García Canclini concludes his chapter on “Identities as a Multimedia Spectacle” with the definition, “Identity is theater and politics, performance and action” (96). He gives a performative example of how a commodity loses its commercial phase and becomes appropriated into unintended phase. He describes, “the song produced for exclusively aesthetic reasons, which, once it is recorded, attains mass appeal and profits. Then it is appropriated and modified by a political movement and becomes a resource of identification and collective mobilization” (47). We discussed in class how the hip-hop culture could appropriate material goods, but Canclini’s example looks at how a musical group, culture, or specifically a song can be appropriated itself. Outside of politics, I want to explore some current examples of music appropriations. The musical theater song “Feeling Good,” which originally appeared in the stage show The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, has now become a weight-loss mantra. Weight Watchers has hawked songstress Jennifer Hudson, following in the footsteps of Nina Simone and Michael Bublé, to belt out the jazz standard as a response to her inner emotions as a result of her weight loss. The song itself becomes an appropriated commodity, taken from the stage and from the records to the advertisement and into the consumers’ mind. Hearing Ms. Hudson singing that song, or any current soulful rendition of the song, elicits a response in the consumer to make a connection to weight loss, body self-confidence, or Weight Watchers. The immaterial song gains new meaning in this new context, and its aesthetic values are overshadowed by the message it’s conveying. Weight Watchers appropriated the song to speak to a weight and body conscious consumer who will align with this appropriation and embrace this song as an empowering anthem.

An ingenious way of how the weak are currently making use of the strong is currently seen in the appropriation of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” Rejecting the “date-rapey” vibe of the song, feminist producers became prosumers to produce parody versions of the music video.  The parodies vary: one keeps the same lyrics but reverses the gender roles, one changes the lyrics to speak to gender roles on a more direct level, and another has drag queens remixing the original song into a new piece about Amanda Bynes. These videos speak to Canclini’s idea of identity as performance and action. As consumers, the participants in these parodies use appropriation to create a theatrical music performance that creates new meaning to add to the original content. Not for commercial gain, these “secondary productions” (de Certaeu) reject and remix the intended values and meanings of the original piece. They demonstrate the activeness of the music consumer and the power of the music platform to create a dynamic and expressive appropriation.

 The OTHER star of that 'Blurred Lines' video

Lastly, and most directly related to material consumption, Buzzfeed explored how Justin Timberlake was trying to sell a “Suit and Tie” lifestyle to a “Thrift Shop” world. Justin Timberlake establishes himself as a luxury brand by diametrically opposing the indie, thrifty lifestyle projected by Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop.” Macklemore manages to appropriate Salvation Army and thrift store shopping. His song celebrates the hunt for fashion and the distinctiveness of thrifting. The article explains, “Timberlake is nudging the listener to aspire to his A-lister lifestyle, Macklemore is encouraging them to feel good about themselves despite their economic circumstances, and to define their style in their own idiosyncratic ways rather than adhere to a stuffy, rigid notion of style designed to keep out the riffraff.” These songs epitomize Canclini’s view on commodities gaining meaning beyond their commercial value. These songs appropriate material goods to become a commercial product, in terms of a sellable and downloadable song, but then the songs themselves become appropriated in the larger social setting to represent the meanings, lifestyles, ideas, and values of the con- and pro-sumers.

Justin Timberlake and Macklemore lead the 2013 Video Music Award nominees

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