Star ImageApplying Richard Dyer’s Star Theory to Pop Stars – 2 Lessons
Question What is the difference between a popperformer and a pop star? Decide this with the person sitting next toyou
Answer Pop Performer – Someone that is known forperforming pop music. Pop Star – Someone who has an identity or personathat is not solely restricted to their music. Can you name some pop stars?
How do people become pop stars? Can you think of ways people can make thattransition from a pop performer to pop star? How did Britney do it?
1. How do you become a pop star? Clever management Well placed news stories Famous boyfriend/Girlfriend Attendance at premiers and parties Features in magazines It is easy to forget about the music in light of loveaffairs and outfits
A true pop star does have a lastingsignificance, and has "brand awareness"amongst a wider market over a period oftime. Many of the so-called pop starspopulating the top forty currently have notmade a sufficient sociological or culturalimpact to be classified as true stars if wereturn to Richard Dyers’ definition. They willbe forgotten by all but their most avid fanswithin a few years.
2. Stars As Constuctions Stars are constructed, artificial images, even if theyare represented as being "real people",experiencing real emotions etc. It helps if their image contains a USP (Unique SellingPoint) — they can be copied and/or parodiedbecause of it. Their representation may be iconic — Madonnasconical bra in the early 1990s, Bonos Flysunglasses, Britneys belly, Justin Biebers hair..
Dyer Proposes that “A star is an image not a real person that isconstructed (as any other aspect of fiction is) out ofa range of materials (eg advertising, magazines etcas well as films [music]).”
Yet that construction process is neither automatic nor fully understood.Record companies think they know about it — but witness the number offailures on their books. TV programmes such as The X Factor show us thesupposed construction process, how an ordinary person is groomed, styledand coached into fulfilling a set of record company and marketexpectations.This is not true stardom, which must happen through acombination of factors. None of them labelled X. Imagine showing us 15 years ago to Simon Cowell! Thats the problem withPop Idol. Theyre auditioning cabaret singers. Its not pop music. Its BatleyVariety Club.” - The Pet Shop Boys, quoted in Q, March 2002 “[Cowell is a] dreadful piece of crap who drags the music business downwhenever he rears his ugly head... Pop stars today have no longevity. Rockn roll is not about singing perfect notes or being a showbiz personality. Itsabout the anger and the angst. I hate what Pop Idol has done to thebusiness.”— Roger Daltrey [of The Who], ibid As a record buying public, we prefer to believe in stars who are their ownand our constructions rather than a transparent offering designed explicitlyto appeal to our blander tastebuds served up by a record companyinterested only in our wallets.
3. Industry and Audience Stars are manufactured by the music industry to serve a purpose — tomake money out of audiences, who respond to various elements of astar persona by buying records and becoming fans. Record companies nurture and shape their stars — as the TV talentshow processes have shown us. They tend to manufacture what theythink audiences want, hence the photocopied nature of many boybands, teen bands etc The record industry also has a duty to provide bands/artists who areperceived as real (for real, maybe read ugly or unpolished) forthese audiences that are bored. Stars can also be created by thisroute. Pop stars, whatever their nature, are quite clearly the product of theirrecord company — and they must be sold.
Dyer Says “Stars are commodities produced and consumed onthe strength of their meanings.”
4. Ideology and Culture Stars represent shared cultural values and attitudes, and promote a certainideology. Audience interest in these values enhances their star quality, and it isthrough conveying beliefs ideas and opinions outside music that performershelp create their star persona. A star may initiate a fashion trend, with legions of fans copying theirhairstyle and clothing. Stars initiate or benefit from cultural discourse (e.g.via their Twitter feed), and create an ongoing critical commentary. Nowmore than ever before, social networks give pop stars the opportunity toestablish their own values outside their music. Lady Gaga tweets frequentlyabout LGBT issues, and expects her Little Monsters to engage with thatdiscourse just as much as she expects them to listen to her music. Stars also provide us with a focal point for our own cultural thinking —particularly to do with Youth & Sexuality.
5. Character and Personality A star begins as a "real" human, possessing gender & racecharacteristics, and existing against a socio-historic background. The star transformation process turns them into a construct, but theconstruct has a foundation in the real. We tend to read them as not-entirely-fictional, as being are very much of their time and culture,the product of a particular generation. Stars provide audiences with a focus for ideas of what people aresupposed to be like (eg for women, thin/beautiful) - they maysupport hegemony by conforming to it (thin/beautiful) or providingdifference (fat/still lovable). Much of the discussion of stars in celebrity magazines is about howstars compare to the current hegemonic ideal, and how we compareto the stars.
Dyer says “In these terms it can be argued that stars are representations ofpersons which reinforce, legitimate or occasionally alter theprevalent preconceptions of what it is to be a human being in thissociety.There is a good deal at stake in such conceptions. On the onehand, our society stresses what makes them like others in the socialgroup/class/gender to which they belong. This individualising stressinvolves a separation of the persons "self" from his/her social"roles", and hence poses the individual against society. On the otherhand society suggests that certain norms of behaviour areappropriate to given groups of people, which many people in suchgroups would now wish to contest (eg the struggles overrepresentation of blacks, women and gays in recent years).Stars areone of the ways in which conceptions of such persons arepromulgated.” Richard Dyer — The Stars (BFI Education 1979)
Pop stars establish their character and personality through songs andperformance and will strive for immediate star identity with a firstalbum. They appear to have control over their persona in that many of themwrite their own songs, and that their body of work develops,chronologically over time, along with society They produce 45-74 minutes of music which gives a clear indication oftheir interests, moods, appetites and lifestyle at a particular point intime; audiences read music=person, and will base their understandingof the stars persona on the sentiments expressed by their songs. This understanding may be very personal and intimate, the starsmusic can infiltrate every corner of a fans life. Albums are continuallyread and re-read as texts think of the 100+ times you might listen to atrack, whereas films tend to be watched once or twice only.
Because a pop stars persona is constructed on the basis of anarrow text, continually re-read and reassessed, this maylead, in many cases, to second album syndrome, when an artistis unable to sustain their persona over a period of time (largelybecause they got rich off the back of the first album and boughtall the houses cars etc theyd ever wanted) and they are unableto create a consistent account of their character and personalityin their second major release. The rootspring of their personathen disappears, or becomes confused. A pop stars persona, therefore, as depicted in terms ofcharacter and personality, is a fragile thing which needsconstant nurturing, and is the product of constant discoursebetween the star and his or her audience.
Your Task 1. Give a Summary of Richard Dyer’s Star Theory applied to popstarts Pick an artist that you believe fits the brief of a pop star. Go through this PowerPoint giving evidence of how they fulfillall of the criteria (there are 5 I have numbered them on theslides.) Present this on your blog with images using a slideshare, prezior however you feel best.