The Daily Grind Video

Stakes are high. Or, at least, they’re higher than ever, if you’re a musician trying to cross the mainstream threshold. Pop and hip-hop’s brightest stars of yesteryear had it easy. After disco became passé and the ’70s folded into the ‘80s, pop and hip-hop were so respectively young that all it took was a catchy hook, some electronic bloops and bleeps and suggestive lyrics to nab a hit. Madonna dressed in a wedding dress at the 1984 MTV Movie Awards.

Small fries.

These days, it isn’t enough to just have a hot song. It’s a prerequisite. The music industry has come to such a flaccid stalemate in this digital age that artists can no longer bank on their music to make their career take flight. Society has evolved (or is it devolved?) into a TMZ world that places as much weight on an artist’s personal life and image as it does the musical product. If a song is catchy enough, then a musician might just have a shot at making it big. But if they’re willing to ramp up their eccentricities and create a shape shifting, unpredictable public image, they’re pretty much as good as gold. A singer in 2010 has to be a package deal, and depending on how one plays the media, they could easily be the next Madonna.

Take Lady Gaga, for example…


Arguably today’s reigning queen of pop, Gaga first entered the New York scene under her government name Stefani Germanotta, playing undercooked singer-songwriter pop to small audiences without any of the accoutrements that define the star she’s become. The songwriting was there, but the image still needed to be developed. And after she signed a deal with Def Jam and was ceremoniously dropped three months later, it was then that she pushed her image into bizarre territory. She quickly learned that style is just as, if not more, important than style, and as Lady Gaga, she created an image that consistently overshadows her music. While her music speaks to an audience that crosses genre divides, her fame breaks even greater boundaries, including race, gender, age, language and beyond.

It’s with Lady Gaga that artistic weirdness has truly been set as the ultimate means to follownan unobstructed path to success. Nicki Minaj is equally, if not more, strange, incorporating her external peculiarities into her actual musi (sure, Gaga might be bizarre as a figure, but her music is pretty straightforward). The Young Money member has basically become hip-hop’s answer to Gaga, taking fashion cues from the ‘Just Dance’ singer but injecting her music with unexpected twists and turns in delivery, where her personality truly shines. What she’s saying isn’t really all that game-changing – it’s how she spits it that consistently turns heads. Not since Slick Rick’s faux British accent been as engaging, and Nicki has become hip-hop’s poster child for conveying that it’s the about the package that gets people talking, not just the music itself.

And the same could be said for artists who once

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