Davey will be discussing songwriter identity in the context of optimal distinctiveness theory, and uses this to frame some popular music within the known teen phenomenon of ‘I loved [that band] before they were famous’. He uses the famous example of iMacs that looked like furniture – the novel and the familiar are balanced to create consumer need.
Popular music is perceived to come out of ‘scenes’ – genres, fashions and subcultures – and necessarily has different audiences, who in turn require identity, categorisation and distinctiveness (Zuckerman 2014).
In Davey’s auto-ethnographical research, he has created 4 albums over 8 years; 2 of these gained traction; 2 faded away. He analyses each project according to its distinctiveness, genre, novelty, conformity etc (via the above ODT framework).
We now hear ‘Memory is a Weapon’ (CousteauX, 2017), from Davey’s reboot of his turn-of-the-century band Cousteau. The journalistic feedback and reviews triangulate the product’s perceived distinctiveness. Assimilation (conformity to expectation) is contrasted with Differentiation (challenge to expectation) – for example, the torch singer persona of Cousteau’s work becoming the rogue-ish character of the CousteuX reboot. This is in the lyric mode of address (first person, reflective, confessional). Most of the rest of the album is in the dramatic mode of address (quasi-second person – addressing the audience as if they were present or speaking to somebody else positioning the audience as witness).
The journalistic responses agreed with the intent, reliably highlighting words such as ‘dark’ and ‘brooding’ etc.
Case study #2 is Davey’s co-writer reboot of Carl Barât – an intended record-company reboot of the ex-Libertine with a more mature, darker sound. We hear a selection of songs, including “Run With The Boys”:
The journalistic gatekeepers provided mixed reviews – many broadsheets loved it, and others saw it as schmaltzy and inauthentic. The following album (which was more punk influenced) was more successful with fans and press alike. It came from a different aesthetic (equally intentional) – collective pronouns, punk sound, higher tempos, and more anti-establishment. We hear “A Storm Is Coming” and Davey also makes reference to the Moore/Barât co-write “Beginning To See” which was written with this aesthetic in mind.
Davey implies that the second (album) iteration of the Barât collaboration was the point of ‘optimal distinctiveness’. He maps the ODT concepts to the original artist, their fans, and the public reception of new works.