Too Cool for Comfort

Drowning in the Mainstream

Sam Lindsay

Sam Lindsay

The Rake was able to sit down for an interview with an artist whose recent album has been near the top of the charts for weeks and is expected to go platinum, but it doesn’t look like there’ll be much talking. I entered the changing room to see him lying face down on the floor, halfheartedly pounding one fist into the carpet. He has requested his name not be released, in the interest of not gaining any more attention than he has to. That request was the only full sentence I could get out of him.

While any other musician would be ecstatic in his shoes, the artist is beside himself. He did everything right, he thought. He didn’t sign to a big-name record label. He put a limit on the amount of promo materials that went out with his name on them. He refused when radio stations asked to play his songs. For the past five years, this artist has released music under three pseudonyms in addition to his real name so that he could make a living while never letting any of his identities get too mainstream.

“That request was the only full sentence I could get out of him.”

But then the nightmare happened. Some B-list celebrity found his music and liked it. They tweeted a link to the music video, and the number of iTunes downloads increased exponentially within the afternoon. The number of google searches for his name skyrocketed. He was asked to give a performance on both Saturday Night Live and at next year’s Superbowl halftime show.

He tried to disappear, to wait out the craziness. Maybe if they didn’t see his face for a while, the crowd would forget about him. His plan backfired. People wondered where he went, fascinated by the new face who disappeared. He became a fad, an overnight phenomenon. Oprah contacted his agent to ask for him to be on her show whenever he turned up again.

“A black slouchy hat pulled low over his head as if in mourning for his hipster fan base.”

At the time of the interview, the artist was slated to take the stage in front of a roaring crowd. But this gig was different. Too many people showed up to this one. The artist remained face down on the floor, looking like he had no intention of appearing onstage after all, a black slouchy hat pulled low over his head as if in mourning for his hipster fanbase who had surely deserted him after his splash into the mainstream.

Security came in and said my time was up. As I was escorted out, the guard shook his head at the defeated lump of a musician and said, “he wasn’t always this way, he liked himself better before he was cool.”