erasing clouds

Meeting famous people isn't easy

essay by matthew webber

People always ask me what I want to do after I graduate.

I want to be the guy who writes the narration for Behind the Music.

Well, maybe not, but if I didn't need to eat, sleep or go to class, I could watch VH1 forever. I watch so much VH1 that I can actually identify music critics. If I were to see, say, David Fricke on the subway, I could walk up to him and say something like, "Excuse me, I'm sorry to bother you; this might be a strange question, but do you work for Rolling Stone?" And he would say, "Yes," visibly afraid I was some stalker but secretly flattered because he'd probably never been recognized before.

Even though I spent last summer in New York interning for Spin magazine, meeting David Fricke was the closest I came to meeting a star. This was the only disappointment of my summer.

I'm in the Cultural Studies track of the English department at Kansas State University, but really I'm a student of popular music. Besides the "What are you going to do?" question, my guiding question the last few years has been an 'N Sync lyric: "What's the deal with this pop life and when is gonna fade out?"

Even when I don't like their music, pop icons like Justin Timberlake fascinate me. I mean, how did somebody so whitebread become one of the most popular R&B singers in America? I'd write a paper about "Cry Me a River" if I had any sort of a thesis other than "I think that video's dope."

Somebody like Avril Lavigne is so uninteresting she's riveting. How does an annoying little poser with marginal singing talent and dubious co-writing ability become an influence? How does a necktie become sk8tr chic?

Why do I care? Why am I disappointed I didn't meet any stars? Hell, just walking down the street past MTV's Time Square studio, I felt as excited as a Hillary Duff fan on TRL." Why in the world do I know who Hillary Duff is?

I thought another Spin intern was luckier. This summer she met Blur's Damon Albarn and MTV's Ian Robinson, and this was after having won a Spin contest last year to interview Papa Roach.

Almost every day I asked her about her experience. Did you have to pretend you liked them? What is Editor-In-Chief Sia Michel really like? You mean MTV actually filmed your experience? Wasn't it, like, cool?

Her reality show was somewhat scripted, she told me, and Papa Roach just seemed like normal, everyday dudes. Regarding Jacoby Shaddix, this Ohio girl seemed as jaded as a native New Yorker.

I was beginning to think I shouldn't be so starstruck. But when she raved about how cute Albarn was, I began to suspect I was normal, or as normal as somebody who wants to write about Motley Crue for a living can be.

Everybody loves a good pop song, as well as the singers who sing them. I just happen to love writing about them. And though I haven't met a star yet, I think one day I might.

Issue 16, October 2003

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