Just in case you missed it in the media shuffle, Jessica Simpson has made the news. But unlike every single other newsworthy event that involves this vacant and marginally talented pop star, this is actually worth talking about. Simpson's new single, "A Public Affair," from the new album of the same name, has been digitally customized to feature your name in it. For $1.99 at Yahoo Music (http://music.yahoo.com/jessicaforyou), you can add your name to the song, and live a fantasy that takes you places that only Nick Lachey, and maybe Johnny Knoxville, have been before.
Scroll through a list of names, fork over your credit card number, and the next thing you know, your iPod is playing a song where Simpson sings your name. Of course, my name is too "Jewy" (my term, not Yahoo Music's) to be on the list of names, a fact that makes me hate every shred of ethnicity that courses through my parents' bodies. This name-based rejection takes me back to any gift shop that shunned a younger me with its personalized mini license plates with every single human name on them, except of course mine. So if you happen to have a common name like Emilienne or Zena (seriously) you can get Jessica to sing to you. But me, I'm out of luck.
Other than the tragedy of my name, the real news here is the effort by Epic Records and Simpson to reach out to a dwindling commercial market. These days fewer and fewer people are actually paying money for music, whether it be indierock or the new pop single du jour. Much like the new tiered packaging and pricing options unveiled by Universal Music, the idea of personalized (right down to the listener's name) pop music shows a music industry finally adapting to a rapidly evolving—and diminishing—market.
This marketing gimmick is a perfect fit for Simpson, because what's better than a fake song from a fake artist? Also, this has to be the absolute worst $1.99 I have ever spent, and the Mercury sure as hell better reimburse me for lining the gilded pockets of Simpson with my hard-earned cash.
All of this makes me wonder, are we closing in on the day when we can customize all songs to fit our lives? A time when every listener can plug himself/herself into every role in every song, from the jilted lover to the singing protagonist? And if it's a nü-metal song, maybe my name can be in the place of the token bad daddy. You hear that Papa Roach? I'm your bad stepdad, say something mean about me, just make sure you say my name.