This week’s Newsweek has yet another article on the
alleged musical tastemaking ability of gossip blogger Perez Hilton, who–when he isn’t MS Painting coke-noses onto wire photos or crowing about his public appearances–seems to fancy himself as a sort of DJ. We’re all too familiar with his gushing prose about music artists (today, he’s freaking out about Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss”) , and according to Newsweek, the desperate-for-any-recognition-at-all music industry is thrilled by his ability to pick anything resembling a hit:
He’s actually more of a fanatic than a fan. Hilton was so devoted to the pop singer Mika that he started blogging about him (“Mika’s music is just as hot as his model looks. However you describe it, it’s f—ing fierce!”) months before the release of Mika’s debut CD, “Life in Cartoon Motion.” In fact, he posted about Mika more than 20 times. The result: in the first two weeks, the CD sold 50,000 copies. “For a brand-new artist, that is unheard of without traditional airplay,” says Monte Lipman, president of Mika’s label, Universal Republic Records.
The “Gossip Gangstar” seems as surprised as anyone by his tastemaker status–”That’s very flattering,” he says–especially since his Web site is only two and a half years old. Hilton is a staff of one, and he answers every e-mail that comes in to his “office”–the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on L.A.’s Sunset Boulevard. “It’s important for me to stay very accessible,” he says. “I might take a day, a week or even a month to respond back to people, but I eventually do get back to everyone.”
And persistence pays off. Shervin Lainez, a 23-year-old photographer from Washington, D.C., fell in love with a little-known indie folk singer named Jenny Owen Youngs. He e-mailed and IM’d Perez several times in a week. Hilton finally listened. Then he posted, in his typically over-the-top style: “If you don’t know Jenny Owen Youngs, then you must. You must! She has created what we think is one of the best love songs of all time.” “The effect was massive and immediate,” Youngs says about the impact on her MySpace page. “I was getting an average of 2,000 [plays] a day, and I got 60,000 in one day from Perez. People at shows were saying, ‘I would have no idea who you are if it wasn’t for Perez Hilton’.”
A touching story, to be sure, and an easy out for Perez once the lawsuits get too hairy. But it made us wonder how legit these claims were.
Let’s look at Mika, whose album came out at the end of March; according to some leaked Soundscan numbers, Life In Cartoon Motion had moved almost 110,000 copies as of last week’s chart. Perez’s slavish devotion to Mika surely resulted in a few sales; hey, if you throw spaghetti at a wall that attracts 5 million eyeballs a day, someone is going to wind up looking at whatever sticks. But it’s something of a stretch to say that Perez’s hyperventilation was the sole reason for that semi-respectable tally; after all, while radio in the States seemed to be allergic to Mika, the promotion for Life also included a boatload of other tie-ins, including a slot on VH1′s “You Oughta Know” new-artist spotlight, which had previously boosted sales of Corinne Bailey Rae and The Fray. And even if the bulk of Mika’s sales were attributable to Perez, is a 1.2% daily-visitor-to-purchase ratio in those first two weeks all thatgreat?
We’re not really sure where this “Perez as tastemaker” idea was hatched, although we do have to admit that as far as Internet music hype goes, it has a little more traction than the idea that Tila Tequila is popular. But seriously, someone needs to stop the madness–because any more articles like this, and we won’t be able to escape his barely readable prose-spasms every time we open our inbox.
A Gossip’s Golden Touch [Newsweek]