Which Music Genre Does Instagram the Best?
Last week in the VICE office, while everyone else was distracting themselves with frivolous shit like Syrian war hospitals or the US presidential election, I was busy ADHD-refreshing the vitally important Tumblr, "Rapperz On Instagram". As well as shining a light upon the ghetto-Gatsby worlds that all of your favourite rappers (and Joe Budden) seem to permanently inhabit, it also disproves the widely-held theory that Instagram is only used by anorexic rich girls who would rather photograph their food than eat it.
While browsing the pictures of Juicy J's fridge groaning under the weight of Moet or Gucci Mane fishing in his own jacuzzi, I started to wonder: What about other types of musician who use Instagram? Granted, I can't really see Billy Bragg posting pics of himself topless next to a matte-black Lambo, but most of them have inflated egos, and if there's anything people with massive egos like, it's posting photos of themselves on the internet and waiting for the "Likes" and comments to roll in.
I decided to find out if any other musical genre can do Instagram better than rap. (Apologies in advance on behalf of Instagram for the shitty picture quality).
Even if your rap knowledge is limited to "Gangsta's Paradise" and the Wild Wild West soundtrack, I'm sure the costumes you've seen people wearing at "Pimpz and Hoes" fancy dress parties will have enlightened you to the fact that rappers don't really go in for the whole #HumbleBrag thing. To rappers, modesty is something only losers do.
You're not gonna find any photos of pomegranate frappucinos or Stoke Newington sunsets here. These guys' approach is more "sip champagne when we thirstay" than "here's me and my besties drinking mojitos in in the park!XXx" or "uh oh, 2-4-1 @ Bar Laguna with Kelly 2nite, drunkysville here I come :/". Well, maybe Lupe Fiasco posts things like that, but fuck that guy.
They have their cliches just like the rest of Instagram does, but when it comes to the tropes, it seems that bands of cash replace Pomeranians, bottles of Dom replace frothy coffees and tricked-out Maybachs replace vintage Minis. They also fucking love watches. But somehow the in-your-face attestments to social status and obnoxious wealth-flaunting seem oddly endearing. There's nothing forced, try-hard or patronising about rappers on Instagram. There's an honesty and a warped integrity to this kind of boasting; they're showing us their immense fortunes (although I'm still not sure how Meek Mill got so rich, so quickly) rather than trying to prove how untouchably cool they are.
One cliche they can't escape are the constant meal-time updates, as Young Money's Jae Millz demonstrates here with his gigantic steak, sweetcorn, Uncle Ben's microwave rice and super-expensive 80-proof vodka combo. But I guess it's impossible to complain about that as long as people on Twitter keep filling the world with the same joke about Rick Ross attempting to stage-dive.
Alas, when it comes to skinny white guys with guitars, Brits haven't really caught up with their snap-happy Brooklyn cousins. So until Palma Violets get out of their squat, wise up to what young people in this country want from their bands and buy iPhones to clog up the internet with pointless crap, we'll have to look abroad for examples of indie on Instagram.
One of the biggest proponents of Instagram in the world of 9+ Pitchfork-review bands is yapping high-society hunk, Ezra Koenig. Maybe I just haven't listened to their music enough, but I've never heard Vampire Weekend shout-out chrome Maybachs or weed buds that look like they were smuggled out of a government-owned GM greenhouse in Roswell. Lyrically, they seem like they're more about university campuses and places in Africa they've never visited.
How does that translate into Instagram pics?
I'm not sure how knowing Koenig's Instagram account is – if it's all just one, big, self-deprecating joke about how twee and Caucasian he is – but my god, if you put it all in a Powerpoint slideshow (like I just did) it plays exactly like a badly-damaged Wes Anderson DVD. The coloured cocktails, the shots in hotel room mirrors, the tennis courts and the New York skylines – the whole thing just screams "I am completely comfortable with my manicured, tasteful existence."
Also repping the world of acclaimed alt. rock on IG are The National. For a band feted for their supposedly "dark" lyrical subject matter, their Instagram is remarkably cosy. The analogue-tech porno shot from the studio aside, their photos look more like something from a blog run by a new dad who's documenting his move from the city to the country, rather than the touring life of a rock 'n' roll band.
There are a lot of autumnal leaves, jokey "jolly boys' outing" poses and too many children for me to believe that melancholic thing they give off isn't formulated to lure in people who read the Bible and the Koran for fun once and now can't figure out why they worry a lot. Which I suppose is exactly the sort of person whose mind would need soothing with pictures of guys in other people's old clothes doing uninteresting things.
