Ever since Britney posed like a doe-eyed teenage blow-job queen for “Hit Me Baby One More Time”, young white female pop singers have been parlaying faux-innocent nubility into platinum records. All the while, they’ve been trying to pass it off as some kind of self-aware empowerment. And though their base sexuality does exert control over the consuming audience, it doesn’t empower the trailer-park-bred girl who wields it. Power connotes an aptitude to do something. When you use T&A to sell records, that’s just exploiting your own body. Straight-up commercial whoredom. Which is fine, as long as, like Madonna, you’re smart enough to know that.
But the truth is, none of the Britneys, Lindseys, or Hilarys have either the balls (so to speak) or the brains to carry Madonna’s jock strap (or equivalent). They’re just sequin-studded sluts pimped out by MTV. And you get the feeling that they aren’t smart enough to know even that.
Then there’s Concetta Kirschner—better known as nymphomaniac raunch-rap queen Princess Superstar. Kirschner is among the few female sex-slinging pop stars who is smarter than she is hot; although this journalist wouldn’t refuse the chance to take a peek beneath the pink cheerleader skirt she wore in the video for her UK top ten hit “Bad Babysitter”.
Sure, Kirschner is being cranked through the gears of the machine like everyone else, but the difference is, she’s the one working the levers. She started her own label, cheekily named Big Rich Major Label, in her early twenties, and renamed it The Corrupt Conglomerate a few years later. She’s a Jewish/Sicilian/Polish irony-loving white girl who raps headily about fucking, celebrities, and fucking celebrities. She is, in her own words, “David Bowie meets Missy Elliot”.
Of course her music is far too raunchy and weird for the mainstream American audience. Her newest album, the 80-minute concept opus My Machine, (due in stores on September 13) isn’t likely to change that. It’s a sprawling dystopian vision of the future, where a fame-hungry “Superstar” tries to monopolize the celebrity scene by creating 10,000 clones of herself. Pop culture and corporate references abound on the album, and Kirschner’s recent European success has led her to explore electronic music more than ever.
Princess Superstar recently spoke to PopMatters from New York about her new album, MC Paul Barman, Kate Olsen, and the woman behind the Superstar persona.
PopMatters: Your new album, My Machine comes out on September 13. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to listen to much of it yet, but I did notice that it’s really, really long.
Princess Superstar: [Laughs] Don’t be scared. The only reason it’s really long is because it’s a concept album. But once you listen to it straight through, it doesn’t seem so long anymore. It’s just a fun party/dance record.
PM: The very first time I ever heard your stuff was about five years ago on MC Paul Barman’s “It’s Very Stimulating” EP. You guys did what I think is one of the most brilliant rap duets in the history of rap duets.
PS: Awww, you’re sweet. Thanks.
PM: How did you hook up with Paul Barman, anyway?
PS: That was thanks to Prince Paul. Basically, I’d met Prince Paul—I forget how, but I met him. I wanted him to do production on a song for me. He was like “Okay, but I’m producing this kid Paul Barman, and I want you to do a duet with him.” And I was like, “Yeah, sure—I’ll do whatever Prince Paul says [laughs]. I’ll do a duet with a cardbard box!”
PM: What was it like working with another white Jewish rapper like Barman?
PS: I thought he was fucking hilarious—and weird. Super-intense, super-braniac. And I was like, “Oh, this could be really good.”
PM: My Machine doesn’t seem to have so much of that vintage eighties Prince Paul sound. It sounds more European.
PS: But you’d be surprised. For example, “Perfect”, which is going to be one of the singles, is definitely getting an old school nod. There are definitely some old school nods on the record. But yeah, a lot of it’s electronic. If you want to call it European, that makes it sound kind of gay, so I don’t know.
PM: Why did you go in more of an electronic direction on My Machine?
PS: Well, on the last album I had kind of a big hit in Europe with “Bad Babysitter.” So I started playing a lot in Europe, and then I started DJing a lot in Europe, and I really got into the club scene over there. Of course, I was still married to hip-hop. So I thought, “Hmmm ... I’d love to make an album where I try to do both things.” So that’s basically what I wanted to do. I’m always up for experimenting and being innovative with my music. On my prior albums, I did all sorts of things from hip-hop to punk rock, to some elements of electro—before there was even an electro scene.
PM: Thematically, My Machine is pretty different too. The humor is still there, the raunchiness is still there, but there’s also a strong social message. What are trying to say with it?
PS: It’s always tricky to try to explain your raison d’être. But on this album I was really intent on doing some social studying. On my other records, even though they weren’t as deep, there was always some kind of comment on pop culture going on there. But on this one, I took it to another level. I am very intrigued with our society’s obsession with celebrity. On my album, what happens is that in the future, everybody gets one clone. But the Superstar wants 10,000 clones so that she can be the only celebrity on the planet. And there’s also some funny things that go along with that, because I wanted to make a good album that was fun and that people could dance to and laugh at.
PM: My Machine addresses gross consumerism as well as the way that corporations have become celebrities in themselves. And you seem to be criticizing that and embracing it simultaneously.
PS: Yeah, that’s the irony of the whole thing. It’s like, “Yeah, I hate it, but I can’t stop reading this thing about Kate Olsen!” [laughs] My ambivalence toward it all is captured there on record, for sure.
PM: It’s interesting how you approach these issues from the perspective of a character that’s obviously quite different from the real Concetta Kirschner. When and how did it occur to you to create Princess Superstar?
PS: God ... it’s really ... [laughs] Sorry, I’m just eating a pecan ... It all started about ten years ago. I didn’t know—trust me, DID NOT KNOW—that I would still be doing this ten years later, and it would be this thing. I started out wanting to make a very over-the-top character that was funny but also really outrageous in the sense of something like Iggy, but also all the way to David Bowie, and also like David Lee Roth. That was really a lot of my influence in the beginning. I was also obsessed with hip-hop. So I was like, “Ooooh ... what a cool thing, to meld those things together with hip-hop.”
PM: Iggy Pop was in many ways that person he portrayed. How much of you is in Princess Superstar?
PS: Well, a lot of me is in it, because it’s definitely something that I’ve created. Things start to blend together. But I’m not—I guess that when people think of Princess Superstar they think of some sex-crazed party animal ... well, then again ... hmmmm ... No! [laughs]. No, I’m actually a lot more laid back than that.
PM: You’re getting older, and maybe you’ve thought about eventually having children. How do you plan on evolving if that happens?
PS: Well, I would eventually like to have a family, but I’m not really thinking about that right now. I like to be really Buddhist about the whole thing and stay in the moment. I have no idea what I’m going to be doing four or five years from now. I think it would be very strange to take a little baby on tour, but people do it. Or maybe I’m going to end up like Celia Cruz, and be like, “Why do I need kids? The world are my babies.”
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