The idea of an alter ego is perhaps a bit foreign, or even scary to some. Whenever I think of the concept I have these weird memories of my aunt running around the family reunion demanding we call her by the names the ones in her head call her. Maybe this is a bit different…
Everyone (else) loves the idea of an alter ego, I mean why would girls who got white girl wasted at parties in high school demand you call them by their drunk names like Tammy, or Jessica, when in reality it was just a good excuse to drink as much straight vodka as you could, then lash out at your friends when they told you it was time to go home.
Anyways, we’re talking musical alter egos here in this blog.
Alter egos have been a great way for artists to experiment with different sounds and images throughout their careers, without having to alter their brand — it’s become a safety net of sorts for artists.
It’s like a Jekyll & Hyde situation. In that story, Dr. Henry Jekyll commits crimes as his alter ego by the name of Edward Hyde, allowing him to get away with it. Until the end… Then it kind of blows up in his face… But that’s beside the point, the first part of the story is all I need to prove my point.
This is a metaphor about how musical artists will use a different name and create works under that name to avoid the ridicule or backlash that could have been tied to their original name. It’s rather genius if you think about it.
For instance. Picture yourself as the Beatles. Or just one of the Beatles rather, let’s say, ermmmmm, Paul McCartney.
It’s 1966 and you’re high key not having a good time with the boys anymore. The stress of worldwide fame that hasn’t been felt by anyone since the likes of Elvis is starting to get you down. Your band can’t seem to stop writing music that everyone loves and your live shows have turned into riots of screaming teenagers, just hoping to get a glimpse of your mop top and pointy boots before you start the next song. You can’t hear yourself or your band, but the show must go on.
This is the pinnacle of fame, and you fucking hate it. So what do you do next?
You make the obvious choice: succumb to the peer pressure from your bandmates and take acid for the first time. Then boom. Your mind is open for business once again.
So now you’re back in it. You got your boys back and your third eye is wide open.
What do you come up with? Possibly one of the best alter egos in the history of music… Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Sgt. Peppers gave the Beatles exactly what they needed, a new and fresh way to make music. A change from the image they had been upholding for so long, the mop tops, pointy boots and sharp suits. Now they were trippy, groovy and psychedelic. A perfect embodiment of the late 1960’s. After this the Beatles went on to create five more great albums in three years, as if they hadn’t just created eight legendary ones in the four years prior. Fucking machines I tell you.
In some cases alter egos give artists a fresh new way to package not only their music but themselves as a whole. It brings a new splash of creativity they were perhaps lacking. In other cases it can be a mask artists can hide behind and express themselves in different ways.
For instance, let’s look at Eminem. Or rather the Slim Shady… We all like to talk about Eminem’s old music now and how that shit just wouldn’t fly today; and that is entirely true.
However, if we really think about it, it wasn’t Eminem saying this stuff… It was the Slim Shady. Which is frankly genius. I mean genius, if you don’t take the lyrics as seriously as every Karen who’s kid was told to stick 9 inch nails through each one of their eyelids and copy me and do exactly as I did.
This guy got away with rapping about rape and murder… In some cases both in the same song, and in some cases about his mum… Pretty fucked up if you ask me… Nonetheless, this guy sold millions rapping about the most ridiculous and heinous crimes, all under the name of some alter ego he cooked up. Again, genius.
Slim Shady will always be a musical icon but I do have to say, he wouldn’t fit in the musical world today. We’re too sensitive and he’s just too brash. But Eminem does have one of the most iconic alter egos of all time. The closest we got was Tyler, The Creator’s Wolf Haley who was still too ahead of his time if you really think about it. His second personality is at least somewhat to blame for being banned in England and New Zealand…
And that’s just the thing about alter egos, they provide the safety net that artists long for.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, artists fucking hate being famous. At least to an extent…
Artists need the space an alter ego provides them to be creative out of their comfort zone. We feed these folks with pressure and expectations and hold them to standards that are unachievable by us as a listener.
That’s why I believe we see the experimentation under different names from our favourite artists, because we’re too fucking judgmental.
So chill out, appreciate what we get from our favourite artists, no matter the name and no matter what the sound is. We’re too quick to judge as a whole, no matter what the project is. Let alone if it’s under another name. Be appreciative, take it for what it is. Mac Miller produced under another name (Larry Fisherman, go check his shit out, especially the album with Vince Staples, you won’t be disappointed) and Tyler, The Creator’s grammy winning album came from some twisted alter ego with dope suits and an even tighter bowl cut than Johnny Ramone’s.
What I’m trying to say is that you love alter egos more than you think. And this started earlier than you realize. If you don’t know what I mean by this, I’ve got a name for you that made you love alter egos from an early age before you even knew it: Hannah Montana.
Miley Cyrus, or Hannah Montana, may have the ultimate alter ego in the history of music. I’m not throwing shade on Sgt. Peppers, Ziggy, MF Doom, Larry Fisherman, Igor, Roman Zolanski, T.I.P., Makaveli, Shady or any of the other names that I left out of this blog.
But let’s be fucking real for a second. This chick made an alter ego when she was like 14 and rode that shit out til she had a mental break down for the ages.
AND THEN BOUNCED BACK FROM THAT SHIT LIKE WE AINT MEAN SHIT.
Yeah, I know you heard “Wrecking Ball”. You can run to it, you can cry to it and you can party to it.
Miley Cyrus is the first person to make a song with three different egos. She is the queen of alter egos and y’all can’t even begin to argue that.