Friday, March 4, 2011

Gag Gag

Lady Gaga doesn't seem wary in the least of the cash cow in the coalmine.  Her newest single and title track to her upcoming album "Born This Way" is a perfect example of this.

Formulated and unoriginal are two adjectives that lend themselves nicely to describing this new release.  It is in no way a positive progression from her previous work and is just more of the same product for consumption.  We found it interesting to examine just how unexciting today's hottest new single actually is.

Lady Gaga is a current mainstream pop star.  She has two albums out.  Her first album The Fame was released in the summer of 2008.  Her second album The Fame Monster was released late in 2009.  Both of these albums topped the charts. They also were nominated and won Grammy Awards.  For more detailed information about Lady Gaga read her Wikipedia page or check out her website.

Lady Gaga announced the release date for the single Born This Way and the album by the same name on last New Year's Eve via twitter.  The original release date for the single was February 13, 2011 but was released earlier than planned on the 11th.  She said on her twitter, "Can't wait any longer, single coming out Friday."  The single is currently holding the top spot on both of Billboard Hot 100 and Digital Downloads.

Born This Way has almost the exact same musical structure to her last three top selling singles.  It has the same pulsing drum beat, verse chorus structure, and of course auto tune vocals.  Artists have their signature sounds, but with Born This Way, Gaga is blatantly repeating herself.  Here are her last three best selling singles before Born This Way: Just Dance, Poker Face, and Bad Romance.  If you listen to them there is no progression as an artist.  Born This Way is no different.  She's using a formula that produces a product that currently sells.  She has a cash cow in a coalmine.  It's not only Gaga who is using this formula.  Here is another popular song by the singer Ke$ha released on February 8 entitled Blow.  The issue is much bigger than Gaga or Ke$ha.  The music industry is exhausting what currently sells.

This song is a perfect example of how rehashed our pop culture is.  This song is telling in what it isn't.  It isn't original, think Madonna with more advanced electronic backing music.  It doesn't have substance, the song is about being different and proud but it's not very believable coming from a thin and sexy singer.  Yet despite all this it sells like crazy.  This reflects us the consumers and what we value, mediocrity.  

The song is fun, catchy, and danceable.  This is Lady Gaga's standard.  The problem is you can't produce the same song over and over again and still sell.  It's hard to tell if the song is better than her previous releases but it's new.  Freshness is a very valuable asset for a song to have.  It's good for about a month.  Nothing about the song makes it anymore memorable than any of her other songs because again it's so similar.  The words of the song stereotype people who are different as being insecure.  Not everyone who is different from the normal are scared to be who they are and need a pop singer to validate them as good people.

Through our research on this subject we became more aware of what's currently going on with Lady Gaga's career.  We would have not know that she was releasing a new album this May if we hadn't looked into this song.  Still, I'm not going to by it though.  We will probably hear this song a lot more, but not by choice.  It's going to be unavoidable due to it's popularity.  The people we spoke to about the song had mixed feelings.  The older people dismissed it as boring and the younger ones liked it for it's catchy melody and danceable beat.

As much as Lady Gaga tries to present herself as something more than a corporate pop star that is exactly what she is.  She releases a product and nothing more.  Sense her song formula sells so well other singers are using it.  Only time will tell if this is good for her career in the long run.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rollling Stone Magazine

For this blog post we are going to explain the similarities and differences between the printed and online versions of the Rolling Stone Magazine. We will describe both the online and printed versions, discuss their focuses, explain its advertising, and tell you what we learned.

The primary focus of this magazine is to discuss current artists and other aspects of today's music culture. The print version is organized into three main sections. "Features", which mainly consist of interviews. "Rock & Roll" which consists of music news and who's hot and who's not. "Departments" covers other aspects of music culture such as, television, movies, and record reviews and releases. We believe that the online version has a clearer layout, and is much easier to navigate then its print counterpart. The online version has an easier layout to use, putting its table of contents at the top of each page. The online version's timeliness makes it easier to get the newest articles instantly. Both the print and online versions use quite a few photos, of which there is a mix between black and white. The online version also includes videos, in addition to their plethora of photos.

In the printed version, the featured articles are fairly long, making for an interesting read if you are interested in the topic. For example, in a featured interview with Elton John, he discusses in career in its entirety and shares his experiences. However there is a variation in length with the non-featured articles. A good example of shorter articles are a 300ish word review a a newly released album (Bright Eyes; The Peoples Key) , and a 2 page spread on upcoming Oscar nominees.   The online version's articles are much shorter, unless you subscribe to their "Plus" online subscription. But with that service you also get access to other articles that didn't make it into the print addition, so it might be worth it to some people.

