Early this morning, the NY Daily News Gatecrasher blog reported that Joe Jonas got a particularly chilly reception from the “hostile hipsters” who attended the Paper-affiliated party at the branded temporary skatepark-cum-music venue House of Vans in Williamsburg, Brooklyn last Wednesday. According to the Gatecrasher report, Jonas was booed and pelted with “Nerf-style mini-basketballs.” The story is getting some buzz because it confirms readers’ (and some writers’) assumptions about both Joe Jonas and Williamsburg residents, and it illustrates the long road Jonas will have to walk if he hopes to cross over into dance-pop. The reality of the situation, though, may be a bit more complicated.
Take the Village Voice review of the show, published less than twelve hours after the show, for example. Rae Votta splits the crowd “50/50″ in terms of how many attendees were enthused by Jonas’s performance. The show, ostensibly a launch event for June’s “Music Issue” of Paper (which features Joe Jonas on the cover), featured free beer courtesy sponsor Corona, who also provided the mini-basketballs—a pretty misguided combination. If Michael Jackson had returned from the dead and performed alongside indie-rock demigod Jeff Mangum, someone would have pelted them with mini-basketballs, too.
The Gatecrasher reporters’ desire to include the sentence “At one point in the performance, we watched two dudes standing in front of us peg Jonas in the face with their balls” aside, their and Votta’s reviews do highlight the danger of subcultural overlap. Even the more generous Votta couches the audience’s appreciation (or lack thereof) of Jonas’s performance in terms of “irony,” as though no one in attendance could genuinely appreciate Jonas’s pop. Justin Timberlake‘s hipster “credibility,” on the other hand, is unimpeachable (at least, in 2011), despite his near-identical Disney-branded start in music. Jonas certainly didn’t do himself any favors by employing backup dancers at the small, faux-DIY venue, but he worked with “hip” producers like Danja (who contributed significantly to Britney Spears‘s Blackout) for his new album. We suspect that the future holds more, not fewer, of these seemingly ideological collisions (which, in fact, have more to do with our stars’ cultural meaning and our own self-representations). Jonas’s main challenge in crossing over is not whether he can make good music, but whether he can be seen as cool. He’s got a ways to go. But ever since Timberlake revealed in a June Playboy interview that he has almost no interest in recording or releasing a new album anytime soon, we would hope audiences and critics could be more open to artists willing to step up to the plate.
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