I probably could have chosen someone more current here, but I don't know enough about modern-day metal to do that without getting called a "faggot" by angry metalheads in the comments. So I chose Nikki Sixx.
Despite the fact the guy used to play in Mötley Crüe, Nikki Sixx seems determined to bring the world of metal out of its creative Bronze Age through his own Instagram account. While it appears Nikki left the drugs and booze behind him in the 80s, it's clear his fashion sense has survived till this day, right up to 2012 (except now he also has an added douchebag soul patch).
His Instagram account reflects that loyalty, with its endless stream of pentagrams, spooky signs, skull rings and far from humble brags about his distressingly attractive girlfriend. (Seriously, how is Nikki Sixx still holding it down like this in 2012?) In fact, his photos are so metal they could almost be lifted straight from the pages of one of those "alternative clothing" catalogues you get free in issues of Terrorizer.
By contrast, "thinking man's nu-metal band" Deftones have a few more pictures of gigantic Jägermeister bottles but essentially replicate the same vibe as The National. Which is that of 30-something men trying to show us how sophisticated they are. It's craft beers rather than crucifixes and vintage keyboards over virgin sacrifices.
The most Satanic and decadent thing I could find was this. Which looks like a nine-year-old's idea of what a Satanic and decadent thing is. Seems like the devil is too busy listening to Rozay these days to bother with the guys who only formed their bands at school because they couldn't leave the music block without getting attacked.
Of course, Instagram isn't just for underground darlings like Vampire Weekend or Lil Wayne. The lamestream has also fully embraced Instagram in the same way it embraces anything that major label cigar-chompers think is cool, like dubstep and American flag hot pants. As such, it was always inevitable that Rihanna was going to lead the charge.
Her Instagram game is an incongruous mix of soft focus, cod-motivational sloganeering like this, which look like adverts designed by the Barbadian tourist board (because they were) and lots of photos of herself in revealing outfits. So not too dissimilar to what Rick Ross does, really.
Then there's Taylor Swift, whose photographic work is so whimsical and safe that it might as well have a Nouvelle Vague cover version playing alongside the web gallery. There are cupcakes, there are daisies, there are her own shoes and there is Ellen DeGeneres. If Rihanna's is something akin to commemorative gap year video, Taylor's is a high school memories scrapbook.
Having said that, there's something much more genuine at work here. Taylor's not really trying to impress anyone or pretend to be a badgirl like Rihanna is. It actually looks like the kind of picture gallery most normal people have on their phone; just nice things and nice places and nice people. Which I suppose is what her audience like.
Still, the occasional hundred-thousand dollars in a cereal box wouldn't go amiss.
Other than people who like "Gangnam Style" doing the Mobot, could there really be anything more 2012 than Skrillex's Instagram? I mean, it's so quintessentially "now" that when he posts a picture of himself with a burger, it becomes more than just a picture; it becomes a visual representation of hell for somebody who hates the world we live in. Just think about it – Skrillex, instagramming an artisan burger. It's like a bad joke made by somebody who hates hipsters but doesn't quite understand what they do or who they are. It's like being in some kind of vortex of the present.
Other than that, the brostep Beethoven's output is resolutely cutesy. There are a lot of sunsets, kittens and pictures of mid-size cities taken from his platinum class airline seat. This is strange, seeing as his music sounds like a hate crime at a frat house, but it's also very fucking Instagram.
As for other dubstep artists – well, is anyone other than Skrillex still claiming to make it any more? His music is the fart that cleared the dubstep lift faster than you can say "womp".
For some reason, I couldn't find Leadbelly or Mississippi John Hurt's accounts anywhere (I guess they must keep them private), but Bon Iver does have an Instagram (is he kinda folk? I don't really care) and it's exactly as you'd imagine it to be. Grizzled dudes drinking beers and "I'm so humbled" crowd shots. No Lambos. No pool party lesbians. No money. Just guys who look like they would've been competitors on the American version of Robot Wars if their dads hadn't bought them guitars for their birthdays instead.
That said, I find it impossible to dislike this guy, which is weird, because in many respects he looks exactly the same as Justin Lee Collins. I guess the differences must be subtle: Some men deal with their problems by wandering off into the woods by themselves for months on end to make music in a shed, some go to WH Smith's to buy a grubby dossier.
So what have we learnt from this? I can't think of too much, apart from that people really, really like taking photos of stuff they put in their mouths, and that no matter who you are, there are other people out there who care about that, too. Which I guess is why Rick Ross is the best at it.
Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive
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