As we approach a late-Rome, end-of-civilization scenario in the United States, hope for the future evades us. It seems that our final bastion of good in a world that seems exclusively evil is the sweet escapism of pop music divas. Where are Madonna and Cher in our time of need?
Like Jesus emerging from his brief foray into death, diva pop is back, but this time in new form. The new pop divas, like all previous new pop divas, bring novelty to the art form, once again. In 2018, Bubblegum meets hipster – bubblegummster – is the best way I can describe it. Each bubblegummster channels a different set of influential divas from pop music lore.
Rina Sawayama evokes Britney Spears on her 2017 album, RINA. Her stand out single, “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome” describes the plights of 21st century life. It tackles phone addiction, cyber relationships, and how the real world interacts with both.
U.S. Girls hipsterize Madonna by adding distorted and lo-fidelity instrumentation. Their new album, In a Poem Unlimited, was released this month. St. Vincent’s transition into pop from art rock music also hispterizes the diva. She represents the intersection of these two worlds as an artful diva.
The diva is not, however, exclusively female – it transcends the binary. Prince was an exemplar diva – he had the talent, he had the attitude. Blood Orange adds the experiences of blackness and queerness to diva-ness with a discography that takes influence from Prince and Diana Ross. Perfume Genius is another LGBTQ artist that incorporates diva traits into his music on his 2017 album, No Shape.
With hip-hop becoming the dominant genre of music in this decade, new divas continue to rise in the genre. Cardi B, brings diva-ness into the hip-hop world, exuding her power through hit singles and features with charting artists. She channels predecessors like Lil Kim and Nicki Minaj, but also brings a New York Puerto Rican attitude to her diva persona.
The pop diva has always been an archetype in music narratives. It originates from the prima donna of opera – the leading-lady. The lead woman, and her grand solo performance (aria), was a mainstay of the opera. In nearly every opera from Handel to Wagner, the prima donna’s aria was the main attraction of the opera. It exhibited her voice and her larger than life persona, the traits of great pop divas.
Whether they be women, people of color, and/or LGBTQ – divas champion the oppressed. They sing with an empowering grandiosity. In our current political climate, we desperately need pop divas, and indie music has answered our calls.
– Written by Nick Amirkhanian