Cher never did it. Neither did Beyonce nor Britney.
Katy Perry changes outfits eight times during just one song on her current concert tour. That may sound excessive, but what concertgoers see when Perry performs “Hot N Cold” illustrates how hard it is to be a music diva these days. You have to get the attention of the media as often as you can. New hairdo, new Tweet, new drama.
“When Lady Gaga’s record came out and she was doing TV all over the world, I would say it’s five times more than Madonna did,” said publicist-to-the-stars Liz Rosenberg, who has represented Madonna forever and Cher for the past 12 years. “If they’re not saying ‘You’re overexposed,’ then you’re not doing your job.”
The attention span of fans in this ADD-like pop world demands something new constantly. The attitude of music lovers can be summed up in a song by another vintage diva: Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done for Me Lately?”
Rising R&B star Keri Hilson fondly remembers what it was like to be a fan of Janet Jackson or Whitney Houston and have them disappear between albums. “I loved when you missed an artist and when they re-emerged, you saw changes,” Hilson said. “But now you don’t really recognize the changes because you see them every day.”
But visuals aren’t the only way to get attention. Drama has fueled fan interest going back to the advent of movie magazines in the silent-film era. Britney Spears’ continuing episodes — her shaved head, weight issues and battle for the custody of her kids and her finances — have made her one of the most Googled stars. Taylor Swift’s dustup with Kanye West on the MTV awards and her romances with a string of older men, including Jake Gyllenhaal, elevated her from a teen sensation to a household name. Katy Perry hooking up with wild-man comedian Russell Brand certainly generated more juice than, say, Cher cavorting with her “bagel boy.”
Longtime country queen Reba McEntire, who has scored a No. 1 Nashville song in each of the past four decades, knows the landscape isn’t the same anymore. “It’s unfortunate,” she said. “You need to be on all the time. No matter where you go, you’re (fair) game. If you’re business-savvy, you’ll look presentable. There’s not a day I walk out of the house without my makeup on and looking decent. We all want press, but we want good press, too.”
Any way you look at it, “fans expect much more,” Rosenberg said. “They used to just expect a great record and maybe a little press.”
In 2011, success is defined differently from how it was in Madonna’s heyday. Album sales aren’t what they used to be, though being No. 1 on Billboard’s charts is still prestigious. Selling out concert tours still matters. But winning in today’s pop world also includes two new measures — Facebook fans and Twitter followers.