Kelly Clarkson, more than almost anyone in pop, is assailed near-continuously by endless annoying narratives. It's not exactly surprising. Clarkson's career exists because she won American Idol when American Idol was tilted closer to discovering new talent and farther from combing America for filmable combinations of Sims personality traits; America got to know her as a name and voice before a sound or fully-formed personality: "both a powerhouse and a cipher," as The New York Times' Jon Caramanica put it. That's essentially how A&R works, but the process normally wasn't so immediate and public.
It's somewhat more surprising how little of a real effect they've had on her career, at least on the charts. "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)," the second single from Stronger, went No. 1 and stayed there for two weeks. It'd be impressive considering her chart history alone, it's more impressive considering that 2012's sales accomplishments have been all but earmarked for Adele, and it's even more impressive considering Clarkson's past year.
Unlike almost everyone else in season one (early standout Tamyra Gray, costumes-included Nikki McKibbin and Ryan Starr, living frizz attack Justin Guarini, whose voice all but 12 people have forgotten), Clarkson managed to escape being a cipher, at least musically. In fact, she found a really comfortable niche: a pop-rock revivalist, one of the leading ones, thanks to Breakaway and "Since U Been Gone" specifically. These were neither producers Max Martin and Dr. Luke's nor pop's first rock forays; P!nk had made the same R&B-to-rock pivot as Clarkson years before, as did Michelle Branch, Avril Lavigne and other peers. Nor was the track originally Clarkson's (it was written for P!nk, then shopped to Hilary Duff). All those are technicalities, though; the track became associated with Clarkson, and it was Luke and Max's operating template for years.
Then, things happened. There was My December, Clarkson's best but least well-received album and one called radically angsty only because people forgot that both adolescence and the '90s were angst factories. After label and public rejected December, follow-up All I Ever Wanted was the equivalent of repainting Clarkson's career in colors you'd use for candy, like the cover art, or Katy Perry, who lent demos to the album. Two successive singles, "My Life Would Suck Without You" and "I Do Not Hook Up," were "Since U Been Gone" with upgraded, glossier hooks; the next, "Already Gone," was Beyonce's "Halo," with no upgrades or changes at all. But this wasn't Clarkson's fault so much as the fault of trends shifting from drama to dance, pop-rock to party rock. P!nk, Clarkson's closest career analogue, was scrubbing herself clean with Martin of all remaining Try This grunge. Branch and her earnest peers gave way to Perry, whose rock never leaves the studio without its gumdrop-and-Magic-Shell bustier.
Stronger is, in part, an attempt to follow those trends, although lead single "Mr. Know It All" was a bit misleading. More specifically, it's an attempt to write a lot of "Since U Been Gone" variations, none more so than "Stronger." This is totally fair--"Since U Been Gone" wasn't only an iconic hit for Clarkson and pop alike, but it's a hit translatable to pop in 2012. Just shake some synths in like dry shampoo, and it's completely radio-friendly. That said, "Since U Been Gone" wasn't just known for being a pop-rock track. It's known as a kiss-off. And for some reason, people think that's all she writes.
Reading about Stronger before hearing it, you'd assume it's an album-length diss. Rolling Stone called the album a one-note series of "bellowing her pain, scorching the earth"; The New York Times, a continuous showcase of "clobbering her subject." The media discussion followed those lines; post after post focuses on her heartbreak, her headlines (both in the "Mr. Know It All" video and out) and her pain. People mention her voice, but it's usually secondary to how that voice is yelling.
This wasn't the first storyline that took over Clarkson's career. There was hand-wringing about her album leaks, an occurrence so commonplace that Watch the Throne avoiding them was planned and seen as conspicuous consumption. There was every mention of weight, in any context. There was the entire Ron Paul endorsement kerfuffle, which dissolves to nothing when you realize Clarkson grew up as a Southern girl from Texas. But those were blips, all quickly receding beneath the heft of that one overarching and wrong accusation: that Kelly Clarkson's music is one long wallow in heartbreak, one endless breakup song.
