Fox News’ Roger Friedman gleefully reported today that “sources” have told him the newly apologetic Kelly Clarkson will return to pop music, with a new album of songs selected by record mogul Clive Davis and his associates to come sometime in 2008. If it’s true, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise given the controversy surrounding My December, and the album’s solid–though unremarkable–sales figures. However, Friedman’s over-the-top reverence for Davis borders on outright fanboy drooling, and serves to highlight one of the more peculiar aspects of this whole Kelly/Clive debacle: Have we gotten to the point that people are so cynical about pop music that they prefer to reserve fandom for an industry executive who has facilitated hits rather than those who write and perform them?
It would be extremely charitable to consider what Davis does a form of artistic patronage, but even still, who is going to think more favorably of the Medici family than Michaelangelo, Raphael, or other artists who may share names with Ninja Turtles? I suppose the easy answer is “unhinged capitalists who only think in numbers and resent all forms of artistic ambition or expression,” but maybe I’m being old-fashioned, and Friedman et al are on the same wavelength as those who insist that DJs and other people who manipulate and contextualize pop culture are the truly important artists in this Web 2.0 world.
Perhaps Clive Davis isn’t just “the record industry’s most astute executive maybe of all time, ” but in fact the most important artist maybe of all time.