terrible taste. This is why [insert your favourite band] is chronically overlooked.
posted by haqspan at 7:48 PM on October 28, 2005


Short answer: pre-teen girls have short attention spans and are easily swayed by MTV.
posted by gyc at 8:18 PM on October 28, 2005


scody, junkbox, and others have got it. I've got tweenagers, though, so I feel like I can answer a few things that haven't been explicitly stated. Ashlee Simpson has used the Hollywood popularity machine like no one else's business. Riding on the coat tails of her more famous, talented and (drastically) better looking sister, Jessica, and presumably leveraging Jessica's money, she got cast on family-friendly "Seventh Heaven," made appearances on Jessica's reality show, then 'somehow' managed to get a deal where she had her own reality show and a recording contract such that her show could be about the making of her debut album. That way, even though she's the result of a brand (Jessica) getting leveraged into a franchise, she gets pushed as 'girl next door works hard to become famous.' This was quickly followed by appearances in commercials combined with the licensing of her music for commercials plus tons of media appearances.

Also, payola remains a major factor in the radio industry.

Finally, any perceived parallels to American political history in the last decade or two are purely coincidental, I'm sure.
posted by kimota at 11:43 AM on October 29, 2005


To state that she "can't sing" based on just the SNL-goof is, well, stupid. I've seen about one half of an episode of her reality-soap-whatever and that's enough to conclude that she sings perfectly fine.
Her music sucks ass though, I give you that.
posted by mr.marx at 3:09 PM on October 29, 2005


While Jessica is blonde and tan and vacuous and self-absorbed and personally-trained and fashion-designed and controlled by poorly-concealed Svengalis, Ashlee, on the other hand, is a brunette.

Actually she's not even a real brunette. She's a natural blond

This is sort of backwards. She wouldn't be on MTV/SNL if they weren't sure that we would.

That's not true at all. She was on MTV because MTV did a reality show about her 'genesis' as a pop-star. Wouldn't be much point in watching if Ashlee didn't also end up becoming a pop star.

In the end I'd say it's 1 part marketing, one part knowing what people want and selling it to 'em.

I like Ashlee Simpson. Being in the UK, I know very little about her as a person or a celebrity, but her first album ("Autobiography") is really rather nicely put together. It's not as good as either the Hilary Duff or Lindsay Lohan albums ("Most Wanted", "Speak"), but it's still incredibly competent in the way most "real" bands fail to be. That it required very little involvement from Simpson herself is one of the most intriguing things about it, especially considering the title.

While I haven't bought the CD, I've noticed that the singles were catchy. The same with Loh-ho (but not Duff, IMO) Much of the dislike of Ashlee stems not from the music itself but from the packaging. The us 'intellectual elites' are repulsed by the crass marketing that surrounds the product, not the product itself. Nothing wrong with that, IMO. A lot of people would rather see a good singer fill that role. Say what you want about American Idol but at least Kelly Clarkson can actualy sing...

Also, has any one else noticed that she looks almost exactly like Eminem with a wig? The first time I saw her video it was just bizzare. Other people have said this too...
posted by delmoi at 5:07 PM on October 29, 2005


I can't believe somebody called either Simpson sister "talented". But anyway, how do my fellow old farts compare either Simpson sister to, say, the Bay City Rollers or K.C. and the Sunshine Band, cheap popstars of our generation?

I remember as a 15 year old bi boy being really disappointed by Leif Garrett's "singing" once I heard it -- it totally ruined my two-year crush. At least my the boy stars my sister and her friends liked, Shaun and David Cassidy, could carry a bloody tune.

(It's not that I'm at all talented either but then I'm not a product anybody else promotes.)
posted by davy at 6:07 PM on October 29, 2005


Elvis is the Jesus who died so that Ashlee might be famous.

I may be wrong, but I believe that Elvis is the model for this situation. Obviously the King had a fair amount of talent, but I'm willing to give Ashlee the benefit of the doubt and assume some level of talent.

The King, after a very short period of time, became an industry. He had to make the movies, perform in Vegas, record the abysmal, horrible, pain-inducing albums because peoples' livelihood depended on him doing it. Their jobs were to keep Elvis' star burning bright, and he burned bright so that they might have jobs.