Clarkson's not the only one to get this accusation--Beyonce gets almost the same thing, an astounding feat of ignoring both exuberantly lovey "Crazy in Love" and its follow-ups and love-is-bull tracks like "Independent Women (Part 2)." And there's some truth to it, in that Clarkson's fans see her much as Taylor Swift's and Adele's do, as a surrogate big sister who's already lived versions of their heartbreaks. The problem is when it renders her songs one-dimensional. Take "Since U Been Gone," even just the title: "Since you've been gone…" If you finished that sentence, it'd probably be somber. Leaves would shrivel, clouds would form, inboxes would stall and LEDs wouldn't blink. Clarkson turns the phrase into the dawning of a triumph. It's about a breakup, yes, it's empowering, sure, but "Because of You" is equally applicable to parental neglect as romantic. "My Life Would Suck Without You" is a love song so obvious it's practically what Sara Bareilles railed about not writing. Meanwhile, "Miss Independent" has to qualify by now as the single most misinterpreted song of Clarkson's career and quite possibly the last 15 years. It's been called a kiss-off and an ode to lonerdom, which makes total sense if you ignore the huge, surging chorus denouncing the title.
But Stronger has a range of, depending on how charitable you are, subjects or even just single lenses on a subject. "You Can't Win" is more political than personal. "Dark Side" is fundamentally a love song. "You Love Me" might be the most complex of all; did its subject leave her because he said she's not good enough, or that he's not? The song supports both interpretations. The thing about "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger), though, is that it does reward those arguments. A straightforward better-to-be-lonely anthem, it begins "the bed feels warmer sleeping here alone" (the opposite usually happens, but we're in metaphorical territory), closes with "doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone" and deploys the phrase "me, myself and I" not to eviscerate it. She's not coming back but coming back swinging, and it doesn't matter whether she has someone new or not (the song suggests both); the point is being assertive.
There's something else going on, though, as generally happens. It starts with the title. What doesn't kill you might not make you stronger; it's as likely to make you stronger as it is to wear you down, a blow that makes you weaker for the next. This is how sickness works, for instance--what doesn't kill you makes your immune system weaker, makes you stand a little smaller. It's how societies fall--what didn't kill them made them shinier targets for armies. And it's how people succumb to whatever's assailing them, even if takes multiple tries. But if you're trying for a career resurgence--or if you're the one tracking it on the balance sheets--you must believe this. "What doesn't kill you slowly erodes your record sales" is the last philosophy any musician or exec wants to embrace. Any setback, be it a leak, irritating tabloid story or bad review, can't be a blow but a graceful crouch into a leap. You've got to believe that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, even if it's just trying to force a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Knowing that, you can read "Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone," she sings, a comeback equally applicable to an ex or the critics she's already addressed before in video. The same goes double for "doesn't mean I'm over," and quadruple for "You don't know me" because Clarkson's entire album is one big statement of identity. It's not the showy sort you associate with personality-building--Ke$ha's glitter-and-bearding, for instance, or anything Lady Gaga has ever done--which means it's easy to misinterpret. But it's there; Clarkson's made a career not just out of relatability but claiming that. "Stronger" is one big, defiant statement, confirming itself by going to No. 1: Kelly's thorns are not the best part of her.
Give us your best meme of Kamala destroying Pence at the debates: GO!
After months of deliberation, Joe Biden has picked Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.
Harris became nationally recognized after she surged to prominence in the 2020 Democratic primary season. Notoriously, she called Biden out about racial issues during the first Democratic debate. "There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public school, and she bused to school every day," she said in a speech that has now become famous. "And that little girl was me."
55-year-old Harris is currently the only Black woman in the Senate. She served as California's Attorney General prior to being elected in 2016.
Harris was born in Oakland, California; her father is from Jamaica and her mother from India. She studied at Howard University and then at University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. She worked as a prosecutor in Alameda County and San Francisco before running for district attorney and then attorney general.
As a Senator, Harris was on the Intelligence Committee which interrogated Trump about Russia, and she also made waves through her interrogations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Attorney General William Barr and Brett Kavanaugh.
This is how Kamala Harris handled Barr. Now imagine how she’ll handle Pence. #BidenHarris2020 https://t.co/UbRcW4vzpy— Rantt Media (@Rantt Media)1597179179.0
Since her 2020 presidential campaign concluded, Harris has focused on the Senate's response to the coronavirus crisis, as well as their response to systemic police brutality and racist violence. In the past, Harris worked closely with Joe Biden's late son, Beau, on challenging big banks in the wake of the housing crisis.
