When Britney Spears burst onto the scene as an earnest seventeen-year-old in a schoolgirl outfit in 1998’s “…Baby One More Time,” some thought she would be a role model. Ten years, two botched marriages, one shaved head, and a rehab stint later, the world knew that the sweet girl from Louisiana might be a little off her rocker. You’d have to be crazy to want to follow in her footsteps, which perhaps explains why the lineup for this Saturday’s Femme Fatale concert is decidedly wacky. The tour, which comes to San Jose’s HP Pavilion on June 18, features five females with a penchant for the eccentric.
No one ever accused Britney Spears of being subtle. But her transformation from coquettish bubblegum pop star to sweaty, hot-mess femme fatale was a slow roast compared to the charbroiled personae of her successors. Today’s female pop stars don’t become crazy—they debut as oversexed, out-of-control, over-the-top divas.
But unlike Pink or Courtney Love, you won’t see today’s starlets in the tabloids because of a bar brawl or a childhood history riddled with hard drug use. Ke$ha was being primed to be a country singer before she was introduced as a Jack Daniels-gargling suburban party girl. Stefani Germanotta was a drama geek at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts before she transformed into the walking circus that is Lady Gaga. The surprises these stars have in store are more sensational than sordid and always right on beat.
There is perhaps no better example of wild-eyed pop diva than 26-year-old rapper Nicki Minaj, who opens for Spears on the Femme Fatale tour. Minaj, who recently released the hit singles “Super Bass” and “Moment 4 Life,” has professed that she has many alter-egos. They range from a baby-voiced little girl named Barbie to a vicious, gay British boy named Roman, both of whom can be heard on her tracks.
Onstage alter-egos that separate the private personality from the performer are not uncommon; Eminem’s “Slim Shady” and Beyoncé‘s “Sasha Fierce” come to mind. But the rapper who was born Onika Maraj also considers Nicki to be one of her alter-egos. This perhaps explains her evasive, contradictory nature when it comes to talking about herself. In an interview with Out magazine, Minaj responded to her previous comment that she “doesn’t date women and doesn’t have sex with women” with, “But I don’t date men either.” This statement is surprising coming from an artist who raps about “lookin’ for a cutie with a big ol’ ghetto booty” and who offers a “boob signing” as a part of the VIP concert package.
Then again, Minaj is a graduate of the drama program at the highly selective LaGuardia High School and recently said that she wants to bring “more theater” to her performance on the tour. For fans, this may mean seeing all of Minaj’s alter-egos in full force on stage.
Another pop oddity opening for Spears on the Femme Fatale tour is Jessie and the Toy Boys, a band comprised of singer/composer Jessie Malakouti and a gang of mannequins, each with their own names and personalities. Malakouti described them as extensions of her own personality, calling 73 the “badass” of the group, while 25 is the “believer, the optimist.” 4.5 is the music nerd and 12 she describes in only one way: “He has the most swag.” Malakouti, a self-described “creative control freak,” calls her mute bandmates “perfect,” but doesn’t pick favorites. “Plus I have all of my dancer toy boys,” she adds, “It would be too hard to choose.”
Like Spears, the 22-year-old produces sexy, danceable pop music that goes down easy. But the grungy bass lines and rap interludes in her songs prevent her from being mistaken for Miley Cyrus. “The major reason why I started making electronic music and really getting into the electro-pop-dubstep theme was when I moved to the UK,” says the Los Angeles native, who cites DJs like Fred Falke and Rusko as inspiration. “I was exposed to new genres of music that I had never heard before and just thought it was so refreshing,” she says.
Nervo is an electro-house DJ duo comprised of twin sisters Mim and Liv Nervo and the last act on the Femme Fatale roster. Nervo has an impressive list of collaborators that includes Ke$ha and mega producer David Guetta.