Me and Max Martin

Performers_1 Performers_2Mixed media, video, custom software, microphone, 2013

An interactive video installation where participants sing karaoke-style to pop songs crafted by producer Max Martin, a prolific music producer who has written and produced numerous top-ten hits for the last decade (Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Ke$ha, Usher, Katy Perry, Backstreet Boys, Kelly Clarkson).  Pop stars enjoy success, fame and failure and through it all Max Martin perseveres  and continues to dominate the world with his music.

Who are the people behind the pop stars? Pop stars are sometimes criticized for only serving as an image, a necessary* performer for a song that has been written by someone else and produced so that vocals are completely obscured through corrective filtering. Live performances offer little more reassurance as pop stars are derided for lip-synching to prerecorded material. Conversely, pop stars who write their own material and give unplugged, candid performances are lauded. Commercial interests, which guide the entire enterprise, are often strangely left out of debates regarding talent, technology and deserved recognition.

Inspired by the complicated ethics of pop star performance and creation, Me and Max Martin invites participants to sing along to pop hits, while video provides not only lyric assistance but also imagery of the American roads and highways, allowing participants to imagine they are cruising while crooning along with the radio. Participants voices were auto-tuned along with the music and this filtering eased performance anxiety and provided novelty to the experience. Over the course of the 2-3 minute songs, however, the auto-tune was faded out and the performer was left to sing along with the pop star with their own voice, unadorned.

Technical assistance and gratitude to Matt Wellins, Thad Kellstadt and Tom Weinrich.

*Hatsune Miku is a humanoid performer and a hugely popular Japanese pop star who sells out concerts.

Britney

BackstreetBoys
Katy
Kelly_clarkson Kesha