And Finally Artist News Beef Of The Week

CMU Beef Of The Week #250: Fifteen tips for a better beef

By | Published on Friday 17 April 2015

Quite staggeringly, this column has now been running for over five years, and over the space of 250 of these things (or thereabouts, if we knock off the occasional round-up edition) I reckon I’ve learned a thing or two about what makes a good pop beef.

Beef Steak

So, in the interests of keeping this all going for another five years – which requires the world of pop to continue beefing, of course – here are some handy hints for anyone thinking of having a bit of a barney. Fifteen top tips for making your beef go with a bang.

1. Preparation is key. Always try to do some groundwork before you get involved in a beef. In many cases, the beef would not be possible at all if it weren’t for a little bit of effort right at the start. Wiley, for example, once spent a whole day insulting his audience on Twitter before a festival show. And had Dappy not thought quickly in a Radio 1 studio one day in 2010, he wouldn’t have had the phone number of a woman who insulted him on air, and in turn wouldn’t have been able to send her a text back the next day saying: “Your gonna die, U sent a very bad msg towards N Dubz on The Chris Moyels show yesterday Morning and for that reason u will never be left alone!! If u say sorry I will leave u alone u fuck”.

2. Develop healthy rivalries. No true pop act can exist without a nemesis. Not in those all-important early stages, anyway. One Direction would not be where they are today without The Wanted. The problem with having a nemesis, of course, is that you might actually be scared of them. This is why it is also important to hire security guards.

3. The pettier the better. If at all possible, you should go to extraordinary lengths to win against your opponent. Take Def Leppard, for example. Rather than come to an amicable agreement on digital royalties for their early music, which would allow Universal to finally put it on digital services, the band recorded “forgeries” of those songs. “I had to sing myself into a certain throat shape to be able to sing that way again”, said frontman Joe Elliott. “It was really hard work, but it was challenging, and we did have a good laugh over it here and there”. See, beefs can be fun.

4. Make outlandish statements. It’s no good just saying you don’t like something, you need to slap people in the face with your distaste. For example, if Billy Corgan had said in an interview that he felt that Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood wasn’t as great as Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore, you probably wouldn’t have taken much notice. But when he starts, “I’ll piss on fucking Radiohead”, you know that this thing is on.

5. Pick easy targets. Sure, you can spend time formulating an argument, making sure you’re in good standing when you go public with your beef. Or you can just pick something everyone already hates, like Ian Brown when he cut off a Daily Mail journalist at a press conference to ask, “What does it feel like to represent the newspaper that used to support Adolf Hitler?”

6. Say something about animals. Talking of picking easy targets, don’t rule out animals. Animals are mostly idiots, and are therefore easy to pick a fight with. And while animals may not be very good at crafting an angry response on Twitter, you can normally rely on their PR reps – aka PETA – to rise to the beef. So, you could, like Noel Gallagher, make an innocent comment about encouraging your children to throw things at cows, and there will be a statement all over the internet before you can, well, throw anything at a cow.

7. Don’t be afraid to give out harsh criticism. Whenever people ask me if I’ve been too harsh on someone, I think of that time a load of pigeons shat all over Kings Of Leon and realise that I’m not even close. It’s also worth noting that, while animals are easy targets, birds will fuck you up.

8. Try to do a musician out of some money. If there’s one thing I know about musicians, it’s that they love money. Love it. They even expect to be paid for working – that’s how much they just love to feel those notes in their hands. And if you don’t believe me, just ask the guys at McDonald’s what happened when they suggested that they might not have any money available for bands playing their SXSW showcase this year.

9. Irony is your friend. Sometimes people start beefs accidentally, and that’s fine. Japanese boyband Arashi appeared in an advert in which they stood next to some trees. There were five trees and five band members, so one suggests that they called them ‘The Arashi Trees’. No, says another, these trees should remain nameless so that they can be free. Immediately, fans started making pilgrimages to see The Arashi Trees. They started messing the place up and the locals got pissed off. The landowner’s solution to this was to plant two more trees.

10. If it ain’t broke, break it. Miley Cyrus was doing pretty well, and seemed to have everything going for her. But being a child star does not automatically translate into a lifelong career. So Cyrus built a radical new image for herself in order to launch her adult career (that is, her career as an adult), which turned half the world against her, peaking with her performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. That performance also involved Robin Thicke. Bonus beef tip: Be Robin Thicke.

11. Cultivate a crazed fanbase. As shown when Arashi inadvertently launched a beef simply by standing near some trees, under the right circumstances your fanbase will be ready to do the work for you. Like when jazz artist Esperanza Spalding dared to win the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011, “stealing” it from Justin Bieber. Or when GQ had the audacity to feature One Direction on its cover, much to the quite violent anger of 1D-ers.

12. In-fighting. Sometimes the best way to get a beef off the ground is to just turn on those closest to you. Take Blink 182, for example. When Tom DeLonge departed the band earlier this year, there was a long dispute over exactly who had or had not decided that he should leave. And, for a short time, if he’d left at all. And then there’s Black Sabbath, who have now kept a beef going with drummer Bill Ward for over three years.

13. Get a lawyer involved. Lawyers charge a lot of money for writing letters, so they should be good at it. For example, when Disney sued Deadmau5, accusing him of infringing its trademark with his stage headgear, his lawyer Dina LaPolt not only accused the company of bullying him, but managed to find an instance of Disney infringing the producer’s intellectual property. And when Katy Perry tried to stop Fernando Soso from distributing 3D print designs of the Left Shark born of her Super Bowl performance, NYU law professor CJ Sprigman triumphed with such dry observations as, “The Left Shark costume has legs because the person inside it has legs”.

14. Call someone’s bluff. Sometimes you plan to do something, and then it looks like you might not get your way. You might calculate that you are in the position of power in the situation, and therefore threaten to withdraw entirely in the hope that the opposing side will cave and allow you to do just whatever the fuck you want. That’s what Garth Brooks did when Dublin City Council refused to grant him permission to play two more concerts in the city, in addition to the three he’d already sold out. The ensuing fallout was a textbook beef.

15. If in doubt, cook. Did you know that the word ‘beef’ has more than one meaning? As well as being the term for ‘some sort of, possibly made up, disagreement’, it is also a type of food. Try banning it, sculpting it, wearing it, or just cooking it. Or, to combine both uses of the word, try to get CMU’s Chris Cooke to eat fish instead of it.

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