Music and fashion have long had a close association. Each has a dramatic influence over the other in the culture.
There are some artists who blend music and fashion together so well that it’s difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. Today’s appearance-driven aesthetic world has brought music and fashion even closer together.
It is no coincidence that the world’s most successful musicians are typically the most stylish as well. Caring about what you wear, being aware of how you present yourself, and toying with an artist’s aesthetic are major aspects of music marketing, content release strategies, and the drive and determination to remain at the top of the charts.
Katy Perry on “Witness”: A Massive Album With A New Hair Style
One of the biggest albums of 2017 was “Witness” by Katy Perry. It was based around a campaign that saw her cut and dye her hair, among other changes she made to her appearance to appear new and contemporary after nearly a decade of being one of the world’s top pop stars.
Though it may have appeared new and ‘woke’ at the time, the fashion of the album borrows from early 1990s-era Madonna, like so many have, and plays on themes that are trendy currently in media, such as the sexual empowerment of women, social consciousness, and strength in being a woman.
The fashion of “Witness” is significant because it represents what’s going on in the world today which is what a hit needs to do. A hit song is a reflection of the culture of its time.
The subsequent marketing for “Witness” and the reviews that followed it detailed Katy Perry’s “re-education”, “changed perspective”, and “consciousness”, despite this not necessarily being apparent in the album’s musical content.
Kurt Cobain’s “Corporate Magazines Still Suck”: A Rolling Stone Protest
When Nirvana appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine in 1992, Kurt Cobain proudly displayed a t-shirt that read, “Corporate Magazines Still Suck.”
To Nirvana fans, this was an opportunity to stick their middle fingers up at corporate interests. To marketing experts, this choice of fashion and the subsequent fashion choices made by Nirvana communicated their mission statement, which was to connect with people like them and to build an audience of people like them.
Make no mistake, the wearing of Cobain’s t-shirt was a strategic choice.
This kind of highlights why the definition of fashion is important. ‘Fashion’ is not just clothing. It is what’s happening in the world, how people are living, and the ideas that are being shared at any particular moment.
As a cultural representation, fashion, in a sense, is more important than music.
Lady Gaga Uses Fashion To Attract Attention And To Market Her Music
By far, no one in music has used fashion more prominently than Lady Gaga in the last decade.
Simply examine her career’s biggest moments to see how she has been able to mold herself to different identities.
For her first collaborative album with Tony Bennett, on “Cheek to Cheek” (2014), she took on a classic 1950s-era Hollywood starlet look. A few years later, for her Super Bowl performance in February of 2017, she took on an ‘all-American football girl’ look. Just a week after that, Lady Gaga was on stage with Metallica at the Grammy Awards in a metal/hard rock look.
Throughout the tour supporting “Joanne” and later “A Star Is Born”, Lady Gaga then embodied a more Americana or heartland rock look.
Do any of these fashions embody authenticity and truth to Lady Gaga? It almost doesn’t matter.
By changing her appearance, Lady Gaga has successfully been able to transform herself in her fans’ eyes while critics may argue that it is more of an exercise in public relations than anything else.
Why Fashion In Music Should Matter To Any Musical Artist
Every few years, so many independent artists and musicians change and re-invent their look to keep them fresh. It works. As trends change, the fashion needs to as well, or risk getting left behind. Shifts in culture need to be represented in the music.
Remember, any time that you walk outside, whatever you are wearing is sending a message to the rest of the world. The world does not get to hear your inner dialogue. All they have to go on is your appearance and the way you carry yourself.
To the world, that’s who you are, even if you feel yourself to be a different person.
Why music and fashion are so closely interlinked has everything to do with cultivating, maintaining, and communicating identity. The culture that is created with music is only considered authentic and genuine if it’s supported by an image that is relevant to the product. Above all else, this is why fashion in music should matter to any musical artist.