Ashlee is no different. People have money riding on her. Until it is obvious people will not pay money for the product that she is, she will appear on magazine covers. Her CD will be on the shelves at Best Buy. She will have a reality television show.
posted by rocketman at 6:56 PM on October 29, 2005


rocketman, my friend, Aslee has a few million light years to go before she's the beginning of a pimple on Elvis' ass.

Just sayin'.
posted by jonmc at 8:34 PM on October 29, 2005


how do my fellow old farts compare either Simpson sister to, say, the Bay City Rollers or K.C. and the Sunshine Band, cheap popstars of our generation?

Well, KC actually played their own instruments and wrote their own crappy songs (as opposed to Bay City Rollers--a group like so many others before and since manufactured for our consumption). I'd compare Ashlee to people like all the Stock/Aiken/Waterman solo people and groups in the 80s--Rick Astley, Kylie, Bananarama, Kim Wilde ?, Samantha Fox ?, ....
posted by amberglow at 8:51 PM on October 29, 2005


I'll throw you a review I wrote last year, regarding the music industry and its research into pop music success. Hope it is of interest:

Oh Astro
Hello World
Illegal Art

Popular music is a complex cultural phenomenon, and the use of digital synthesis as a composition tool for “pop” music is nothing new. But statistical studies, along with requisite computing power and storage increases, now make a peculiarly novel, if roughly conceived kind of “metacomposition” technique possible, adding yet another layer of nuance to the relationship between popular music and its consumers.

Only last year, a Barcelona-based software company, PolyphonicHMI, developed a product called Hit Song Science, analyzing components like tempo, cadence, rhythm, etc. in Billboard chart hits, looking for commonalities. This product now figures into the creation of much of current popular music, to help maximize marketability and unit sales.

Network engineer Loren Wilson developed a project wittily named “Pitchformula”, using Pitchfork reviews of previously released music products as a basis for composing songs that would (in theory, at least) earn equally favorable reviews and sales. Psychoacoustical research at MIT Media Lab has examined cognitive processes involved in listening to pop music, its results leaving many avenues open to the music industry for increased profitability.

Against this backdrop of electronic music’s ever-changing (and arguably more manipulative and insidious) relationship with its listeners, we find Oh Astro née Jane Dowe with her new release Hello World. Her work in 1998 with Terre Thaemlitz on Mille Plateaux (Institutional Collaborative) and solo work on the Illegal Art compilation Deconstructing Beck are formative points for her recontextualization of commercial music: taking apart the politics of copyright infringement, she aims to use digital synthesis to regain control over the relationship between herself as artist, her audience, and the base audio material.

With Hello World, Dowe’s custom software dissects the works of Aesop Rock, Ennio Morricon, Missy Elliot and others, folding sample fragments into various shuffling patterns. These patterns are themselves designed to mimic forms and structures taken from the same sources of popular music, to enhance listenability. In all, collaborator Stefen Robinson (Illegal Art) adds clicks and beats to Dowe’s pieces, lending them a tight and compelling pulse.

Opening with the lively “Everything is Go!” the overall style of Hello World definitely takes inspiration from Thaemlitz’s resynthesis masterpieces Means from an End and Couture Cosmetique, its foundation of waves and echoes of ghostly, fragmented sound framed within Robinson’s glitchy rhythms. “Mizel” is a slinky minimalist affair, stripping Missy Elliot’s soulful croon to a skeleton of bubbly sampling, while the decayed splinters of beatboxing make “All My Favorite” into a funky Prefuse73 remix. Dowe returns to a more Thaemlitz-like style in the aptly titled “Resist”, a scruffy ambient respite, while electronic improviser Hank Hofler (Dowe’s husband) contributes to the closing piece “Circuits Gleam”, a chirpy, colorful work that accentuates the overall simplicity and accessibility of Hello World.

In a seemingly unending process, the growing sophistication of commercial music creation aims to ensure ever-larger sale numbers. So when reclaiming pop music into the public domain becomes a defiant political statement, it is doubly important to make the resulting sound as captivating and enjoyable as the pop being recycled. While it doesn’t hurt that the Oh Astro project starts off with solid source material, Jane Dowe’s Hello World succeeds on its own merits. Highly recommended.

posted by Rothko at 8:56 PM on October 29, 2005


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