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Amplified Observations: Controversial band names...


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Amplified Observations: Controversial band names...
« on: January 30, 2018, 11:27 AM »

What's in a name?

Amplified Observations: Controversial band names great for picking up traction, terrible for the long run
Luke Furman

Executing a high profile name change can present a big risk to any creative person. After an artist has worked so long to get recognized, adopting a new, possibly less controversial persona, might feel like returning to square one of accruing publicity and listeners.

Recently, break-out California rapper Lil Xan pledged to change his stage name to Diego, which is a smart move career-wise. His musical talent has the potential to flourish unlike many of his lower-quality Soundcloud peers. But to continue making music with a benzo in his stage name probably wouldn’t make him seem like a good role model to preteens, who will undoubtedly flock to his bars.

It’s easy to name a music project at the onset when no one is watching. I’m reminded of a Columbus band who call themselves Hooker Made Out of Cocaine. For the decision of whether on not to see that band play in a bar setting, its name is a humorous draw and indicator of its type of music.

But when a band, artist or music project starts gaining traction, a name like Lil Xan or Chet Faker or Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. doesn’t seem like such a good idea anymore. Even someone as outlandish as Tyler, the Creator made the decision to change his classic Twitter handle @FuckTyler to @tylerthecreator in order to move forward in his career.

Before The Goo Goo Dolls released its adult contemporary classics, the members made music under the name The Sex Maggots, which not as marketable or even fitting to the sound. So sometimes, it works out. And can you imagine if Van Halen had kept making music under the name Rat Salad?

But the worst case scenario for an artist in terms of name-changes is when a band or stage name is deemed culturally offensive. Canadian post-punk band Preoccupations originally released music under the name Viet Cong until a big ado in 2015 prompted its members to rebrand. The group’s name change was, of course, the right move, as it’s a losing battle to argue the fair use of a culturally appropriated term. But Preoccupations were not the only band to suffer cultural criticism.

Last year, Eskimeaux, an indie rock project by Gabrielle Smith, changed its name simply to Ó, following accusations that “eskimo” is derogatory to the Inuit people, as it most likely comes from the Native American Algonquian language and translates to “eaters of raw meat.” Smith, who is of Tlingit but not Inuit heritage, changed the name to little controversy, although her project’s new name must be terrible for search engine optimization, better known as SEO.

Conversely to new acts, music artists who have been in the game for awhile and established a loyal following, names matter less than the source of the music. A few years ago Snoop Dogg changed his name to Snoop Lion, but we all still knew it was really just Snoop Dogg — or at least I hope so.

In November, Diddy, whom with I share a birthday, changed his name to “Love” before revealing it was only a joke. Diddy being “Love” would only be slightly less ridiculous than changing his name to a hieroglyphic symbol like The Purple One. Either way, a stage name only matters before it reaches a household or international level. After an act establishes their success, no introduction is needed.

There are plenty of reasons for bands and artists to take on a new name, and it’s fairly common if you pay attention to the blogs. Sometimes a do-over is a blessing, especially if it’s prompted by justifiable outrage and offence. I view making money off someone else’s culture or Schedule IV drugs as an arena for fault, even if it sounds cool. If people complain, then at least someone is paying attention.

But more so than other people, there’s nothing worse than making music under a name that the artist themself can no longer appreciate. Just ask William Patrick– I mean, Billy Corgan.

Luke Furman is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What do you think? Let Luke know by tweeting him @LukeFurmanLog or emailing him at