Tag Archives: youth

The Web of Youth, Duran Duran and Justin Timberlake

Youth seems to be the theme of the day for me, as far as writing goes.

Like many, I watched the Super Bowl yesterday. It is the one (American) football game I tend to watch each year. I don’t have the patience to sit and watch a lot of sports, and I certainly don’t design my weekends around who is playing. In that sense, I’m not a fan. Even so, I feel compelled to watch the final championship game each year, whether we go to a party or not. Yesterday, we stayed at home. I’ve been dealing with a sinus infection, or at least a recurring one, for nearly all of winter, so I was happy to have downtime.

I won’t lie, one of the biggest reasons I watch the game each year is the halftime show. Typically, I’m not even a fan of whomever they have playing, but I always watch out of sheer curiosity. Most of the time, the NFL hires someone who has incredibly wide appeal, whether that is Prince, Lady Gaga, Madonna, or even Paul McCartney. They typically do a medley of their hits because, with just about ten minutes (give or take), there’s not much else that makes sense. Invariably, people complain. That doesn’t really change from year to year, no matter what.

This year, it was Justin Timberlake taking center field, and not even he could escape the virtual “spin cycle” of justice found on social media. There was drama surrounding the proposed use of Prince’s hologram—regardless of where you sit on the debate—was shot down prior to show time. Instead, there was a giant, larger than life projection of Prince onto a piece of fabric as a tribute, and the lights outside of the stadium appeared to turn purple and morph into the design of Prince’s one time logo/name. I say “appeared” because there is apparently much debate over whether or not it really happened or was just the magic of TV.  I don’t honestly care.

While watching his performance though, one thing became crystal clear: Justin, now a father, is no longer a kid himself…and he seeks the same youthful image as every other band and artist out there. While a reasonably large portion of his fan base is in my age range, the “fans” he had surrounding the stage were as youthful as they get. 20-somethings, full of energy, happiness, and style, similar to the odd camouflage-design stage costume Justin wore, likely in a nod to his upcoming album*, “Man of the Woods”.  Even with all of that, youth matters to this industry.

My point isn’t to critique his use of a planted audience (they ALL do it), or to talk about his backing track. I don’t care about any of that because these days – it is more commonplace than not, particularly on live TV. I’m far more critical, if that is really indeed the right word for it, of the industry standards themselves.

At 37, Justin is far from the fresh-faced, curly-haired kid in N*Sync.  His solo career has done what many might have believed impossible, spanning generations of listeners. Even so, Justin finds himself in the undeniably difficult space of trying to connect with a younger audience in order to create buzz for his upcoming album.

As my husband and I watched last night, Justin ran up into the stadium itself to dance and revel with fans during the few final moments of his halftime performance. Mixed in with the sea of white males was one 13-year old kid named Ryan, who is young enough for braces to be on his teeth. Justin posed for a selfie with him, and social media did its work. Today, and even last night, memes of this kid looking at his phone and appearing “unimpressed” by Justin are all across social media, proclaiming that yeah, even Justin Timberlake has gotten to the point where today’s youth don’t know who he is.

Here’s the thing: Ryan knew who Justin Timberlake was. He was probably as shell-shocked as I might have been to be picked out of a crowd. He probably doesn’t know much about N*Sync or even a lot of Justin’s songs, but that doesn’t really matter.

You know what matters? The same thing that my husband and I commented on last night. Out of all of the fans in that crowd, Justin ran up to a kid. Sure, he did it because: A. Kids are cute and B. That kid was the only one around. But he also did it because like it or not, Justin Timberlake is a shrewd businessman. If you’re gonna stop and take a photo with someone, may as well be the kid who is most likely to buy your music. That’s not a slam against Justin. It’s reality. The industry says that it is kids like Ryan who buy the music, who decide which albums make it big, and which will ultimately be albums that only the hardest-core fan base will remember and embrace. Ryan took a selfie with Justin Timberlake, and that selfie went viral. With one well-timed photo opp,  Justin is now likable, accessible, and interesting to a brand new generation of listeners and music-buyers. Bingo.

