Friday, December 21, 2012

20 kids are dead...but at least Taylor Swift has a fragrance.

I run a high risk here of having this post deteriorate into one of those pathetic excuses for intelligent discourse that goes, more or less, "If a country can put a man on the moon, then why can't it....?" (That kind of pseudo-reasoning was common when I was a young man, even though it massively oversimplifies the mechanisms of life and pointedly ignores the fact that few discrete realms lend themselves to an apples-to-apples comparison.) So if I seem to be drifting in that direction, please stop me.

It's just that, I opened my morning paper today, looking for some last-minute gifts, and I was struck by the fact that lightweight songbird Taylor Swift apparently has her own perfume line. I don't know why this surprised me, but it did. (It is called, no less, Wonderstruck, as shown. So I guess you could say I was actually not just struck, but wonderstruck.) What, I asked myself, is the appeal of a Taylor Swift fragrance, no matter how good it smells? Is it just that her legions of young fans want to be as intimately connected to her, to share as much in the Total Taylor Experience, as possible? ("Well, at least I can smell like her..." Though I question whether Taylor herself wears Wonderstruck.) I don't mean to pick on poor Ms. Swift, for I now note that Justin Bieber also has his own cologne line (wistfully/longingly called Someday); in fact I'm fairly sure that anybody who's anybody has a fragrance line. Even Derek Jeter has Driven, which doesn't smell half-bad, though I detect no particular shortstop undertones.

So where am I going with this, and why the seemingly gratuitous allusion to Sandy Hook? It's just...the things we focus on and micro-engineer in this society, while all around us life seemingly spins out of control! (See? I am edging toward the "man on the moon" argument.) Calvin Coolidge famously said "the business of America is business," and I suppose he's right. To what end, though? To simply create more business and more profit and then still more business and still more profit in a never-ending cycle of bottom-line-mania? So when a young girl with a nice set of pipes catches fire, she and her countless professional handlers immediately set about the task of maximizing the returns on her sudden celebrity. Perfumes, clothing lines, even brands of toilet tissue (for all I know) are created to capitalize on her marketing magnetism. She becomes an industry unto herself. Until she flames out and the next Taylor Swift comes along.

I think of all the thought and money and planning that goes into the packaging of each Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber or Derek Jeter profit centerthe money that goes into the design of the next knock-your-socks-off Jag-you-are or the next blow-your-ears-off home-theater experienceand I ask myself, What if we put even 5% of that ingenuity and energy into curing the major social ills that plague this nation? I ask myself, What if Wall Street spent a bit less time thinking up impenetrable new derivatives with which to further enrich itself, and a bit more time thinking of how to be of service to Mankind? What if we were less driven to generate profits and more driven to solve problems?

Is it crazy to think that a Taylor Swift might walk into her agent/manager's office one day and say, "You know, I have an opportunity here to stand for something"? "I have the attention of a generation. Do we want to use that opportunity to milk every last dime out of them, or do we try something with a bit more conscience behind it?"

Just a thought.


a/good/lysstener said...

I was a little worried about your title when I first read it, but you make a good point about our priorities. Clearly it's not the first time anyone has said something like this but I don't think we can hear this too much and I thank you for posting it.

Anonymous said...

Taylor Swift marketing a fragrance just in time for Christmas is explained in detail by Glenn Greenwald, comparing the immunity granted to HSBC with a single mother jailed for life for a minor transgression,here:

There was a popular saying when I was growing up in the 60's:
'Life is a sh*t sandwich, the more bread you have the less sh*t you have to eat.'

Taylor has just recognised the grim truth of that and has decided to aim for the HSBC end of the spectrum of wealth and immunity, rather than the single mother end, by flogging her brand name on anything remotely sellable,for as long as the recognition factor lasts.

In such a culture-- whose business is business--- it is very hard to condemn a Taylor who no more wants a life sentence for a minor misdeed than you or I do.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, offbeat and "offbeatly' astute.

Denise Urena said...

"What if we put even 5% of that ingenuity and energy into curing the major social ills that plague this nation?" -- I feel the same way about cancer awareness campaigns.

My dad passed away a week ago from pancreatic cancer, and for the year that he was sick, I paid a lot of attention to the marketing that goes into those products and ribbons and such. While I'm all for supporting and donating, something about it all seemed off. Like the amount of energy, time, and money that must go into "branding" these organizations and all so we can be "aware" that cancer exists. I was already aware. I want to know what I can *do* or what is being *done* because wearing purple sure didn't cure my dad.

Dimension Skipper said...

Text blurb of a fb post courtesy of 60 Minutes re Ms. Swift...

SINCE TAYLOR SWIFT’S first country music album debuted six years ago, this 23-year-old has sold more records in the U.S. than any other artist in any genre -- and built a fan base of millions, many of them girls who idolize her.

This Sunday on 60 Minutes, Taylor Swift tells Lesley Stahl that she takes her status as role model seriously. "I definitely think about a million people when I am getting dressed in the morning," she says.

Click here to preview the report, which we first broadcast in November 2011:

See, she takes her role model status seriously... It must be true because she says so. And I'm sure that making gajillions of bucks has no bearing on her non-song-related decisions whatsoever.

RevRon's Rants said...

In my (admittedly cynical in this case) perspective, Taylor Swift serves as a slightly more socially acceptable surrogate for men who lust in their hearts after under-age girls. While her singing isn't actually that bad, she certainly lacks the pipes of many far less popular entertainers (such as my current favorite, Juliet Simms), but she does have that certain something that appeals to some. And since she'll eventually see her appearance "deteriorate" into something more closely resembling post-adolescence, it only makes sense for her to cash in now, while the irons (and her fans) remain hot. I, for one, won't be buying her products, but I'm not in the demographic she's targeting, anyway. It's not that I claim to be less shallow than anyone else, either. My shallowness just leans in other directions, and my preference in fragrances - and apparently motorcycles - is pretty much limited to an obscure Italian line. And Connie seems to like the fragrance better than the motorcycle line.

End of idle chatter... but it's all I've got on this busy Saturday morning.

Steve Salerno said...

Denise, I am remiss in not thanking you for joining us. You make good points. Sometimes these organizations strike me as being about self-promotion for its own sake.

As noted previously, I have similar reservations about all the benefit concerts: Instead of getting together with all your multimillionaire recording pals and playing some music, why not just write a few damn checks to the cause!

Anonymous said...

I am not much of a fan of Mr Moore, he's too much of an unsubtle emotional ranter for me--but he makes some good points here on 'other forms of violence'

RevRon's Rants said...

Denise, I'm sorry for your loss. i know the anguish you must be feeling right now, not to mention the frustration at what can only seem to be wasted effort when focused effort is so badly needed.


roger o'keefe said...

Steve, you can argue till you're blue in the face but the only point you made that I agree with is that the Second Amendment isn't going away. I'm sorry if in your more cynical or close-minded moments you force yourself to assume that everybody out there is a threat to you, but I'm a responsible gun owner and on behalf of the members of my breed I resent the implication. I only hope that you or no one in your family is ever in a position where circumstances cause you to end up swinging over to my side.