Chinese pianist Lang Lang already has endorsement deals with Audi, with Sony, and with Rolex. (Check out that Rolex ad -- Roger Federer and Lang Lang, with cameos from Placido Domingo and Renee Fleming.)
Just in time for the Olympics, Lang Lang now has his own line of shoes.
"I have no problem with famous people using their name/image to make money, but when you begin lending your name to products that have nothing to do with your talent, it's just absurd and greedy. There is a point when you become like Krusty the Clown and start saying, 'I heartily endorse this event or product;' he's very close to that."
Ask around the classical scene, and it's fairly common to hear disapproval or at least distaste at the idea of a classical musician getting corporate endorsements.
Can I respectfully ask...why? Will a musician's artistry suffer because of this? I don't see Tiger Woods' performance suffering because he sells his image to Gillette.
Take a look at that last link...honestly, Tiger looks silly shilling for a razor company. But do golf fans take him to task for it? Or even mention it when he's performing? If he plays well, three cheers. If his short game stinks for a weekend, the sports media will be all over it. How 'bout we judge a musician the same way?
Yes, Lang Lang's image is being packaged and sold like corn syrup-laden snack foods. Yeah, he can overdo the mousse now and then. But I'm happy he's analyzed at thehairstyler.com alongside Alicia Keys and Kim Kardashian...a classical musician is getting noticed beyond page 31 of the Sunday NY Times Arts section!
If part of our goal is to get classical music back into mainstream culture, this should be cause for rejoicing.
When Lang Lang comes to town, I want to see his concert. I haven't agreed with all of his musical choices in recent years, but he's an artist to be reckoned with. His evolving clothes and hairstyle and waistline might make for entertaining intermission conversation, along with reactions to his tempos and phrasing and dynamics. When the reserved but intense pianist Maurizio Pollini plays, I'll be there, too (maybe not quite as much conversation about his sartorial presentation at intermission, but hey...the man can play). There's room in our classical concert halls for each of their styles, and many more.
Lang Lang: Mousse your hair, wear a sequined vest while playing a Mozart Concerto, have a ball at the Olympics opening ceremonies. Thanks for getting classical music back into the media swim now and then.
Wear what you want, I know you won't mind if I close my eyes while you play. But Lang Lang, I'm listening...and I know how much you care about music. If you start dressing up Beethoven with mousse and sequins...
"adidas Originals has created a unique pair of sneakers for the world-renowned Chinese pianist Lang Lang. The extremely stylish and music-linked limited edition...is worn by the artist himself. Furthermore, it allows all his fans to express and celebrate both their enthusiasm for Lang Lang and their very own originality in street fashion..."
Lang Lang is, of course, quoted in the press release:
"As an international pianist I combine both artistry and enthusiasm for sports - especially football..."
And still more from Adidas...pardon me, that's adidas:
"Lang Lang is a true original. His passion for creativity, fun and individuality are evident not only in his music and his lifestyle. His skills in using the piano as a tool of self-expression are truly world-class and not unlike that of any top sportsman, artist and creator. His passion for fashion, football and the elements of adidas Originals shows the dynamic lifestyle of our brand and consumers' life."
The highly elegant black and golden Lang Lang special edition includes the Lang Lang name in Chinese at the heels as well as a silhouette of the pianist in typical concert pose. Moreover the inside of the sneaker links to Lang Lang's music in having golden piano pedals printed on the sock liners.
I agree with you: anything that brings more attention to the classical piano music scene is fine with me! If Lang Lang wants to be the modern day Liszt, that's fine with me too....like you said, I'll just close my eyes and listen to the beautiful music he makes. Lang Lang's playing doesn't thrill me like my hero, Glenn Gould, still does, but Glenn had his eccentricities also, which contributed greatly to his artistry. Thanks for the great blog.
Posted by Sue Carlblom | July 16, 2008 2:59 PM
As long as the music is there, to object to this is to be a snob-plain and simple. It's almost as if classical musicians must adhere to these unwritten and very strict rules about personal appearance, behavior and even how they receive money. Boo. It's almost as if the snobs do not want any more members into their private club. Their club has been shrinking for years. They better open up their minds a bit.
I agree that the line is at the music -- as long as an artist is respecting the music, not cheapening its performance to cater to popular whim, then the trappings can be whatever gains attention. More power to Lang Lang if his fancy shoes and wacky hair attract a few more listeners. One of the things I like about you, Fred, is that your speaking style is not "stuffed-shirt classical-music-station", proving that real men love Rachmaninoff!
Posted by David Boelzner | July 18, 2008 2:09 PM