In the print addition, the advertisements are aimed at young, hip, liberal, college educated, people with a decent income. There are two ads’ that stood out. For example, the cover page advertisement is for the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. The advertisement states "The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. IT'S SO 2012." This insinuates that the people reading this magazine think that they are ahead of their time. The ad also mentions that the car has a 40 gigabyte hard drive option, although it never says what that option is for. The back page ad is for "Absolute Vodka", and insulates that the night life is where they party is at. The online ads are for the Rolling stone magazine subscription, they don't have ads for external products.

What sets Rolling Stone apart from the competition, is it full coverage of diverse musical genera’s, intertwined with, political, social, and environmental issues. A lot of other music magazines, focus on a specific genera, and usually aren't concerned with the lifestyle behind the music.

The two biggest advantages of the print edition are that it's easier to read on the toilet and that you can smell the cologne samples that are sometimes put into the magazine. The two biggest advantages of the online version is that it has more articles than the print edition, and that you can search their archives for a past articles that you remember. The two biggest disadvantages of the print edition are that it's not available instantly like the internet and you can damage the magazine itself if you're not careful. The two biggest disadvantages of the online version are that it requires the internet and electricity to be able to use it, and you don't have physical control over the articles themselves. Content wise there isn't an advantage to the print or online version, as long as you subscribe to their "Plus" service. The content is exactly the same. The online version is just a digital version of the print version, displaying the exact same content in the same manner that the print version does.

We feel that the target audience is broad, spanning the gap between ex-hippie baby boomers and their children that share mutual core values in music and politics. The ad's fit in well with the stories and photos in the magazine appealing to the entire niche with its product placement. There weren't any obvious stereotypes or offensive messages in the magazine as far as we could tell.

We prefer the print edition because it's easier to just pick up and read when you have a spare minute IF you have access to the magazine. The only time we actually read Rolling Stone, is when we're in a public library and have nothing better to do with our time. If we actually were interested in what Rolling Stone has to offer, we would definitively choose the online version over the print edition due to its superior content and usability. Personally, we don't interact or even regularly read Rolling Stone let alone interact with them on any other level besides reading. However, if we were interested in interacting with it in other ways, the online edition provides a good medium for this with article comments.

What we learned from this project is that magazines are using the internet to connect their reader base with each other on their websites. Giving users the ability to comment on and discuss articles in real time.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Look at Hawaii Five-0

We watched the show Hawaii 5-0 last Monday on The show falls into the genre of crime drama. The show is about a four person specialized crime-fighting team. The team works independently from the normal police force to deal with unique high profile crimes. Each member of the squad has his or her own personality that complaints those of the others. In the episode we watched, someone tampered with the tsunami warning system to make everyone on the island believe that a tsunami would hit the island within hours. This caused mass evacuation of the coastline and downtown area. In the confusion they hoped to escape with drug money that the coast guard had seized. Luckily the crime-fighting quintet was wise to their scheme and served them a good ole' plate of justice for dinner.

From left to right: Daniel "Danny" "Danno" Williams, Chin Ho Kelly, Steven "Steve" McGarret and Kono Kalakaua.
(Photo courtesy of

Steve McGarrett, the leader of the squad, is a former Navy SEAL. He's serious and puts the mission above all else. His partner, Daniel "Danno" Williams, is an ex Newark New Jersey police officer. His personality is blunt and refuses to conform to the laid back Hawaiian way of life. Chin Ho Kelly is a former Honolulu police officer that had to leave the force due to the accusation of him being on the take (which he of course was not). Kono Kalakaua used to be a professional surfer, but her career was brought to an abrupt halt by a tragic injury. Her only other career option was to join a specialized crime fighting team. The actor, who plays Chin Ho Kelly, Daniel Dae Kim, is most recognized for his role as Jin-Soo Kwon in the show Lost. Scott Cann, aka "Danno" Williams, acting achievements include Ocean's 11, Ocean's 12, and Ocean's 13, However he is most well know for the work he did as a roadie for the rap groups Cypress Hill and House of Pain. The other two main actors are not well known. The blatant product placement of Chevys is saturated throughout every episode. This makes it safe to assume Chevrolet is a major sponsor.

