Since the inception of popular music, the concept of a “fanbase” has come with the territory. It’s human nature to defend what one loves, and art is known for the intense emotion it evokes. Videos of fans screaming and crying when the Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show or thousands upon thousands of fans chanting and screaming outside Michael Jackson’s hotel rooms just at the hope of catching a glimpse of the King of Pop are commonly shown as examples of the passion these groups can have. The truth of the matter is, the bigger the act, the more intense the fan base is. In this day and age, though, record sales and concert attendance are hardly the only ways to measure the intensity of a fanbase. The internet has magnified the “situation” to borderline unhealthy levels. It’s not even just fan forums and message boards anymore, it’s social media (Facebook, and especially Twitter.) Not only do fans from all over the world have the ability to come together, they can go public with their mob mentality and even interact with their idols. Whereas at many points in time there have been friendly competitions and chart races (some of them even not so friendly,) it has usually been contained to the artists themselves. That is no longer the case, however, as the fans are the ones actually driving the chaos, while the artists and (most sadly) the music are being dragged along for the ride.
Right now we are in the middle of an intense battle, and it is one for the ages. When Katy Perry’s “Roar” was released, it was a “face value” situation. We had the song, we had our reactions, and the rest was up to whether or not people were willing to dish out the money to buy it. However, within 24 hours, everything changed. Lady Gaga declared a “pop emergency” after her new single “Applause” was leaked with just a week left to spare, forcing her to go ahead with the official release ahead of schedule. As far as A-List female pop stars go, at the moment there’s Rihanna (who is thankfully out of the mix,) Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga. Their fan bases are intense and notorious for defending their idols, and they almost always lack the ability to view any related situation from an unbiased vantage. Despite what many would stereotype, the truth is that these two ladies don’t have a great deal of overlap in their respective “die hard” level of their fans. What started out as a pop competition to almost mock (I sure did,) has become one that’s actually worth analyzing. It’s easy to take the songs from an objective level and see that “Roar” is rather abysmal and “Applause” is uninspired, but passable, but that’s not what reality will dictate. Critiquing music very rarely has anything to do with success, and while that can be a hard pill to swallow, it’s just how it goes.
The situation at this point in time is this: “Roar” is outselling “Applause” 2-1, and the fans (on both sides) have lost their minds. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that lumping people together and making blanket statements about their behavior is both inappropriate and, most times, inaccurate. Both artists have millions upon millions of fans, all of whom are living, breathing, unique beings. The “fans” I am referring to is the result of the mob mentality I referred to earlier. It’s about this grand being that comes out of the mix that unfortunately defines the fanbase. The same thing happens with sports teams, political parties, religions, and any group one can be affiliated with. Clearly, the claims made don’t apply to everyone, and I want to make it perfectly clear how that is not my intent. Nevertheless, the general reaction from the fanbases has been astonishing. The level of anger, desperation, taunting, and general lack of reality is quite interesting from an outside perspective. This kind of intense emotion has been around for decades, but never has there been quite such a public outlet for it. We’ve seen the “Beliebers” and the “Directioners” in action many a time, but that’s all done with music that never really has the potential to really matter. Katy and Gaga actually have songs in their catalogs that are quite good, so this whole thing is on a different level.
In any other situation, both songs would be considered to be performing incredibly well. Both “Roar” and “Applause” are putting up excellent opening week sales figures that would only ever be compared in passing at some point in time by analysts. Instead, and literally only because they’re going up against each other, there have been daily updates, leading to heightened hysteria on both ends. Quite frankly, and I really want to make this point clear, sales and chart positions are important, but they are by no means a gauge for an artist’s success. That can only be found in what the actual art is! “Applause” is certainly not Lady Gaga’s best work, but it’s light years ahead of “Roar” in terms are integrity, ingenuity, and all around musical worth. “Roar” is a terrible song, and almost anyone who objectively looks at music can decipher that. The public isn’t made up of music critics, though. To make an analogy, foodies the world over can recommend great restaurants to visit and amazing chefs to admire, but McDonald’s is always going to have more of a draw with the public. Why? Because it’s easy, mindless, affordable, and familiar. There’s nothing challenging about Mickey D’s, and you have to admire their corporate structure and marketing strategies. Not that Lady Gaga is Wolfgang Puck and Katy Perry is Ronald McDonald, but you can see what I’m saying. It’s no surprise to me that “Roar” is running circles around “Applause;” it was always going to. The song is terrible, but it has everything you’d ever need to ensure yourself a big hit. Lady Gaga presented something that radio would have to be convinced to take a bite of first, and they rarely have the time for that. So yes, from a commercial vantage, Katy Perry pisses all over Gaga with this one.
With that said, though, it’s not as if “Applause” is a flop. Let’s not lose our heads here! The song is still on track to be one of the biggest hits of 2013, and clearly has a great deal of life left in it! Still, that’s not what is ever going to determine the actual success of the song. Sales and numbers and stats and figures… it’s all just mumbo jumbo. Sometimes, in the case of “Get Lucky” and “Blurred Lines” this year, it’s justification for a great song, but other times, it’s just about what bland flavor the public is willing to stock up on at that moment. So what really are the implications of this chart battle for the artists? Pretty much nothing. “Roar” can sell hundreds of millions of copies and spend the next year and a half at #1 if it wants, it’s not going to magically turn it into a good song. No, it’s still going to suck! Conversely, “Applause” isn’t going to turn into a pile of dog shit that everyone has to step around. It’s going to remain the passable track that it is. The fanbases just can’t seem to get a grasp on that concept, though. It’s almost coming across as if there would be no reason for them to remain fans if the music wasn’t sitting above the rest on the charts. To me, that is a repulsive concept. Everyone has artists that they love, root for, and want to see succeed; I’m the first to cheer when a band or musician I like has a hit record. What does it really matter, though? The truth is that it doesn’t. Good music will always be good music! It may be coming off as harsh, but “Roar” is the farthest thing from good music. It’s not an attack on Katy Perry nor her fans; it just happens to be what the song is. “Applause” is just a step above mediocre, and will always be that way. Sure, it sounds genius in comparison to its competitor, but they’re only being compared because of timing!
It’s unfortunate just how evident it is that the “Little Monsters” and “Katy Cats” are fixated on the success of their respective idols instead of the quality of their output. Quite frankly, neither fanbase should particularly be all that happy right now. Katy Perry gave her fans an empty promise of something new and exciting, and instead presented a track hardly worthy of being a b-side to overhyped Teenage Dream album. Lady Gaga presented a “business as usual” song that just doesn’t quite live up to the excitement of its predecessors. It’s almost as though that doesn’t matter, and the worth of each song can only be determined by beating the other. Fans are always going to have a distorted vision of the tracks their beloved artist release, and there’s nothing wrong with that to some extent. Completely disregarding the quality, though, is really just disrespectful to what it all boils down to in the end: the music. There are plenty of artists out there running circles around Katy and Gaga, musically, that will never have a top-10 hit for the entirety of their careers, but it doesn’t make the music bad. All of this back and forth banter between these two fanbases is really just a distraction from the fact that these two songs should really be written off as “pop fodder,” one much more so than the other. So what’s the truth about Pop War ’13? Well that’s really quite easily to answer (are you ready?) The truth is that if you choose to get caught up in it, then I suggest you get a grip on reality, snap out of it, and get a life. IT DOESN’T MATTER.