Pop and Circumstance: An Existential Review of Grimes’ New Album and The State Of Popular Music

Paris Hilton reworked album by Banksy, with live cockroaches. photograph by Barney Pell

Editor’s note: Alex Kazemi is one of our favorite “voices of a generation” – a voice that has risen angelic and rebellious above the Tweeting and Snapchatting hordes. In a recent podcast, Bret Easton Ellis called Kazemi a “millennial friend” and “a contrarian 20 year old with a brilliant grasp of the contradictions that exist within his generation.” In the following review, if it can be called that, Kazemi shares his views on Grimes’ new album and wonders: “If Grimes can have a career in pop music, why can’t reality TV stars Scheana Marie and Heidi Montag?"

text by Alex Kazemi


Earlier this year indie artist Grimes tweeted "Now that indie music is obsessed with pop I feel completely bored by it”, an early indication and self-exploitation of her new album Art Angels. With one listen through - it is clearly a pop record.  It’s not a surprising move, from someone who dropped a Rihanna-reject single as her own single, and after poor response would back track and say “I made this song to be bought.”  It would be hilarious to hear the day, a similar sentiment came out of the mouth of someone like a young Britney Spears, an artist who will never be afraid of the word: pop star.

This idea of pop only being cool when it's under the guise of indie-art is wrong. The most creative pop songs are inside the corporate discography's of pop stars like Britney Spears. You like Tricky? You like to get trippy? Um, have you ever heard "Touch Of My Hand" off 2003's In The Zone? 

It’s, like what? Whoever needed the indie world, to make pop socially acceptable, or “cool”? Pop is pop. It’s music for the universe. Sometimes cheap pop is better, sometimes cheap is tastier.  Grimes is an example of someone who makes “smart pop music” that is tailored for the "music intellectual," the type of person who is not supposed to feel embarrassed or find it ironic to be listening to pop music because it's "actually creative, and you know smart pop music," but what is smart pop music? Is it when the artist behind it is the self-aware one controlling everything rather than a team of people conspiring on an album for a face to perform? If Grimes can have a career in pop music, why can’t reality TV stars like Heidi Montag or Scheana Marie? Why should there be a time and place when pop music is valid? All pop music should always be valid. Stupid or smart, it’s valid.

2006’s "Stars Are Blind" by Paris Hilton, to most millennials (one including CHARLI XCX) is one of the best pop songs of all time but not because it's Paris singing it but because it's a toasty tropical song that washes you away to someplace else in the way pop music should, and most of us who heard it for the first time - were children, too young to ever think to question the motives of a Reality TV star heiress that was making a record with J.R & Scott Storch.  The actress turned pop star trick was normalized to us growing up in the early 2000s, from Lindsay Lohan to Ashley Tisdale. These people were, and are pop artists.

Now in 2015, a time where the most watched people on TV: Reality TV stars like the women on Real Housewives and Kim Kardashian have released singles, this is just normal. There were even torturous rumors of teen terror Kylie Jenner releasing a single last year. It's a nu sacred rite of passage. You go on reality TV, once you finally reach d-list status, you record your single, drop it on iTunes on your own label and it becomes a trashy cult classic for a lucky few and then we all move on with our lives.  I'm sure Juliet from Bravo's Ladies Of London is going to drop her new single "Fashion Is My Passion! (Stylist From London)" any day now. Half a decade ago, reality TV star Heidi Montag dropped her debut album SUPERFICIAL, it featured major pop producers, one including RedOne, who at the time was the madman behind the sounds of GaGa's opus The Fame Monster. Why wasn’t Heidi's music treated the same as GaGa's? I’ll never know. It's not like vocal talent means anything in pop (see Haillee Steinfield). There can be something beautiful, disgusting and entrancing, listening to a young woman who clearly grew up worshipping mega pop idols like Madonna record vocals with such plastic and powerful delusion.  It is now strange to think that Montag may have had ulterior motives being on The Hills, a focus to further her own pop career. 

Heidi's music is not accessible, and to some is unlistenable - it's because not many people are brave enough to step into a dark world that even Barbie, herself might not be ready to go into. 

Heidi Montag, would release gorgeous self-made iMovie music videos, long before Lana Del Rey. One still exists under an abandoned YouTube account “HeidiMontagRecords,” where a teaser for the never released video for “LOOK HOW I’M DOING,” a 33-second clip of paparazzi taking photos of her. Flashes burst, as she steps out of a black car - a fetish of her own nothingness.  

"It's not like vocal talent, means anything in pop...there can be something beautiful, disgusting and entrancing, listening to a young woman who clearly grew up worshipping mega pop idols like Madonna record vocals with such plastic and powerful delusion."

It could be that Montag was born to be a cult-super pop star, who would only exist in a once in a life time televised Miss Universe performance, and a Superficial promo club tour that can only exist in our imagination.  Unfortunately, Heidi Montag, is the real life, unfinished pop star. 

It is true that Heidi's early 20s sex-kitten days are long gone, but since she turns 30 next year - it could be a great time for her to deliver a spa-lounge record, about coming to terms with her own mortality and the tragic loss of fame. An experience, many people beyond her years might never have. I believe Montag is capable of some fire-torch laments, and haunting shoegaze moments while remaining her natural gift for pop. We are ready to hear your screams, Heidi.

Scheana Marie, the reality TV star of Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules - has been hard at work on her pop career since the show’s 2013 premiere, using it as a platform to get her music out, while living a double life as a waitress at SUR.  The show aired haunting footage of her performing her single that sounds like the price it is sold for: “What I Like” to an empty Hollywood audience. Some people may see her as a talent show act, but for her it is real – scary and fascinating, lost in the imagination. A delusion and ambition that could out-flame the early Montag, herself.

On the season premiere of the newest season of Vanderpump Rules, Scheana Marie held a decade party for her 30th birthday. She decided to dress up as VMAs 80s Madonna. The majority of pop stars today do that, everyday; the only difference is they get paid for it. The majority of the world may perceive Scheana as a "basic bitch," like every other American 30 year old woman who posts countless duck-lip selfies, goes to Hanson concerts and puts her hand on her hip in a skin tight dress at any given photo op, but maybe it's time for "basic bitch" pop to infiltrate and end our exhausting boring competitive costume party of colored hair, and predictable shock. A club girl pop star who loves being normal and partying, sounds like a refreshing spa-day for the pop world. Someone should get her in the studio fast, or she should make a Kickstarter to fund her debut album. Possibly, Starbucks could fund her next video. She could start off, where Paradiso Girls stopped. Her normality, is a gritty asset - the pop world needs. 

If either Scheana or Heidi, ended up in the studio with Major Lazer or Avicii - what would make these girls not deserve the spot? Maybe, Marie and Montag’s refreshing approach to pop music - desperate, hungry delusion is actually something endearing and genuine, in the time of Meghan Trainor. A void of vocal talent is important. Scheana Marie and Heidi Montag on Top 40 beside today’s groundbreaking acts like X-Ambassadors and OMI could be nothing short of revolutionary. 

The purity and beauty of reality TV stars turned pop-stars like Heidi Montag and Scheana Marie is that they are the opposite of ironic. There is nothing hilarious about their music, they want to be pop stars, they live and die for this shit. It's that simple. It's real. It's not getting the last laugh, or caring to think the world thinks they are ironically experimenting with the genre, in a way that is "smart and valid.”  It's a horrifying and gaudy "Give me my fucking video. Give me my dance track. Make me look like a star, and let's take over the world" kind of thing. Isn't this, what real art angels are made of?