The stigma of a “Fan Girl”

How do we define a good musician? There are too many opinions, too many genres, too many experiences, too many interpretations, too many feelings, in the world for us to be able to fully establish what can be defined as ‘good’ music. Art is subjective, that much is accepted. The strange side of this accepted fact, is that it seems we can still define what can be classified as ‘bad’ music. Names of those that have had to deal with this label, who spontaneously fall into my head now include: Justin Bieber, One Direction, Mcfly, Little Mix, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift – the list could go on for a while. I imagine that some readers already have a mental recoil at having to take in so many of these names at once.

My argument is a simple one. These artists are discredited because, although they have unprecedented success, it is a success which is fueled by a young female audience. Young women from the age of twelve to eighteen, are labelled as “insane”, “screaming” girls, who aren’t capable of reigning in their hormones. It seems peculiar that in an era where we are finally beginning to embrace representation and acceptance of all differences in the music industry, this stigma reveals no signs of disappearing any time soon. To say an artist with a female audience is not a “real musician” unworthy of any success, is to invalidate the opinion and views of the millions of girls whom they inspire.

Arguably, there is an element of hysteria to the life of a ‘fangirl’, a term which in itself accurately embodies the condescendence to which I am referring. It is the expression of a love for something in excess. However, two questions arise from this observation. Firstly, why the need to criticise it? The fact that girls are able to experience so much love for a particular music which comforts and unites them, ought to be celebrated. Particularly amidst the weight of so many other social pressures they are persistently confronted with. Secondly, is it only these young women who are capable of extreme enthusiasm? Because when I have to squeeze onto a crowded subway, packed with men and women whose faces our plastered with flags, ready to pour into a football stadium two pints down, it seems not. Ironically (and at the risk of making a generalisation) these are the very same people who would criticise a fifteen-year-old for wearing a flower crown as bright as her smile, as she enters the concert she has spent the last year looking forward to.

The most bizarre aspect underlying this hypocrisy, is that young women make for an incredibly powerful force behind any musician. A more committed audience does not exist. Take the Beatles; today anyone from the age of twelve to eighty, can claim to be a fan of their music and receive a respectful nod in response. Yet back in the 1960s, who was responsible for ‘Beatlemania’? Young women. Thousands of young women, who, as one critic portrays it, were viewed as ‘mindless, “pitiable victims”, hypnotised by their grotesque idols.’[1] Are we to still apply this description to their fans today? It seems unlikely.

Is the ‘Bieber Fever’ of 2010, or the ‘One Direction Infection’ a few years later, not the equivalent of ‘Beatlemania’? If history is anything to go by, their records will happily be received by an entirely new audience in fifty years’ time. In the case of Bieber, this change has already taken place (also to be accredited to a successful shift in branding). If we look at One Direction however, the negative connotation continues to be present. Despite this, their fans form an incredibly dedicated and cohesive group. One only needs to look at the figures; from breaking chart records set by the Beatles,[2] to the impressive figures of ‘Project No Control’ in which their self-release of a single rose its sales by 1, 674% and placed it #1 on the Billboard charts.[3]

To observe this information, and yet continue to claim that these do not represent “true” musicians, is the equivalent of announcing that it’s not raining just because you are holding an umbrella. Masses of people across the world have identified that these musicians can sing and can perform. Consequently, it should not matter who these people are. Their music taste deserves the same respect as everyone else. That is why we have music, to celebrate and define ourselves in all of our diversity.

 

 

 

[1] André Millard. Beatlemania: Technology, Business, and Teen Culture in Cold War America (JHU Press: 2012)

[2] http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/6745031/one-direction-beatles-record-fifth-top-10-debut-hot-100

[3] http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/6575675/one-direction-no-control-twitter-top-tracks

 

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