Ciara and the Drop from Pop

Ciara experienced what felt like a meteoric rise in the early 2000s and her ability to capture the 14-19 age demographic with songs like “Promise” and “Goodies” seemed unmatched.  As I usually do in conversations about Ciara, I have to note that I attended the same high school as her–saw her in the halls, but never ever thought I’d be blogging about her 6 years later.  And then, I realized that something had happened to Ciara over the past year or so.  I heard the infamous words, “she fell off,” being spoken about the once pop princess.

If you recall she did have song or two out last year one of which was “Ride,” with the video that you couldn’t watch at work because it was somewhat x-rated.  She also had “Gimme dat” where she performed dance moves that only she and a select group of women could do.  But then, a friend and I realized that we had absolutely no recollection of what album those song were from, or if an album was released, or if anyone was listening to Ciara at all.

Ciara’s album, Basic Instinct, did in fact drop late last year (December 10th, 2010), with little notice having not even broken the top 25 Album Chart on the Billboards.  Ciara’s first album sold 3 million copies, her second, more than a million.  More research confirmed what we had learned through a Twitter Poll: “Did anyone purchase or illegally download Ciara’s album?” the answer to which was a resounding “wind and leaves rustling.”  Apparently, Ciara has only sold about 38,000 copies of Basic Instinct and last month Ciara was dropped from her record company, LaFace Records (LA Reid and Babyface’s record company–the same company that put TLC in bankruptcy).

And what does all this mean?  Probably nothing, but it does provide an excellent opportunity to talk about what it means, philosophically of course, to be dropped from popularity.  What does it mean to “fall off”?  What happens in the space between relevance and popdom, and irrelevance and regularness.  What happens when someone who once signed autographs in their sleep, starts working at the Bank of America down the street?

Popularity, for the most part, is an illusion.  A socially acceptable one.  A socially constructed one, but the mass construction of popularity for an individual is situated within a bounded framework.  It depends on context and technology, human biology.  People die.  People forget things.  And people are not going to be socially invested in the same things for all time because socially constructed “coolness” is constantly in flux.  It’s why 50 Cent was the most popular rapper like 6 years ago, and now nobody listens to that dude.

Pop is fickle, and though there are exceptions to this rule… think about 100 years from now–will people really know who Madonna is?  Cher?  Prince?  Dare I say… Michael Jackson?

More often pop acts from “a long time ago” (30 years) will remain nameless because we don’t remember them anymore.  We will forget the names of The Backstreet Boys, or the girl who sang that “Goodies” song–if we haven’t already.

4 replies
  1. "Doctor" Lane says:

    i think successful pop identities are constantly in flux, trying to keep up with the changing tastes of mass consumers. Unfortunately, for Ciara, she just didn't change at the right time, in the right way. Unlike her lucky, well calculated rise, she wasn't successful in putting an "identity" together that people liked at the right moment in order for her to remain on top of her demographic.

  2. Kelcey says:

    I agree with the identity theory, but I think another issue is leadership. Pop icons aren’t just singers who got lucky, they are people who repeatedly observed the overall conscious of their society and found a way to lead it from where it was to where they felt it should be. They continually introduced a new way of looking at the world. I think that separates the legends from the fads. Ciara needs to find that quality.

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