This clever video was released five days ago. Very effective, and of course her album this year is quite good. I wish the best in musical futures both to Katie Toupin and Houndmouth. We need more good music, not less.
Artists Unfiltered: Musicians Take Control of Identity in 2019, by Eric R. Danton (Paste Magazine)
Katie Toupin is ending the year with a breakup, which she caught on video.
After spending much of 2019 immersed in her solo debut, Magnetic Moves, Toupin is ready to start 2020 without the tagline that seemed to always accompany her over the preceding months: “formerly of Houndmouth.” In the video, which she posted this week, a piece of poster board that reads “Katie Toupin (formerly of Houndmouth)” goes with her everywhere—the grocery store, the tub, while doing kettlebell swings at the gym—as her song “Someone to You” plays. Finally, Toupin has had enough, and she rids herself of the unwanted appellation. By the end of the clip, the singer is beaming while she uses paint and glitter to decorate a much smaller sign that reads, simply, “Katie Toupin.”
“I don’t need that tagline anymore. At this point, it doesn’t have any value,” says Toupin, who left Houndmouth in 2016. “It’s not going to move any more tickets. The fans that wanted to stay with me are already with me. It’s time to move on and just be the person that I am.”
Toupin’s video is a fitting capper to a year when plenty of artists sought to take more active control over how they are viewed by audiences, critics and whoever else comes across them. Sometimes, like Toupin, musicians shaped their public identities in creative ways that entertained—or helped create—fans. Others lashed out on social media when they weren’t perceived as they wanted to be. Either way, pop musicians vocally defining how they want to interact with the world is a fairly new development, and one that runs contrary to the way things have worked in the past. It used to be that musicians made records, went on tour and did press to promote the record or tour. Though some of them had specific images—or reputations, in some cases—to maintain, they rarely engaged directly in a back-and-forth with their audience, or with critics. That sort of thing fell to publicists and managers until the rise of social media. When the president of the United States fulminates on Twitter all day, why shouldn’t musicians talk about what’s important to them?
“We get to have a voice that isn’t filtered, if we decide to,” says Toupin, who teased her video in advance as a “major announcement.”
Madonna sidestepped any filters in June when she objected to a lengthy profile of her in the New York Times Magazine that she felt focused on the wrong things, including her age. She wrote on Instagram that she felt “raped” by the result. And Lana Del Rey didn’t stifle herself in August when she clapped back on Twitter to a largely positive NPR review of her new album Norman Fucking Rockwell!. Writer Ann Powers made reference to “Del Rey’s persona as a bad girl to whom bad things are done,” and at one point called her lyrics “uncooked” when compared with Joni Mitchell’s. Neither observation conformed to the way Del Rey wants to be seen (or, maybe, sees herself), which she made clear in a response: “There’s nothing uncooked about me,” she wrote in part. “To write about me is nothing like it is to be with me. Never had a persona. Never needed one. Never will.”
That’s a bold claim, considering Del Rey made it under the cover of a stage name (she was still going by her given name, Lizzy Grant, on her first album in 2010). In a way, though, it’s all a persona. In a probing 2018 interview with Esquire, Bruce Springsteen talked about how depression can sometimes make him lose track of his sense of identity. From a fan’s perspective, the interviewer replied, “You’re Bruce fucking Springsteen! How do you not know who you are?” Springsteen laughed, and revealed a secret most entertainers don’t talk about: “Bruce fucking Springsteen is a creation” …