Biden announced the decision via email and text messages to his supporters. "You make a lot of important decisions as president. But the first one is who you select to be your Vice President," he wrote Tuesday afternoon. "I've decided that Kamala Harris is the best person to help me take this fight to Donald Trump and Mike Pence and then to lead this nation starting in January 2021. These aren't normal times. I need someone working alongside me who is smart, tough, and ready to lead. Kamala is that person."
If elected, Harris would be the first vice president to be female or a person of color. "I think that she will help bring a strong voice on issues of immigration and racial justice," said Rep. Ro Khanna, a Fremont Democrat who backed Harris' opponent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primaries. "Given her life story, to see someone like her selected ... it will be encouraging to so many young people of different backgrounds."
Harris's mixed record as a prosecutor and her vacillation on progressive policies like Medicare for All has come under fire from many progressives' but in this scenario, even the most radical progressives seem to agree that Biden must be elected in order to oust Trump.
Immediate reactions to the Biden-Harris ticket on social media indicated how much supporters were looking forward to seeing Harris face off with Pence during the debates: The match-up seems to be made in meme-heaven.
I will take EXTREME pleasure watching Kamala Harris eat Mike Pence alive in a debate. JUST SAYING.— Adam Rippon (@Adam Rippon)1597180224.0
Kamala Harris waving goodbye to Mike Pence’s wig after the first VP debate https://t.co/ZYplRfTG4E— Joey Nolfi (@Joey Nolfi)1597178245.0
mike pence on his way to the first debate against kamala harris https://t.co/A1PBV94fiI— chase (@chase)1597177622.0
Perhaps meme culture is the best response to the Biden-Harris ticket, as Democrats must support Biden as the only way to oust Trump–though Biden is far from ideal. "Biden is very problematic in many ways, not only in terms of his past and the role that he played in pushing toward mass incarceration, but he has indicated that he is opposed to disbanding the police, and this is definitely what we need," said civil rights activist Angela Davis.
Davis continued, "The election will not so much be about who gets to lead the country to a better future, but rather how we can support ourselves and our own ability to continue to organize and place pressure on those in power. And I don't think there's a question about which candidate would allow that process to unfold."
We ranked the worst parts of Internet fandom in no particular order—since they're all terrible.
As harmless hobbies, most fandoms are predicated on the universal ideal that most media is entertainment, liking things feels good, and you don't get to be an asshole if all don't appreciate your favorite thing.
But at the heart of every Internet dumpster fire, there's an ardent fanbase trolling forums and picking fights about their terrible opinions. While it's one thing to be overly-invested in the love lives of the Kardashians or easily excitable over Lady Gaga's burgeoning film career, some people's dedication to their fandoms can shape their identities.
An obnoxious fandom may simply take every opportunity to flood the Internet with memes, but toxic fandoms can turn into bullying communities, with some circulating intolerant, even harmful, rhetoric. From misogyny and racism to calls for violence and public doxxing, these out-of-control fan bases are some of the worst one's active today. Thanks to the return of Rick & Morty season 4 last night, we're reminded of these insufferable fanbases now more than ever.
1. "The Real Ricks" - Rick & Morty
In 2013, Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon's adult animation about an anti-hero mad scientist and his meek grandson began as an innocuous half-hour comedy. Soon, its niche appeal to speculative fiction geeks with irreverent senses of humor garnered a cult following. But a small fraction of the fanbase latched onto Rick's nihilistic and hyper-intelligent misanthropy and basically took it way too seriously. On Facebook, a private group of like-minded "Real Ricks" identified with the character so much that they focused the fandom on defending Rick's narcissism and lack of compassion. Their serious devotion is mocked by the highly circulated "copypasta" post: "To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ to understand Rick and Morty. The humor is extremely subtle, and without a solid grasp of theoretical physics most of the jokes will go over a typical viewer's head."
"Real Ricks" radicalize Rick's tongue-in-cheek quips ("I don't do adventures with chicks") into actual misogyny (including harassing the show's female writers). They elevate Rick's worldview as a guiding pseudo-philosophy that recognizes and even pities "superior" men for their lonely existences as the smartest and most capable humans alive. Although it's a small fraction of the fanbase, it's among the loudest online, which is enough to sour the show's actual merits of unique comedic timing and sharp commentary.
