There comes a time in a pop star’s life when she, her business manager, some barnacles from the major label footing the bill for her latest record, and some other freeloaders gather in a conference room and look at how much money she’s been able to scare up a few singles into an album release. They might decide, “We’ve sold quite a lot of records and people want more!” They may note that people are still buzzing about the artist and suggest, “Say, auspicious pop star, how would you like to record another album quickly so we can make another boatload of bucks?” At this point, the pop star might say, “You know what? I’m tired.” But, plucky as they are, major label types will persist: “Okay, well, we have all these live tracks. We have some b-sides and demos, too. We can master them in Garage Band and have you pose for a new album cover and call it a ‘deluxe edition.’” At this point, the pop star might say, “Sure, fine, is there more Cîroc?” Of course, there is always more Cîroc.
It’s hard to tell whether re-releases are rushed out because the bulk of what most pop stars record is so alarmingly mediocre or because music fans do churn through records more quickly these days. Still, in this race to cash in on the breakout success of a particularly explosive album campaign, pop stars lose all their most discerning pretenses and, worse, they seem hesitant to move forward — ending up stuck in one album campaign for so long that the charm wears off and they start to remind us of the party guest who couldn’t hold his liquor and ended up passed out in the back garden when all we wanted to do was go to sleep already.
But, like that blacked-out reveler, this is a trend that’s not going anywhere, so rather than bemoaning it, let’s instead scrutinize some of the more memorable gems that have recently been trotted out to warm us up to repackaged versions of albums that didn’t need additional help selling units.
Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance”
What exactly was The Fame Monster? An attempt to extend sales by cashing in on the breakout hit singles of The Fame? An interstitial EP meant to sate listeners until Born This Way was ready? Something so genius that it had no business being associated with the throwaway taffy-pop of The Fame? I suspect the answer lies at the nexus of all these questions, but let’s all agree on one fact: If you’re an artist who needs to properly assert her dominance in “pop,” “Bad Romance” is the way to go.