Sometimes, comments we receive on this blog get me thinking. Last weekend, I posted a blog about how much hatred there still is surrounding Duran Duran. Rhonda and I have blogged a lot about why there was/is so much stigma against Duran Duran. In a nutshell, the fact that they had a lot of teenage female fans hurt them in terms of getting creditability with the music press. The assumption was/is that if a band is liked by a lot of little girls they cannot be quality. Little girls only like bands because they find the members cute, right? Of course not, but too many people believe this to be true, even today.
The comment we received last weekend, if I understood it correctly, blamed the band on the stigma they have. The belief was that they had done something wrong to get this poor reputation. As I moved through the week, I continued to think about this. Did Duran Duran do something wrong through their career, in terms of female fans? Should they do something different now as a result?
Duran Duran decided to allow the teen media to cover them. John Taylor discussed this very fact in his autobiography. He mentioned that he even brought up the subject of going to the teen press in order to get coverage. “And so began a love affair with the British teen press, a courtship that would last years and trigger a level and type of fame that none of us had intended or could ever have expected.” (Taylor page 153) Clearly, John believes that this decision to appeal to the teen press led to fame. I’m willing to bet that most of us agree with him. Teenagers significantly helped create Duran’s incredible fame and popularity.
What if they decided to avoid that press? Is it possible that Duran would have received more critical acclaim? Sure. I guess that is possible. Could it be that the band would not have ever reached the fame they did, if they avoided that area? That could be. After all, the only reason that I’m here now, three plus decades later, is because Duran Duran was covered by the teen press. I was a female kid who got into them during that time. How can I reject that?
Is critical acclaim more important than being popular? That’s a tough question for any artist. Is the goal of artists to be deemed fabulous by critics? Is that the goal? Why do artists produce their art? If I had to come up with a reason, I would argue that artists need to make art. They need to create. Yes, I’m sure that most would like to make money to do that. Don’t we all want to make money for doing what we love? Artists, though, in my experience, have a motivation to create that goes beyond making a career. The act of creation is almost a need, a physical need. I remember when my mom was undergoing treatment for cancer. One aspect that bothered her the most was that her energy level would not let her work on her art.
If this is the case that artists need to create, I don’t know that critical acclaim matters the most to them. I think the goal is to get that acclaim or press or whatever just to get the art out there. Yes, ideally, they want to make money to do art for a living. John knew that the press was essential to being a successful band. While, yes, this decision resulted in criticism and ridicule, it also worked to spread their music all over the world so that people like me could hear them and become fans.
What is the solution then? Is it to reject this decision or reject those teenage female fans? I don’t think so. I don’t think the right move is to blame the band for this decision. Likewise, I don’t think the right move is to REALLY embrace male fans while ignoring the female fans (although we all acknowledge that there were and are many dedicated male fans). No, I believe the best course of action is to push back on the myth. “What’s wrong with having a lot of female fans? You don’t think that female fans can determine quality music? Are you saying that only male fans should count?” Make the sexism clear. After all, isn’t that what this debate is really all about?