Despite the Internet "canceling" Dan Harmon every few years, it seems that Rick & Morty and its fans will never die.
2. "BTS Army" - BTS
Twitter User: JooniesBoop
Aside from the fact that BTS is not a unique pop group and have no appeal if you're not a fan of K-pop, the fan base's zealotry is annoying, at best, and alarming, at worst. People's most common interactions with the "BTS Army" involve their obsessive gate-keeping of how the Internet talks about its members. The value of its boys (if we dare to speak their names), Namjoon, Hoseok, Jimin, Yoongi, Jungkook, Jin and Taehyung, knows no bounds. But that over-protective doting on the band results in vicious bullying of anyone who expresses a dissenting opinion, from name-calling to racially charged abuse.
Many black BTS fans have shared their experiences with racism from the BTS community. Some fans have received comments on their user pictures that black people aren't "worthy" to be fans of BTS, while another shared, "I've been called ni**** and also told to go pick cotton and it's always anonymous. But they always let me know that they're Armys because they always end the message [with] 'we don't claim you in Army.'" While the Internet always hosts hateful posts, toxic fandoms can unite bullies under a common cause and attempt to justify the harassment of others with their love for their idols.
3. Elon Musk
The cult of personality surrounding Elon Musk is a mix of celebrity worship, self-righteousness, and buying into the man's own savior complex. His core fanbase clings to the notion that Musk's tech-savvy can save humanity. While the group's moral superiority and defensiveness make them insufferable, their willful ignorance of his companies' environmental downsides and disregard for worker safety makes them stubbornly blind. To justify (if not outright deny) Musk's unsound, erratic behavior, many claim that journalists are actively sabotaging his vision of the future. Again, not every supporter of Elon Musk is a devout fan, bordering on worshipper, but those who elevate the problematic billionaire to icon status just muddy the waters of progressive change.
Musk's acolytes were even named the "Worst Dedicated Fan Base" in a March-Madness-style tournament, cynically hosted by The Onion's Michelle Spies. "Elon Musk is their masculine technologic messiah, sent to bring them into a new era," she explained. "They will defend their billionaire Lord to the death."
4. Jordan Peterson
As a clinical psychology professor-turned-YouTuber philosopher, Jordan Peterson appeals to mostly male, disaffected twenty-something-year-olds who cling to his paternalistic self-help advice in place of real guidance. His best-selling nonfiction book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos matches the interests of his 1.9 million YouTube subscribers.
Namely, Peterson offers rudimentary tips for self-improvement and a sympathetic attitude that claims progressivism and Leftist politics have made it harder for young men to reach their full potential. His insular fanbase clings to Peterson's theories that "the masculine spirit is under assault" and feminists have "an unconscious wish for brutal male domination." The mix of personal insecurities and finding scapegoats for one's dissatisfaction with life leads a faction of fans to circulate misogynist and transphobic ideas couched in conservative politics.
5. "Bro Army" - PewDiePie
Felix Kjellberg (a.k.a PewDiePie) tops the YouTube playground with 106 million subscribers to his gaming vlog, but his controversial satire of Nazi salutes, racial slurs, and alt-right beliefs attracts a loyal fan base that has no clear understanding of irony. With a majority of his followers skewing younger than 24-years-old (11% being younger than 17), PewDiePie's fanbase is active in the meme-culture of recycled imagery that blurs whether the intention is satirical or genuine. When the shooter of two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand quoted a popular meme about the YouTuber before opening fire, Kjellberg publicly clarified that he was "absolutely sickened having [his] name uttered by this person" and in no way condoned the action. Still, PewDiePie's blunt, unsophisticated riffing on anti-Semitic and alt-right sentiments risks "normalizing hatred" rather than mocking it.
In August 2020, PewDiePie's playlist was leaked, and his fans began leaving transphobic and homophobic comments en masse on some of the artists' pages. Some music artists have even openly asked, "Pewdiepie please don’t listen to my music" because his fans are so toxic.
- TV's Most Accurate Depictions of Mental Illness - Popdust ›
- adult swim ›
- Season 4 Premiere Points to 100 Years of “Rick and Morty” - Popdust ›
- "Never Ricking Morty" Just Invented a "Fifth Wall" to Break - Popdust ›
- Taylor Swift's Fans Are Toxic - Popdust ›