Imperial Phases: What Are They, Who's Had One and Do They Still Exist? (with Tom Ewing)
The concept of an "Imperial Phase"- a short-lived period of a pop star's career where artistic revelation meets commercial saturation and everything they touch turns to gold- comes up quite a bit on Pop Pantheon. Originally coined by Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant, the term gained purchase in our pop music discourse thanks to Tom Ewing's taxonomy of the phrase in his classic 2010 Pitchfork piece, "Imperial".
For this week's B-side, Tom joins DJ Louie to discuss Imperial Phases past, present and future. Louie and Tom get into the history of the term and the details of how to spot one when it's happening, before turning to the careers of individual pop stars- Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Diana Ross, Prince, Madonna, Lady GaGa, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and more- to figure out who's had one, who hasn't and when exactly they've had happened (or not) for each.
Finally, Louie and Tom discuss whether it's become more difficult to achieve an Imperial Phase in the streaming and social media era, how we need redefine the term in the context of cult-of-personality pop stardom and who of the new generation seems primed to achieve one in the coming years.
Read Tom's piece "Imperial" in Pitchfork
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