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A Musician's Reality

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A Musician's Reality

A Discourse Analysis of the relationship between a musician's public perception and personal reality


Successful American musicians are considered high in social status. Trends in American culture are often set by musicians. Any decisions made by musicians are constantly magnified in the media. There are many social factors which artists have to deal with as a result of their place in society. Constantly, a musician as any other person is always trying to change and discover one's identity. Each musician with the assistance of marketing strategies, publicists, and image consultants displays their identity to the American culture.

This research will attempt to establish and comprehend the relationship between a musician's perception in the media and reality within their personal life. This study examines the concepts of music videos as a persuasive form (Gow, 1993) and film theory and film documentaries are essentially narratives for artists. Music videos continue to be a vital part of creating an artist's image. Film documentaries attempt to develop an artist's image as well. Therefore, my research will try to discover a reality through the comprehensive analysis of two different artist's music videos and film documentaries.

In popular culture there has been a trend of musicians have run across drug use, violence, psychological issues, and other illegal actions. In the past there have been studies on the understanding of celebrities' perception. Musicians are a different type of "celebrity" because they have many different ways to represent and express themselves. Two distinct ways which musicians use in order to present themselves include their music and music videos. Audiences often develop their perception of musicians based on the two. Most recently there has been more a trend to make musicians more intimate with reality shows and film documentaries which attempt to delve into a musician's life. Therefore, I feel a musician's representation is a very unique one and their problems which coincide with their unique social position. This study examines whether there is a pattern in the realities of being a musician. This research will be providing incite for future musicians as they attempt to deal with these unique stresses.

In the music industry often the marketing strategy for record labels consists of catering to our ideals. A recording artist is presented in many different ways to the public as flawless. They have the money to buy anything they want, hang out with other people who can buy anything they want, and they travel all around the world. These are just some of the general concepts that are perceived by fans through media. The structure of the industry is structured in a way so that there is actually someone to make any problems in recording artist's lives appear false or misconstrued. However, this can be negated by direct comments by artists which occur in interviews and documentaries. These duties fall on the shoulders on the publicist also know as the "spin doctor". The publicist is always working to spin negative things with a positive perspective. The publicist's job is very essential in the music industry because image means almost everything to contemporary artists. Music videos are another part of the music industry which promotes a sense of idealism and perfections. Joe Gow discusses the music video as a persuasive form (Gow, 1993). The videos try to persuade audiences that musicians' lifestyles are perfect.

As I have mentioned earlier this study will be extending and connecting existing theories concerning music video analysis, film theory (documentaries) and the celebrity culture in order to decipher a pattern in the stresses of being a musician. The two musicians which I will focus on include Jim Jones and Kurt Cobain. Jim Jones is a well-known rapper in the hip-hop community. He is the leader of the Dipset movement which consists of rappers such as Juelz Santana, Cam'ron, Hell Rell and J.R. Writer. Recently, Jim Jones has come across new found success in the music industry after years of being in the background of the Dipset movement. Jim Jones single "We Fly High" has been one of the biggest hip hop songs this year while he also holds an executive A&R position at Warner Music Group. Kurt Cobain was the lead singer and songwriter of the Seattle-based rock band, Nirvana. Cobain became a national and international celebrity as a result of the band's success. Eventually, Cobain was recognized to have committed suicide with a shotgun in his home.

Cobain's Image

Nirvana's breakthrough single, "Smells like Teen Spirit" which was accompanied with an interesting music video directed by Samuel Bayer. The video begins with a teenage audience sitting in the bleachers. The general ages of the audience give us an example for who his fans are and who he represented. The video takes place in a high school gym. The band is performing center stage on the basketball court for a pep rally. Usually pep rallies don't have bands and usually have the teams out there but Nirvana doesn't follow traditional ways. Nirvana's message appears to be anti-form and anti-structure. The lighting of the court is very dark and it is hard to get a clear view of the lead singer, Kurt Cobain's face. Even though this video doesn't have very many clear shots of Kurt Cobain the video, it still gives him the most camera time. There's a smoke machine which is used lightly throughout the video. The smoke machine seems to be important to creating this mysteriousness about Kurt in this video. There are cheerleaders wearing black outfits with Circle A symbols representing anarchy. The cheerleaders were also waving red pom-poms. These colors add to the dark and grunge image of the video. The presence of the anarchist symbol is to represent the movement of his generation. Noticeably, there is very little if any movement on the part of the audience and Cobain during first verse of song.

During the chorus of the song the energy instantly picks up and the audience starts to move a lot more. Cobain energy increases as well as he begins to move around with some passion added to his performance. At one point the smoke is very heavy as it blocks Cobain momentarily. Flashes of a very old man,



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