Pop Playground
Sugar Shock #002: MySpacing, Part I

mySpace is many things: social networking tool, ego dump, personalized fashion accessory, one-click mass emailer, outlet for rock criticism, hype machine ignition switch, jukebox. It touches the lives of just about everyone who listens to teenpop—kids, pre-teens, teens, post-teens, weirdo adult music nerds, everyone else. Major labels know this, and for the most part they’ve successfully infiltrated the network to mobilize fans. That means that almost all of teenpop’s biggest artists are absent from their online identities, replaced instead by in-house PR peons or obsessive fan groups.

There are also countless independent and no-label teenpop acts that, despite being frequently, um, interesting (I won’t name names…OK, one name), demonstrate the various ways in which a net-savvy teenpopper might use MySpacing to alleviate the pressures of mallspacing. Aspiring artists can gain access to specialty print and online magazines, local radio stations, live events, and TV shows with the help of a popular MySpace and an organized online fan base, scraping together any publicity they can get without having to gig amusement parks. Well, more amusement parks; everyone plays Sea World eventually.

But my most rewarding MySpace discoveries have been those artists who embrace the site’s function as a shared personal space, regardless of their level of celebrity. So here are my Top 8 Friends, based on humor, regularity of updates, and the general feeling that there’s a real person beneath the digital identity:

08. Katie Neil
Katie Neil is one of my favorite recent no-label teenpop finds. Her brand of sugar-spite bubblepunk is reminiscent of Fefe Dobson, and she’s currently running a great promotion for her new single, “Stupid Ex Boyfriend”: send in your stupid ex stories and win a free CD!

07. Rose Falcon
Rose Falcon is the self-proclaimed “Up Up Up” girl, referring to the one hit that made it onto the Inspector Gadget 2 soundtrack in 2003. Her profile is sweet and endearingly self-conscious (“yes I am still alive!”), with semi-regular blogs about her dad, Nashville artist Billy Falcon, and how cool it is that he’s buddies with Jon Bon Jovi.

06. DaHv
DaHv was an unlikely candidate for Radio Disney’s “incubaTor” series for new artists (the place “where hits are hatched”), and her subsequent pop career has yet to really take off. But she already recorded a few sublimely goofy novelty singles with help from *NSYNC producer Gary Carolla, and this is the best place to hear her music, since no album seems to be forthcoming.

05. The fake Miley Cyrus
I don’t know who this person is because his/her profile has been pulled, but for a few days after Hannah Montana premiered, a “role player”—someone who portrays celebrity identities on sites like LiveJournal and MySpace—hijacked the MySpace domain “mileycyrus” and filled it with links to at least a hundred under- and off-the-radar teenpop acts. Whoever you are, please contact me—I forgot to take notes!

04. Alexandra Slate
Unceremoniously dropped from Hollywood Records back in 2003 before her debut was given a proper release, Alexandra Slate has kept her online persona going strong, even though her available recorded output continues to languish. Her MySpace is notable mostly for the weird-ass profile. An excerpt:
“The world doesnt know it yet. But Alexandra Slate is a bona fide ROCK STAR. Laying it out there as if her life depended on it and perhaps it does. Slates debut album. Edge of the Girl. Is a tempestuous affair, at once confrontational and self-flagellating, wounded and defiant, troubled and triumphant. So its something of a shock to encounter Slate in repose: Poised.Brainy. beautiful.and.unguarded, self-aware but not self-absorbed. Her parents are happily married Her upbringing has been largely idyllic and her life continues to be characterized by focus and achievement. With her talent Looks and intellect Its apparent that she is one of the anointed ones.”
03. Leslie Carter
Leslie was also dropped—in this case from DreamWorks—before the debut album following her 2001 bubblegum single “Like Wow!” was released, and for all intents and purposes she dropped off the face of the earth after that. But through the wonders of modern technology, it is now possible to track Leslie Carter’s progress as a born-again pop-punker through her MySpace, despite the fact that she hasn’t found a new label yet. But the real revelation here isn’t musical. Leslie is candid about her family life and chronicles a falling out with her parents in blog posts. Soon she’ll be reuniting with Aaron, Nick, and the rest of the Carter family in a reality show that begins production this month.

02. Skye Sweetnam
Skye got to MySpace early and was one of the first and only major label teenpop artists to use it like any other (then) 16-year-old might—blogging about snowboarding and posting dorky middle school yearbook photos alongside her self-directed mini-documentaries, publicity shots, and tour info. Or, in the case of her latest bio, sweeping but justifiable proclamations of her greatness. Skye alternately writes like a hyperactive teenager who wouldn’t think twice about bringing her grandma to the Juno awards and an industry insider complaining about the technical limitations of basement recording (“Nanananana I got a MICROPHONE!”) and “selling out” with the Matrix. Her musical preferences range from Death from Above 1979 to Max Martin to M.I.A., who was until recently listed as one of Skye’s Top 8 Friends. Check the comments in her photo section for covert career insights from West Coast punks.

01. Brie Larson
The number one slot goes to Brie Larson, who, as previously stated, operates the greatest MySpace page in the universe. Her blog posts reveal diverse literary and musical influences, including Henry Miller, David Bowie, Big Star, the Flaming Lips, the Cramps, Jimi Hendrix, Daft Punk, XTC, Pavement, Kurt Vonnegut, and Charles Bukowski among many others. She also shares demos and rarities immediately upon release. The highlight, though, is the back and forth commentary between Brie and her fans documented in blog comment threads. Brie subjects her most devout followers to an imaginative barrage of insults and sarcastic responses to their frequently dumb questions and comments, much to the delight of her friends and elder lurkers (and probably the insultees, too). She’s managed to exploit the potential of MySpace as a career networking interface while using it almost exclusively as a means of private amusement. In fact, her refusal to let her MySpace be anything but a personal site is what keeps me coming back—hint: it’s not too late to subscribe to her blog—and what makes the whole thing so endlessly fascinating.

By: David Moore
Published on: 2006-06-21
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