Lady Gaga has her “Little Monsters”, Rihanna’s Reign has enlisted a “Navy” and Nicki Minaj leads her “Barbs” in a hot pink Twitter parade. When did it become boring to just be a fan?
When I was an infatuated, eighth-grade Immature fan, I literally remember making creative borders out of construction paper for the millions of Immature posters that decorated my wall. I’d get dressed up to watch premieres of “Never Lie” and “I’m Not a Fool” on Video Soul after deciding that my adolescence would culminate with me meeting and falling in love with lead singer “Batman.” His guest appearances on Sister, Sister became the one thing I could look forward to after a week of blending in the back of the classroom and questioning my adolescent awkwardness. Much like performers of the past, today’s R&B and pop artists know their audience: teenagers struggling to build their self-esteem and sense of belonging by feeling like they are a part of a “team.” But the truth is that the only ones winning are the artists themselves.
All you have to do is visit the comments section of any popular celebrity blog to witness the stanning that surrounds Beyonce or the virtual gang wars that go down between Team Breezy and Trey’s Angels. You can’t tell fans today that their dedication and hard work won’t one day be rewarded with an almighty celebrity Twitter follow or retweet. Besides, being a teenager is hard. Why focus on your real life worries of getting good grades or finding out if your crush feels the same way when you can obsess over whether Beyonce actually birthed Blue Ivy (even if it makes not a lick of difference in your own life).
But sometimes all that stanning can pay off in a major way (if you consider meeting and being associated with your celebrity idol a big deal). Take Team Drizzy for instance. What started off as a close knit group of dedicated fans who met online weekly to tiny chat about Toronto rapper Drake, eventually blossomed into a friendship based on their mutual adoration for October’s Very Own. They collaborated on a book filled with pictures and letters expressing their love for the “Take Care” artist. Eventually they were able to present “The Big Fan Book” to him in person after following him across the country on tour. They got some team jackets, recruited some more fans and now have everything from charity events to contests which are supported and endorsed by the artist himself. Not to mention the occasional shout out and affiliation with the whole OVO entourage (whether anyone in Team Drizzy is a paid employee, I am still unclear about). You may call them roadies or groupies, but they consider themselves a team with Drizzy as their captain.
But I question this team mentality. At the end of the day all of Drake’s earnings go into his bank account and his only. All of Beyonce’s Grammys are sitting on a marble shelf in her house and not on my momma’s mantle. So how exactly are we a team if I am not winning anything but a general shout out in the liner notes of your last album and some backstage passes. Maybe it’s because I am actually a mascot: Dressed in your gear, cheering you on from the sideline, while you get all the glory. I actually applaud the fact that celebrities are now able to create what may feel like a closer relationship with their fans through Twitter and Instagram so that they can express their appreciation in their own words. But it’s both a gift and a curse. A lot of young people with no sense of identity or purpose truly believe that Rihanna is riding out for them as hard they ride out for her. As much as I like Rihanna, when she refers to her Navy saying, “We did it!” after getting yet another #1 single, all “we” did was become a few dollars broker while she boards a plane, pours champagne and cuddles with Chris. Ditch the dog and pony show and make music that won’t be forgotten in a few years.
A majority of artists today spend way too much time pimping their publicity and not enough time investing into their talent (if there’s any talent in the first place). I don’t want a narrative or to be on anyone’s team, I just want decent music and quality lyrics. I don’t want to pay for your album twice, only for the deluxe version to have two remixes, one guest feature and songs like “Stupid Hoe” and “S&M” that I can’t even play for my future grand-children at the family reunion. Being a fan is a full-time job nowadays with fans doing too much unpaid promotion: I’m trending you on Twitter, buying your albums and concert tickets, blogging about you and every single person you share a meal with and all I have to show for it is a re-tweet and a crappy single that will bang in the club for about as long as your next relationship.
I appreciate artists’ effort to seemingly show fans how much they are appreciated by giving them a good show. But let’s be honest, lyrics like “Starships were meant to fly, hands up and touch the sky,” won’t exactly be leaving any legacies. I get it: some music is just meant for a good time, but if I’m shelling out hundreds of dollars for a concert, I need something epic, something timeless, something that I won’t forget as soon as I am forced to stan for the next gimmick the music industry forces upon me. Until then, I have a life to live and the only team that I will be playing for is one that’s financially compensating me.
Are today’s fans doing the most for their favorite celebs?
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog Bullets and Blessings .