Media and Mythology

Is it mere coincidence that a handful of iconic artists have died at the age of 27 to join ‘the club’ or is this some kind of myth formulated by the media? Musicians die at many other ages however the media seems to have thrust the idea of the magic number 27 into our faces, formulating one of the biggest conspiracy theories in the world of music – are artists killing themselves to join the so called 27 club? The most recent example is Amy Winehouse; Mallika Rao wrote on The Huffington Post of the “niggling rumour…that the disturbed singer purposely killed herself to join the famous musicians known collectively as “the 27 club””. It is interesting to see the transformation of Winehouse as the center of drug related jokes, to an artist who fell victim to a tragic death, almost as if no one had dared joke about her drug abuse in the first place.

The death of an artist is the birth of a great spout of journalistic writings on the ‘legends’ and the tragedies that they succumbed to. Fiona Sturges suggested in her article on the 30th anniversary of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis’ suicide that “the notion of the tortured artist is by far the most romantic, compelling and ubiquitous of all rock’n’roll stereotypes”. So are artists merely a tool for the media to create extravagant stories to keep their readership alive?

Alternatively the spotlight is often shone on extreme behaviour and glamour rather than the music, creating an illusion of rock star life. After all, a lot of people are more interested in the artists who just don’t give a shit, whether this portrays them as cool and carefree or just a complete idiot who amidst an apparent ‘meltdown’ hopes that Anne Frank would have been a fan of his music. Peter Robinson recently wrote an article for Q based on ‘popstar meltdowns’ suggesting that although Bieber’s infamous reaction to paparazzi wasn’t relative to his image, video footage shows it was at least “partially justified…the viewer in turn is left wondering…whether the entire thing is constructed by the media for the benefit of the media”. It seems to me that every action that followed was treated much more scandalous then necessary; it was the perfect set up for the perfect story of turmoil and breakdown of a clean cut popstar.

References:
Rao, M. (2011) The ’27 Club’ Is A Myth. [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/21/the-27-club-myth_n_1163493.html [Accessed: 14 May 2013].
Robinson, P. (2013) Fame, Fame, Fatal, Fame…. Q, Iss. 323 p.50.
Sturges, F. (2010) It’s only rock’n’roll but are you prepared to die for it?. [online] Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/its-only-rocknroll-but-are-you-prepared-to-die-for-it-1984777.html [Accessed: 14 May 2013].

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