Turn up the lights in here, baby / extra bright, I want y’all to see this / turn up the lights in here, baby / you know what I need, want you to see everything / want you to see all of the lights – Kanye West, “All of the Lights”
Kanye West and Lady Gaga… beyond, beneath, within, and without the flashing lights these two remained suspended in infinite existence. Modern Pop has known no before nor after these two… 21st century children will live to recount tales to their grandchildren of crucial kreugers emanating from nothingness, beautiful dark twisted fantasies in the midst of a blissfully bleak reality, the climate-shifting global state of monstrosity where beasts reigned as belles of the endless ball… a world void of time and space… a post-apocalyptic period where two prophets destroyed their own made world, an archaic rebirth after the darkest decade known to warholian man, a cultural sonicscape perpetuated by the synergy of two sources of sheer energy… in 2010 amidst all of the flashing lights Lady Gaga and Kanye West were The Sun: the ubiquitous body cultivating the craft through their presence and, even more so, propelling secondary stars to shine brighter in the darkness of their absence. This year, the culture was defined by the impact and influence of Gaga and West. Lady Gaga spent the entire year on tour, while pushing out two singles – the club-banger “Telephone,” and the sweltering “Alejandro.” West spent the first half of the year in obscurity: shopping in Milan, interning on the side, recording in Hawaii, and being around the seeming underground.
Yet, because of their brilliant 2009s where the two grabbed the world – neck and soul – with direct omnipresence and social injection (The Fame, The Fame Monster, Swiftgate, and Swiftgate) their 2010 defined us by indirect impact of what happens when the sun fades, night sets, and we are left to create our own light.
In 2009 the world had become accustomed to the presence of sheer genuine artistry of universal reach and immediate proximity, character uncertainty, and 24/7 creation to fuel a Pop nation – they spoon-fed us commercial culture; in 2010 West and Gaga’s absence from the formal mainstream left us to our own devices. All of the lights: Ke$ha, Eminem, Miley, Rick, Far East Movement, Willow Smith, Drake, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Usher – of all of them, none could shine beneath the sun.
This year these twelve first came to vision, then to fruition – as transient as the year was in Pop, each of these stars saw progress past the easy-sell and towards something more substantial. “All of the lights” were artificial, crafted to recreate the natural light we were missing, displayed most prominently when the sun has set; instead of settling for second-best though, we saw a push towards replication over imitation.
Ke$ha opened with Animal, and garnered the collective eye-roll of a critical culture looking for more than a trailer-park-queen-in-a-trashbag. She dogged Pop, prided herself on the farce of it all, and strove for low brow; this would have been well and good – as it was in the 2000s when the world was run by dime-a-dozen Pop caricatures; but this was 2010, and admit it or not, we could not ignore the motto, emblazoned in our brains, that branded our generation: “Pop Music Will Never Be Low Brow.” Ke$ha could’ve very well remained grimy, and to many she still is, but her transition and growth over the year says otherwise. Cannibal was a masterful hybrid between the sound of Blackout and the structure of The Fame Monster. Ke$ha emerged in the midst of Britney’s borderline psycho-southern-heauxspitality and a Post-Gaga world of a necessary artistic standard; and created an album that embodies that socio-pop scene.
Justin Bieber threw out an unplugged version of his debut album My World/2.0, along with a 3D film experience. Rick Ross found symphony beneath the streets with Teflon Don, and created a vibrant display of the Miami hustle, giving it a pulse, a heartbeat, and life beneath the limelight. Miley Cyrus dropped Hannah Montana and hitchhiked a ride with Stevie Nicks en route to some sort of artistic identity – even Taylor Swift tried to get bad by breaking her silence. This year we saw lights, artificial as they are, attempt something more than just false projections; we saw stars strive to emanate energy – not just light.
Step back, and we see the keepers, cause, and reason for the Pop season. Just as the sun and moon dictate the climate, so West and Gaga direct the shift in scene and scape. 2009 was the year of life on Planet Paparazzi, Gaga’s self-led crusade through the limeliit world of garage glamorous existence. We transitioned with her from the creation of The Fame to the company of The Fame Monster, as she embarked on her Persephonic romp through Pandora’s made world. Then we saw 2010: the year of the monstrous descent, where our Perstefani slipped beneath the surface to reign along side Hades in subterranean delight. In 2009, Kanye West was that villain vicar who dwelled in divinity below the mainstream; in 2010 he returned to give record of the nocturnal freakshow.
2009 saw the cancellation of Fame’s superficial kill, where Gaga and West took that concept of fatal Fame to the netherworld, killed the lights, and reveled in the company of a revived underground. These timekeepers live in a world of self-context, where everything external is a mere reflection of their internal existence. Planets, personas, satellites, stars, the masses, and monarchs revolve around the tandem’s being, under false pretense that the universe works geocentrically in reverse.
When the sun is up, and Persephone strides solo on the surface, we experience a Summer swelter; when the husband beckons, she returns to her natural home on the Hadean throne, and we are left in a Winter wanderland – the lost desolation of life above the underground bacchanal of seeming hibernation. In 2010, the sun didn’t set, the moon merely took hold here while the solarities retreated to consummate their espousal and empire. They shot the lights out, hid until twas bright out… and though it was just another lonely night, they birthed a culture in the sacrificed life.
Lady Gaga and Kanye West are a cultural phenomenon that brought the supernatural to life. This year the world experienced, for the first time since 1638, a lunar eclipse fall on the same night as the winter solstice. As above, so below, and in similar fashion we had Fame align with its Monster holding our Pop world suspended in the midst. A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes behind the Earth so that the Earth blocks the sun’s rays from striking the moon; and so we saw below, an Archaic rebirth where the Monster passed behind the masses so that the public would shield, reveal, and block the Fame’s rays from striking the creative beast.
The winter solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the Sun’s peak position in the sky is the lowest; and so 2010 was the year where those shortest in stature and career reigned, and those icons of timeless status waned – we saw artistry’s presence in the mainstream at its lowest genuine peak.
This year we saw these two occurrences – the perennial, and the phenomenal – run in tandem, where in the face of the most fugitive sun and the most quickly-fading light, a creative culture built its foundation in the still of the extended night.