Is it really just the youth that matter? I’m not sure. Here I sit as a 47-year old that still buys as many concert tickets as she can get away with to see the same band that she’s loved since she was a pre-teen. I’m not the only crazy person out there with multiple copies of Paper Gods, All You Need is Now or even Red Carpet Massacre and Astronaut.  I hardly think I’m the gold standard “fan” that the industry wants to think about. In turn, I’m also not the fan that the band wants to brag about – at least not business-wise. It’s frustrating on one hand as a long time fan and now blogger, and yet completely understandable on the other. But anyone who thinks it is only Duran Duran having to adjust their appeal to a younger audience need look no further than Justin Timberlake.

I suspect that at the very heart of it all, once we are past the dollars and cents, the spreadsheets and profit/loss statements, the constant pressure to appeal to younger and younger audiences must be maddening.

 

-R

*As it turns out, his album was released February 2nd. I’m a few days (and several dollars) short. Sorry about that. 😀

You caught me in your web of youth: Those young Duranies

January 11th has got to be one of the most boring days on the Duran Duran history calendar, I swear. There are only three items of interest on this date, one of them being that they performed at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta in 1989.  That would have been during the Big Thing tour, I believe. Let us know if you were there!

As I was typing this, I thought of my friend Michael, who I believe is from the outskirts of Atlanta (or else I’m really getting this screwed up, in which case I still implore you all to stick with me…there really is a point, I promise!) Then I thought about the year 1989. I’m thinking Michael wasn’t even born yet…which blows my mind, to be honest.

You see, Michael is about one of the coolest Duranies I’ve met. It isn’t that he’s a rock star, or that he knows Roger Taylor personally, or that he’s a distant relative to Andy Taylor (none of which is true, at least that I’m aware of…), it is that Michael is young. By young, I don’t just mean younger than me. I mean that Michael is only two years older than my oldest! He’s YOUNG. And he’s a Duranie.

(and he put up with Amanda and I in Las Vegas, which probably should earn him some sort of medal)

Now, I don’t mean to pick on Michael, by now he’s probably reading this and wondering why on earth I had to go picking on him today, but it is people like my friend Michael that still give me great hope. He flew across the country to go to the show in Las Vegas, he hung out with some really great people (Amanda and I aside, the group he hung with were wonderful), and he really loves Duran Duran. I can’t even get my oldest to listen to Duran Duran.

Well, that’s not really true. She hears them while shopping, or even in the gym, and texts me things like

“IT IS A CURSE!”

“DO YOU PAY THEM TO FOLLOW ME?”

“I AM GOING TO HEAR THEM WHEN YOU DIE AND THEN WHAT, MOM??”

The thing is, I love that Michael found Duran Duran. And I’m really thankful he came to our Daily Duranie party. I love that there are young people who love the same band I grew up listening to, and that despite our obvious range in ages, we have this band in common. How cool is that?

Often, I’ll see younger fans post on Tumblr or even Twitter, and invariably, some older “get off my lawn” type of fan (basically someone like me, I guess!) will shoot them down and destroy their dreams in a single response.  Sometimes warranted, other times, it is just inhospitable. Sure, we’re all different. Times and music have changed. Yet, if we stop to think for a moment, we do have that band in common. It is the music between us.

Yep, on this date in 1989, Duran Duran played the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, and that was way before my friend Michael was a twinkle in his mom’s eye…little did we all know the best was yet to come in the decades ahead, right?

-R

Come on you know you’re not so young

Is it just me or has everyone been seeing the pictures on Instagram, and Twitter that have various young people modeling Duran merch?

I’m not posting them here, but you can easily find them here, here and here on Duran Duran’s Instagram page

The first time I saw one, I scrolled past and didn’t think twice. It was only later on when  one of my friends mentioned the “youngsters” that I thought to myself, “Yeah, that kid was pretty young, wasn’t he?”  

Then later, I saw another comment. This time on DD’s Instagram page, congratulating them on the “diversity of the models.” Truthfully, I hadn’t noticed. I just made a mental note, and went on about my weekend.

