Here’s Why People Are Mad at This Viral Pop Punk Band Tramp Stamps

This Nashville trio was accused of everything from being industry plants, racism, co-opting feminism for PR, and working with Dr. Luke.
JT
Chicago, US
April 19, 2021, 8:30pm
​Tramp Stamps (Image via the artist's website)
Tramp Stamps (Image via the artist's website)

Nashville pop punk trio Tramp Stamps are likely this year’s most reviled band even though they formed last year, have never played a show, and have released just three songs. While they first achieved online virality posting earnest covers of Machine Gun Kelly, Paramore, and Taylor Swift hits, amassing over 400,000 followers on TikTok, the internet backlash for the past week to their latest single “I’d Rather Die” is so severe it eclipses whatever positive momentum the group previously had. “There’s a ‘“punk’” band that everyone on [TikTok] is making fun of because they’re  obviously an industry plant and their music has a lame “tumblr edgelord” vibe,” wrote Twitter user @DannyVegito. “[Like] their entire aesthetic is so forced that I almost feel bad for them.” 

Advertisement


The controversy has everything: allegations of the Tramp Stamps being “industry plants,” allegedly problematic lyrics that critics say promote rape culture, rumors that the band is affiliated with controversial producer Dr. Luke, and even a notes-app response written by the group that decries “cancel culture.” It’s as confusing as it is bizarre, but the staggering pushback against Tramp Stamps and the band’s very existence is a microcosm into how cynical music marketing can go awry. This is more than just TikTok teens thinking a band is corny and the blowback against these three musicians is proof how easily artist press campaigns can backfire. 


Watch the hundreds of videos posted on Tramp Stamps’ TikTok page and you’ll be inundated with as many 2000s pop punk signifiers as you would be walking into a Hot Topic or Spencer’s Gifts: neon-dyed hair, mall-goth outfits, and shoutouts to artists like We The Kings and Plain White Ts. Their page is full of content that’d make most people approaching 30 consider deleting TikTok, with a capella renditions of Avril Lavinge songs, memes featuring their own music, as well as jokes about mental illness and being emo. Their website is polished with cutesy-yet-professional graphic design and an “About” blurb that claims the band’s music “[speaks] the truth on societal ills like white-boy privilege and fragile masculinity.” “It’s the kind of stuff women talk about all the time with their friends, but no one’s ever put it to this kind of music before,” reads a quote from guitarist Caroline Baker.  

That’s all a little corny and ignores the thousands of feminist punk bands who came before Tramp Stamps, as dozens of social media posts roasting their aesthetic and claiming the band is an “industry plant” have pointed out. TikTok user Beccabeean posted a video captioned “It’s so easy to see how not punk this band is when you look at their Instagrams” featuring images of the Tramp Stamps’ members dressed drastically different than their band aesthetic. TikTok videos pointing out singer Marisa Maino and Baker both have pop solo careers making music that sounds nothing like Tramp Stamps claim their newfound musical direction is manufactured.  

The rollout for their latest single “I’d Rather Die” has been more disastrous than merely cringeworthy. The song boasts lyrics like the line, “I’d rather die / Than hook up with another straight white guy.” All the members of Tramp Stamps are white, and the lyric didn’t sit well with certain critics who claimed that the language was hypocritical and fetishized people of color. Internet sleuths even cited wedding photos of drummer Paige Blue’s marriage to a white man as proof of this hypocrisy. Later in the song, Maino sings, “I don’t know how you think we’re gonna fuck / When you can’t get it up / I’m sick of hearing it’s the alcohol” which is soon followed up by “I’m just saying / It’s not fair to / Leave me hanging like this.” One Twitter user wrote, “it's not a girl boss move or punk to sing about pressuring people to have sex with you when they don't want to or unable to properly consent due to alcohol.” The audio for the song has been removed on TikTok but you can still listen to it on YouTube and music streaming services. 

A Reddit user insinuated the band was actively affiliated with Dr. Luke, the Swedish pop music producer born Lukasz Gottwald who was accused of sexual and emotional abuse by Kesha in a years-long legal fight that’s still ongoing. Both lead singer Maino and guitarist Baker have solo publishing deals with Prescription Songs, the music company founded by Gottwald. According to YouTube and streaming services, the band releases music under their own label Make Tampons Free with a distribution deal with AWAL (Artists Without a Label). In February 2021, Kobalt Music Group, a company that boasts Dr. Luke on its roster, sold AWAL to Sony Music Group. While there’s no evidence that Gottwald is actively affiliated with Tramp Stamps, he does stand to profit from Marino and Baker’s songwriting. Though Prescription Music is home to several artists like Doja Cat, Saweetie, and writer Emily Warren (Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now”), members of a self-described feminist band personally benefitting from a figure as controversial as Dr. Luke is arguably hypocritical. 

While the backlash has been overwhelming, Tramp Stamps have been defiant. On April 17, they posted a four-page response on their social media accounts beginning with “hi fuckers,” railing against “cancel culture,” telling publications that wrote about the controversy “shame on all of you.” At one point, the statement addressed critics directly: “You have gone to the ends of the fucking earth to shit on us, have told us to kill ourselves, and have used conspiracy theories on TikTok as a trend to get more views on your own videos.” It continued, “Fuck you. You don’t like our music? Don’t fucking listen to it. We’re not going anywhere.” Unsurprisingly, this did little to stem the outrage. Their tweet with the statement currently has at press time 60 retweets and 1,265 quote tweets, a pretty gnarly ratio that suggests an enormously negative response. 

Though the “industry plant” allegations against Tramp Stamps are dubious considering that phrase is a nebulous term that usually just means “artists whose marketing I find inauthentic,” the controversy shouldn’t be shocking. If a band seems to clumsily and cravenly present itself as punk, countercultural, or DIY, members of those communities like Gen Z TikTok punks who value authenticity and skepticism will undoubtedly call them out on it. If a band co-opts the language of feminism to promote their music as their own public behavior on social media and in their career contradicts that posturing, people have every right to loudly reject them.