The Null Device

Sandi Thom, Antichrist

Charlie "TV Go Home" Brooker rips into Sandi Thom, the bland, suspiciously manufactured-looking "grass-roots Internet sensation" who sings some inane load of bollocks about wishing she was a punk rocker with flowers in her hair or something:
All I hear is that telltale, indefinable something that immediately marks it out as something that's bypassed the soul completely: consumable noise for people who don't like music but know listening to it is "the done thing" - like mutant imposters mimicking the behaviour of humans. I can't relate. It doesn't go. I'm being alienated by the replicants.
There's a word for this sort of thing. It's not "art", it's "content".
Sometimes I can ALMOST see where content is coming from. Take Angels by Robbie Williams. It's a massively popular piece of content, beloved by millions. If I strain really hard, I can just about make out some genuine emotion. Just a speck or two - but enough to make its huge success at least vaguely explicable. Compared with anything that has any semblance of balls whatsoever, Angels is a bowl of cold mud - but next to most content, it's a towering emotional epic. It almost makes you feel something. No wonder it's become the official theme tune for thick people's funerals.
Brooker then goes on:
As luck would have it, while typing this article, I've just heard I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Bollocks in My Mouth) on the radio, and the real braintwister is the lyric, in which she yearns for a time "when accountants didn't have control and the media couldn't buy your soul". It's a boneheaded plea for authenticity, sung in the most Tupperware tones imaginable: a fake paean to a pre-fake era. It's giving me vertigo.
Which sounds like the totality of the Sandi Thom phenomenon (the song, the soullessly plastic paean to authenticity, the backstory with its transparent contrivedness) could almost be a work of conceptual art in itself. Perhaps it was created by Bill Drummond or some other prankster (much like the Pete Doherty sideshow is said by some to have been; I have heard rumours that the glamorous rock'n'roll nihilist was originally a small-town Buddy Holly impersonator who had been discovered and manufactured into the New Sid Vicious for a prank/art project).

Of course, the problem with creating a work of art such as the manufacture of a transparently, cynically plastic "authentic" pop star is that it is difficult if not impossible to distinguish it from the way a big part of the recording industry normally operates, guided by nothing more self-aware than the cold, insectile logic of marketing and demographic modelling. If some neo-Situationist prankster manufactures a perfectly plastic pop star, indistinguishable from the normal products of the entertainment machine, is it still art?

There are 3 comments on "Sandi Thom, Antichrist":

Posted by: amby Wed Jun 14 22:53:04 2006

I've heard that Pete Doherty theory too, and its getting more plausible by the moment. Do you know anyone who has actually been to one of those legendary gigs he played before he was signed?

Posted by: Alexander http://asseptic.org/433 Thu Jun 15 03:13:06 2006

Sorry, this one's off-topic but it's really interesting, and you might have already seen it: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5076634.stm

Posted by: substitute http://bemyblog.com/ Thu Jun 15 04:28:56 2006

The gap between art and content is closing fast, as is the gap between genuine popular culture phenomena and manufactured ones. Most of what I get passed on as the meme-of-the-day now is what the marketers call "a viral" that includes "content" as a "payload." After a while one starts to feel like the most trank-darted rhino on the savannah.

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