“New photos show Damiano David like a young man with a formal face ”, advertised the british tabloid Daily Mail Last Tuesday. “The images of Damiano David, by Maneskin, as a Cayetano”, he titled in Spain LOS40’s website. On the headline, two images facing each other: on the right, the singer at the press conference after win Eurovision thanks to the song Zitti e buoni of his Måneskin group, black-painted eyes, wild hair, earrings, no shirt and with a tattoo that reads Il Ballo della Vita (The dance of life, in Spanish) on the chest. On the left, a young man with a side-parted hairdo, a formal expression, and a neat, pressed white shirt. And they are the same person. That is the news. And it has always been the news.
One of the most heated and flagrant debates about the concept of authenticity in music is now turning ten years old. In 2011 King’s wool She emerged in the music market as a mysterious, sad and tragic young woman who seemed to live and sing with her back to reality and whose voice timbre, compositions and style drew from Nina Simone or Nancy Sinatra. Of course, the internet worked its magic and soon the images and songs of Lizzy Grant emerged, the real name under which Del Rey had released a previous album that had barely been notorious and had been a failure. Different name, different look. Suddenly some followers (and many detractors) of Del Rey, who already numbered in the millions, wondered if the singer had deceived them. She was accused of being, far from the outsider dangerous and sad that she appeared in her songs, a posh whose millionaire father had financed that first album. “She’s just a failed commercial singer who has been turned into a new brand by a label with a lot of money,” wrote Hipster Runoff, then one of the most influential bloggers on the scene indie. The question came to mtv or a New Musical Express, bibles of pop and rock. The record company denied that his father had paid for his music, as if that legitimized it in the eyes of certain purists. Because the pure is here the question.
Did Lana del Rey have to come from a marginal life in a caravan to sing about heartbreak, grief and death? Did Damiano David have to come from a dangerous, unfortunate and wild life to scream with a guitar on stage? The case of Lana del Rey is striking and a turning point because the criticism she received was unprecedented. The debate that it sparked about authenticity in music was a true phenomenon that reached programs such as Saturday night Live. In a magnificent parody, the comic actress Kristen Wiig, characterized as Lana del Rey, said something that could perfectly serve as a summary of this entire article that still has eight long paragraphs left. “They say that I am an operation of marketing And they have all the reason. No serious musician would dare change his or her name, except, perhaps, Sting, Cher, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Jay Z, and everyone in the world. hip hop, not forgetting Bob Dylan ”.
The speech disguised a firm manifesto as humor: that artifice, change, and disguise had always been there. Simply, Lana del Rey had come at the right time to be punished for it (social networks were beginning to be the inquisitive court that they are today) and, aided by a combed hair, abundant makeup, long nails and prominent lips, had made that artifice its hallmark. The case of Damiano David takes us back (saving the distances) to another that no one ever called an impostor. Nobody accused Iggy Pop of having gone to a rich school with the son of the president of Ford or of those photos of youth in which he poses innocent, lush and combed in a shirt and tie. The question that haunts Damiano is: is he a rocker or a posh? The other question is obvious: are they exclusive concepts?
“Valuing an artist for the current account of their parents or family assets is absurd,” says Mauro Canut, composer of some Spanish pop classics, president of the Spanish Eurovision jury in 2009 and also, in his own way, also a victim of certain presumption in the eighties, because groups that sang his compositions, such as Alaska and Dinarama, were accused of being young people from a good family who one day took to embracing punk. “When you listen to a song, read a book, watch a movie or look at a painting, do you think about that? Also, what does an artist do authentic how much do you earn money? Buying a big case in a posh neighborhood ”. He also spoke about posh ragpicker grenadian Yung beef, which does seem to put up a barrier: “I consider myself the same shit as my audience. [El trap] it is street music and it is not a safe experience, like that of the posh public “, declared in 2018. “We made music to sell drugs. The trap is that, basically ”, told ICON.