Later on, I noticed a few other comments that caught my eye. Most  had to do with the age of the models in the photos, as opposed to the assumed age of their fan base. These weren’t congratulatory in tone, either.

First of all, I don’t think anyone would argue that the models in the pictures are young – regardless of what kind of “link” there might be from the models to the band. Secondly, to the best of my knowledge from what I’ve noticed at the Duran shows I’ve attended, the average age of their fan base is significantly older than what is represented in those photos.

Ideally, the band wants to be relevant to a wide range of ages. We’ve written about that at length on this blog, and while I want to be fair to those, such as myself, who have been around for decades – I also get dollars and cents. The wider age range of people who like them, the more is going to get sold. It’s really that easy. On the same token, I’ve been to just shy of fifty shows now, (I know that many have been to far more, and I salute you.) and lately I have paid significant attention to the age and gender of the audience.

Their audience for their live shows is still predominantly female, although there are definitely men in attendance. That doesn’t mean there are NO men present – it means there are simply fewer.  As for age, I do think it runs the gamut now that you’ve got parents taking the second (and sometimes even third) generations to see Duran Duran, but overall, in the vast majority of cases, we’re all kidding ourselves if we really believe that teenagers are beginning to take over the fan base at their shows. I can’t tell you who is quietly buying their albums and never saying a word about it online, but I know what the average Duran Duran concert-going fan looks like.

They look like me. And probably YOU, too. 

So, back to those disparaging comments. There seems to be a lack of understanding of why management would choose to advertise the band’s merchandise using young people rather than people who accurately represent the age of their fan base. I get their feelings, and part of me does agree. But then, I say the same thing about ALL clothing ads. Or make-up ads. Or anything else. Everything is marketed for that beautifully golden demographic of which I am no longer part. It’s a miracle I buy anything at all, really.

I have a difficult time stomaching the idea that I’m over the age of 45 now and am being thrown out to pasture by the marketing geniuses of this world. I also can’t blame them, exactly. Don’t get me wrong, I’d LIKE to blame someone. Really, I would. But truly, is the band doing anything wrong by having young kids wearing their band merch? I’d love to look and feel young and vibrant, wouldn’t you?

Maybe that’s the point. Maybe it’s not about the demographic at all.  Instead, maybe it’s the feeling we get when we go to a DD show or put on our favorite Paper Gods hoodie?  Sure it’s total spin on my part, but at least it’s positive!

I’d just rather not spend the time I devote to the one thing that makes me happiest (outside of my children and dog, that is) by tearing them apart for a marketing choice. Yep, this is kind of a new thing for me. I’m not saying I’ll ignore EVERY thing they do that I don’t love, but this time – they’re getting a pass. Yeah sure, I wish they’d have real fans wearing their stuff….but maybe those kids really are. I don’t know.  On the same token, I also know the overall imagery works a lot better with young, beautiful, energetic kids wearing it, like it or not. Who wants to see me, my bifocals and my 46-year old body in a hoodie? Probably no one. I get it.

The reality is, we all know who their fans are. We know who goes to the shows, listens to their music, and buys the VIP tickets. It’s not typically someone like my oldest – who occasionally swipes my vintage Wild Boys t-shirt and wears it to school. Sure, there are exceptions out there. But on average? It’s me. And you.

And you know, maybe you’re kind and invite the kids and spouse/significant other to come with you every once in a while and share your joy. And that’s cool, because that’s how this whole fan thing works…as long as they know to get the hell out of your way once the band hits the stage, right?

-R

 

In the Self-Obsession Age: Are We Really Oldies?

A few weeks back, a friend of mine sent me a link to a contest for Duran Duran tickets in Washington DC.  At the time, I glanced at her note briefly, and then saved it for later when I had more time. As I looked at it later, two things caught my interest: one, it was a radio call-in contest, and two, the radio station is located here in the greater LA area.

I have a clean record when it comes to radio contests. I haven’t won a single one. Now, I can say that with a chuckle because it’s true, and because I don’t dare take them seriously.  I don’t have hours to listen to the radio each day, and I definitely don’t have time to continuously speed dial, so they’re hit or miss with me. So while it is true that I haven’t won, I also haven’t tried that often!

