Two months ago Aaron Carter, brother of Backstreet Boy Nick, was beaten up on a trip to Boston because, as one of his assailants reportedly claimed: "This is the town of the New Kids." Such territorial clashes remind us that there is nothing new in pop rivalry, it's an energy that labels and artists have used to their advantage over the years.
But the situation has evolved to an almost farcical level in the digital age and last weekend, seeing trouble brewing with Katy Perry's fans, Lady Gaga sent out an unusually direct statement to her famously militant fans that enough was, finally, enough.
"I really want the second half of 2013 to mark a change in pop," she wrote. "Don't fight with Katy's fans, or anyone. STOP THE DRAMA. START THE MUSIC. Pop music is fun, and these 'wars' are not what I'm about."
To understand that these "wars" are less simple than lobbing abuse across Twitter or duffing up a Backstreet Boy's younger brother, consider the events of the last fortnight as Gaga and Perry gear up to release Applause and Roar, their respective singles. Consider, in particular, Operation Roar, a three-point web plan distributed by Katy Perry fans with the aim of "destroying" Lady Gaga. Or was it the Katy Perry fans? Could it have been Lady Gaga fans? The paranoia that breeds in fan circles means that campaigns like this can often be organised by the outer edges of an artist's fanbase as they attempt to discredit an opposing tribe. And it gets murkier. Modern fandom is about strategic alliances that make Game of Thrones look like University Challenge, and as the quest for pop's iron throne got going, Britney Spears fans reasoned that as Katy and Britney were friends, Britney fans should also sabotage Gaga's single, which comes one week after Perry's. Naturally this was accompanied by GIFs of Britney laughing and Lady Gaga bursting into flames.
Pop fandom is almost always about taking sides and Lady Gaga has nurtured an insular fanbase whose passion borders on siege mentality. Historically, she's also failed to condemn her fans for bullying other artists but now, after tacitly being part of the problem, Gaga is demanding a solution. "Let's make 2013 a year where music/talent/artistry is more important than gossip/fanwars," she wrote.
Katy Perry's more unhinged fans interpreted this as Lady Gaga running scared. But they would say that, wouldn't they?
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image: © Lori Tingey