Yung Beef seems true to his stage persona. Others are not, and that continues to cause a short circuit in many viewers, again manifested in those two opposing photographs of Damiano David. “No one is born a rocker, nor a diva, nor a music star. trapCanut continues. “They are decisions that are made when a person discovers that he wants to be an artist, finds his style and what he wants to express with his music. So respectable it seems to me that it is discovered with 11 years, as with 20 or 40. People like Bowie, Bob dylan or the Beatles have changed styles many times throughout their careers and for that reason they do not cease to be authentic”.
Could we speak in cases like Damiano David or Lana del Rey about this concept that has been around for years in Anglo-Saxon countries and that Rosalia brought to Spain by singing flamenco having been born in Barcelona called (drum roll) cultural appropriation? “Of course you can”, responds Manuel Segade, director of the Dos de Mayo Art Center (CA2M). “The fundamental thing is how this fiction is constructed and, in the event that appropriationism implies the absorption of cultural repertoires of a specific minority community, what has been the previous dialogue with that group, if there has been a form of permission or transfer, and also the return of wealth, visibility or symbolic capital that is going to be restored ”. This has a vivid example on that occasion when an American luxury brand launched a collection that reproduced patterns, embroidery and prints typical of some areas of Mexico, such as Oaxaca. When the Ministry of Culture of Mexico asked for an explanation, the brand spoke of tribute and love for this country. To the ministry’s question about how the Mexican communities that had created this aesthetic would benefit in some way from the collection, there was only silence.
How does this apply to the Eurovision winning group? As rockers, drink from a genre that originated in the black population of the southern United States and was only socially accepted when whites began to sing it (with Elvis presley to the head). But here the question is: if this was a robbery, has not the crime prescribed decades later, with rock becoming a global concept, perverted and blurred? “For decades everything it is a cultural appropriation because everything was already invented in the seventies ”, argues Canut. “Is there anything less authentic or a more flagrant cultural appropriation than a rocker from Madrid or Bilbao or any corner of Europe doing something invented in the south of the United States more than fifty years ago? ”.
“Appropriating is inevitable,” reasons Segade, “but it is possible to do it in another way.” And he clarifies that sometimes we speak of appropriation when what we want is to bring up “another type of temporalized repetition, the revival, a phenomenon related to consumption and fashion projected onto the social ”.
Another issue is that of artifice, that of the public’s refusal to believe that an artist is not as he appears on stage. Whose fault is it? Segade maintains that “the public should assume the importance of fiction and, above all, its political use as an element of representation.” But this collides head-on with an entertainment industry whose greatest strategy of marketing it has always been to sell naturalness: that our favorite singer is a sex bomb but at the same time a virgin – time and Britney Spears proved that the dream of reason produced monsters– or that our singer indie-Melodic headboard is as simple and natural as the next door neighbor. “Does anyone believe that this rock band or indie You haven’t spent hours and hours wondering which plaid shirt to wear to the next concert or photo shoot to look like authentic? ”Canut wonders. “In addition, it is mandatory that every artist has a concept behind it.” In this sense, it is interesting to analyze how many great stars emerged not from music schools, but from Fine Arts schools, therefore willing to create, more than a song, a work of art that was often themselves: John Lennon, David Bowie, MIA, the members of Roxy Music, Talking Heads or Sonic Youth.
This is not the case with Damiano David. In it so many ways to get here are mixed that it is impossible to put it in a rocker typology, if they exist. The Maneskin band played in the streets of central Rome (point for authenticity as understood by the general public), but they gained popularity in Italy thanks to being finalists in the television talent show X Factor (point for artifice). The same format in which -Risto Mejide did not stop repeating it when he was a jury of Triumph operation– They are looking for products to file and make available to the public. The unfortunate life trajectory of Susan Boyle and her entering and leaving a mental health facility demonstrated, already at the beginning of the last decade, what can happen to someone when both concepts collide and take a human being ahead.
“Criticizing that an artist is not in his real life as he presents himself on stage implies demanding that Beyoncé always wear a formal dress at home or at Kiss let them go down the street dressed and made up ”, concludes Canut. Right to Gene Simmons, singer of the band that almost invented the merchandising in rock and decided to charge for each photo with the fans, a quote is attributed to him that says: “Live and think like a poor man and you will always do well.” He is also credited with $ 400 million of personal fortune. Good luck with that.