For the rest of your long life
every time you hear music
it will either only be
Paula Abdul or Katy Perry.
You CANNOT stop
listening to music.
WHICH ONE DO YOU CHOOSE?
Having just come up with this match-up, I gotta say it is easily the hardest I’ve yet devised. I say this because it’s the first one to feature two artists whose success had/has much more to do with their image than their actual music. The first was a talented behind-the-scenes dancer/choreographer who parlayed her vast catalogue of show business contacts into a record deal (despite the fact that she would be the first to admit that she wasn’t a particularly good singer), and the second is a former gospel performer who’s shown an uncanny knack for packaging a mixture of naughty innocence/innocent naughtiness too contrived to offend the folks most likely to be disturbed by songs about sexual experimentation, black out drinking and fireworks.
Paula Abdul proved to be the perfect pop performer for the MTV age, where music videos had as much–if not more–impact as radio in determining popularity and stardom. This made sense since her true talent was in the visual medium of dance, which meant her songs often felt like a secondary component to the overall package. Inspired by old films and musical theatre (the video embedded above was based on the “Take Off With Us” scene in Bob Fosse’s masterpiece, All That Jazz, and other videos like “Rush, Rush” and “Opposites Attract” took both direct and indirect cues from Rebel Without a Cause and Anchors Away), she strived for something equally classic, but was ultimately let down by the inessential quality of her music. Her failure to sustain a recording career serving as proof that–despite what the cynics out there would suggest–the overall quality of an artist’s songs can’t be completely ignored.
And Katy Perry has proven to be the ideal songstress for the YouTube generation, where novelty, familiarity, bright colours and a playful mixture of both coy and overt sex appeal has proven to be a perfect formula for epic view counts. Whereas Abdul turned to classic Hollywood for her inspiration, Perry focuses on the immediate zeitgeist and pop culture cheese (the video above featuring cameos from two Glee castmembers, Kenny G, Debbie Gibson, Corey Feldman and YouTube schadenfreude-sensation Rebecca Black, who’s already descended into Trivial Pursuit status by this point), making her videos instantly exciting and instantly disposable–destined to lack relevance even months after their creation. Though she is (in the studio, if not live) a better singer than Abdul, her songs have the same sense of secondary-status, feeling like a part of a package (that might include a video game product placement) rather than the actual raison d’etre.
Which makes the choice between them exceedingly difficult, because–as someone who does not have a kneejerk hatred of pop–neither’s music is particularly memorable or audibly offensive enough to swing me either way. Based on their music videos, I’d go with Abdul, since I prefer her sensibility, but based on music alone it’s a coin flip.
So, heads it’s Abdul, tails it’s Perry.