The show reflects the values that most Middle Americans have. It has a stereotypical good vs evil theme throughout the show. The show's main protagonist, McGarrett, is a strong moral man who protects the innocent at any cost. Family values are emphasized in most of the struggles in the episodes. The show is filmed on location in Hawaii. The overall idea of the show is pretty similar to most crime dramas out there. It's unique in that the laid back Hawaiian outlook on life plays a major role in how the episode develops.

As we mentioned earlier, each member of the team represents a stereotypical personality. Kono is young and confident. She doesn't seem to waste any time with beauty and is more concerned with making it in what would normally a man's world. Danno is your typical wise guy from back east. McGarrett is the leader and embodies our ideas of responsibility. He portrays the brave soldier type. Chin is a Hawaiian native and has that mellow laid-back attitude. The commercials shown during breaks where very family oriented. The products advertised were dog food from Pedigree, insurance from Allstate and State Farm, cell phones from T-mobile, and laundry detergent from Tide. The advertisers most likely assume that this is a show that families will be watching together, so they want to make their advertisements correspond to the message the show is sending. If you where visiting the United States and saw this show you could assume many false things about American Culture, such as; That all cops are good looking crime fighting machines and that everyone has a laid back style. Some of these assumptions could be that good always prevails over evil and money is the main force behind evil actions in our culture.

Speaking in entertainment terms, the show has strong plot lines and interesting twists. The acting at times can be weak and unbelievable. As far as being a cultural mirror of society it does reflect our overall values. The show doesn't embrace complexities with in the subject of good and evil. It presents every case as black and white, either good or evil. From the characters to the weather to the way the crimes are solve the show isn't a good reflection of reality. It's a glossy version of what we wish reality was. I like the escapism of the show. It presents a reality we wish we could live in. All the good guys are perfect and the bad guys are bad. The watcher is asked to form opinions about issues in the show, which makes it very relaxing. There isn't much that is memorable or worth talking about with people. The show isn't engaging in this way. The critics seemed to agree with us by stating that the show is a "Brain Vacation."

We learned that this show found an interesting way to break loose from the normal mold that most crime dramas fit into by incorporating the Hawaiian way of life into the show. Personally, we think that this show would have just faded into the crime drama sea of forgetfulness without that unique aspect. We watched this show for the first time last Monday and don't plan on watching it again. This choice has nothing to do with any shortcomings of the show, we just think that our time could be better spent doing something more productive. However, if we get a sudden urge to zone out on some mindless entertainment, we might just consider it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Baby Driver

This ad depicts a father giving his "baby" a few last instructions before she sets off to drive on her own for the first time. During this time the Father sees his daughter as a little six year-old girl. The father is very obviously nervous at this point, when he gives her the keys, he sees her at her real age, sixteen. He then reminds her to call him, but not while she's driving. While the father watches his daughter pull out of the driveway, the father's superimposed voice says "We knew this day was coming. That's why we bought a Subaru." We first saw this ad while watching prime-time television sometime last year.

Every family in America has to deal with what this ad addresses at one point or another. Their child is going to turn sixteen at one point or another, making this ad applies to all families in America. In most cases this is a very emotional time for parents where the safety of their child is valued above all else. So by implying that Subaru’s are safe this ad suggests that a Subaru is the best choice. This uses both the Plain-Folks Pitch and the Hidden-Fear appeal.  This ad also uses the association principle sense protecting the safety of your children is a cultural value in America. It uses both the old and new media vehicles, television and the internet, to deliver its message to the general public. With the target audience being parents, the best medium for delivery is most likely television over the internet.

The main message that this ad conveys is the safety and reliability of Subaru’s. It's not a new idea in car advertising; however this ad makes it relevant by depicting a real life situation that every parent will eventually go through. This ad is a part of Subaru’s campaign that deals with the reliability of their cars. The demographic being dealt with in this ad is middle class parents. This ad is full of very stereotypical middle class ideals. A house in the suburbs with a white picket fence is almost as important to American culture as apple pie. This ad is more offensive than any other ad that uses persuasive strategies.

Subaru safety ratings for the car that was used in the video.

 Personally we thought this ad was extremely effective because of its exploitation of parents protective nature. It's memorable because the emotional charge the ad inspires. The ad worked well because it comforts a fear that all parents have about their children driving. When looking at a car, safety is the foremost concern of parents, and anyone who has previous knowledge of Subaru's know that they are in general safe and reliable.

You see so many short ads everyday on television and usually don't think much of them. It was interesting to take the time to examine one and see all of the techniques that were used. We discovered that ads are extremely complex despite their short nature. 

View Subaru's complete vehicle lineup at;