Mostly, I thought it was interesting that an LA radio station had a contest for Duran Duran tickets to a show that is being held on the other side of the country. I don’t know if this contest included airfare, but I believe it may have. Not a bad deal.  As I looked closer at the contest and thought about the station hosting it though, I started wondering why this particular station was involved.

The station was K-EARTH 101, and as I understand it, they’re one station of an entire group of them from coast to coast. That makes more sense. What threw me initially though, was that I have always known K-EARTH to be an Oldies station.

I realize the term “oldies” can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. In my head, when I say “oldies”, I mean that it’s music my parents listened to. In fact, my mom still has the station programmed as a pre-set in her car stereo.

So then I wondered why on earth (ha!) this station would be having a contest for DD tickets. I mean, it would make no sense, right??  I thought about that for a bit and then something took my attention away until my mom came over last week for Thanksgiving.  She and I were talking, and she gleefully told me that she’d heard about those Duran Duran tickets on K-EARTH. When I mentioned my puzzlement about that stations listeners and why they’d give away Duran Duran tickets on an oldies station, she stopped, looked at me, and smiled. “Why Rhonda, they play your music on that station! They play Duran Duran. I heard Rio the other day!”

After I picked up my head from the table, I openly cringed. Does this really mean what I think it means, I thought to myself. No way!!!  It was an ego-crushing moment, and whats more, I think my mother enjoyed watching my reaction!

So today I did some research on K-EARTH. I needed to know what was going on there, because the last I’d checked, they were playing anything from Elvis Presley to 70’s era Elton John, and the world was happy. Could it really be that oldies now means…well…I can’t even type it. So I went to the internet (because everything you read on the internet must be true, right?). Turns out, K-EARTH has slowly been evolving their format from 50s-60s to 70s-80s, and now people are noticing they are even playing 90s music, and a lot less of the 50s and 60s. And I’ve just been sitting here, happily ignoring progress!

What’s more, one of the blogs I read on the station explained that the “mean audience” for K-EARTH was about ten when Reagan was elected.

That is me. I was actually nine, but I turned ten later that same year.

I was all set to write a blog about how I am not really sure Duran Duran really understands their audience, because on one hand – they are playing all of these festivals to appeal to a younger crowd, but on the other hand they’re offering tickets on an oldies radio station, never ONCE considering that I may in fact be one of the “oldies” to which they are appealing!  It’s been a rough morning.

The fact is, I knew this was happening. I know that in the past they’ve had promotional contests on other stations that I thought seemed a little out of their demographic, only to find out later that no, it’s that I’m still insisting I’m in my 20s when I’m really not. It’s just a brutal truth, and the first person that points out that age is but a number is liable to get punched in the nose.

So instead of the blog I had intended to write, I’m lamenting my age and questioning how this happened. I don’t think I’m particularly vain, until it comes to music, obviously.  I don’t listen to K-EARTH, obviously. I still listen to healthy doses of KROQ, sometimes JACK-FM because they don’t follow “rules” and I can hear anything from AC/DC to Michael Jackson in a single sitting, and even Star 98.7 in slightly smaller chunks of time. But K-EARTH? Good Lord no. They play oldies!

Somehow, I suspect my children say the same thing. About my music.

To round out this happy little blog post, I have to wonder how the band must feel. On one hand, they’re trying their best to get that younger audience, and I still say that at some moments – they do it at the expense of the audience they’ve always had.  But on the other hand, they’re considered an oldies act. Most of their biggest hits are from nearly 40 years ago now. Yet, they have music that is nearly brand new, and its style is current. The more “nostalgic” radio stations have formats that won’t accommodate their new music, and the more current stations won’t play the band because they’re played on those oldies stations. It’s a quandary, and it is one reason why many of us have not heard music from Paper Gods get air time.

In the meantime, I am going to sit back and attempt to come to grips with my place in this world…likely by watching a few Duran Duran videos.

-R