A lecture illustrated with chart-toppers, a response to the question: why (more) Katy Perry? “Outside the Hit Factory” reflects on the use of consumer-behavior data and neurobiology research in the production of pop songs that are guaranteed to be pleasing to as many listeners as possible—and to avoid confronting listeners with songs that they haven’t already been conditioned to like. The producers of hits like “Roar” and “Can’t Feel My Face” might design insipid products that manipulate our basic impulses, but they also devise an emotional Esperanto that merges all our voices into a single chorus. You might have to ask: do I want to hear a song that perfectly conforms to a numeric representation of my personality? Or a song that transports me to a club where nearly all of humanity mouth the words and grin as if just graduated?
Alexander Provan is the editor of Triple Canopy and a contributing editor of Bidoun. He is the recipient of a 2015 Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant and was a 2013–15 fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics. Provan’s writing has appeared in the Nation, n+1, Art in America, Artforum, Frieze, and in several exhibition catalogues. His work as an individual and with Triple Canopy has been presented at the 14th Istanbul Biennial, 2014 Whitney Biennial, Museum Tinguely (Basel), 12th Bienal de Cuenca, New Museum (New York), and Kunsthalle Wien (Vienna), and in the coming year will be presented at Tai Kwun Center for Heritage and Arts (Hong Kong), Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the RISD Museum (Providence), and the Hammer Museum, where Triple Canopy currently is in residence. Provan’s sound work Measuring Device with Organs was recently published by Triple Canopy as an LP.