Handling Fame and Attention As a Viral Star
The road to stardom is often long, arduous, and expensive. While many never climb atop the mountain of stardom, some settle for the few viral moments they attain, advancing the fame into a sustaining enterprise. For a number of weeks, months, and, in some cases, years, those who attain virality become everyone’s favorite. Half the audience love them while the other half just does not understand why they are loved since they consider it a fleeting moment. No matter where you stand on this issue, viral stars will be born. Though no one really understands how it works, we most often than not get caught up in their glory; enjoying the viral moments as it unfolds.
This article is not to examine whether these viral acts are loved or not. Rather, it aims to highlight what is at stake for viral stars and how they can handle the fame that comes with the territory.
For as long as I can remember, Ghana has had its fair share of people who have gone viral for different things. It ranges from people who went viral over flies hovering their genitalia, pastors with gangster tendencies, a mother cosplaying as a rapper, a fashionista cosplaying a bus conductor, an eyewitness rendering account of an incident, a taxi driver with an infectious laugh, or being a tedua specialist reviewing songs. Viral stars come from all angles of life, but for the purposes of this piece, I will focus on viral acts within the music industry.
Taking into account the last seven years, Ghana’s music industry has witnessed the rise of some viral acts, with some going on to enjoy years of fame and others crawling back into the tunnel after their ”5 seconds of fame”. I, for one, cannot tell you how to create a viral star because I have witnessed people try to engineer viral moments which backfired. In the same vein, I have seen people who, off the back of some random moment, gone viral.
From doing the dance with Eddie Kay, to finding one corner with Pataapa or crying over a broken heart with Bosom P-Yung, to learning scientific names and formulas with Ablekuma Nana Lace down to the emergence of new sensation Safo Newman, viral stars shall continue to emerge as the years roll on.
Unlike other spaces where you can easily crawl back into the shadows after a viral moment(s), the music space is not too kind to emerging acts. Once you are put out there as an artist off the back of such moments, there is a huge expectation, and once you fail to meet such expectations overtime, people tend to look at you funny. It is for this reason that when someone goes viral, they milk the popularity and attention that comes their way. If care is not taken, they end up mixing with the wrong people, resulting in several setbacks in their pursuit of music stardom.
What most people tend to forget is that having a viral moment sometimes rushes your process and if you are ill prepared, consumers tend to move on unbothered by all the out-of-sight happenings. In cases where preparation (good team and plans) meets opportunity, the viral moment becomes a catalyst to stardom. Black Sherif, arguably the hottest Ghanaian artist now had a good structure behind him which afforded him the ability to harness the attention that came with his viral moment. His achievements since his breakthrough are easy to point out. The guys at Life Living Records, off the back of one viral video, have been able to gone on a historic run with their music while cementing their status not only within the Ghanaian music ecosystem but African rap. Conversely, the likes of Pataapa and Lord Paper continue to pursue their music career but have not hit nearly the same heights they did with their viral moments.
Earlier this year, Ghana witnessed the emergence of yet another viral star Safo Newman, after his song Akokoa caught attention on social media. While some have expressed concerns over his aesthetics and started counting down his days, a larger number of people who appreciate his artistry have shown him a lot of support. This writer understands the people who have concerns over aspects of Safo’s artistry. However, I’d like to point out that there is a level of classicism that comes with the scrutiny of Safo Newman’s appearance. What people must understand is that, there is always room for others to shine within the expansive music space. It does not matter how the person sounds, looks, or the approach they employ in making or exploiting their music. If consumers love what the artist is selling, the music will move.
The timing of Safo’s virality and music style/sound raises two questions or concerns. One is the structure behind Safo and how committed and prepared they are to see him grab and build on the viral moment he is experiencing. The last time we had a viral star this early in the year was some 3/4 years ago, and while a lot of people do not know what happened behind the scenes, what we see today of said artist is not what many might have hoped. As such, it is important that people ask if Safo surrounds himself with people who have a better grasp of the music space including how to exploit his creativity across the board.
The second question is what the current position of high-life music is considering recent discourses about the position of highlife music in the face of the global amplification of Afrobeats. For some people within the music space, Ghana’s surest way to getting noticed as a hotbed for music is through amplifying the highlife sound. However, there have been people who believe highlife is a thing of the past, and would be a lost cause to bank the future of Ghanaian music on a genre that has lost its touch. The debate is important and raging.
However, past events have proven that highlife still has potential and is greatly loved by the younger generation. Young artists like Black Sherif have spoken about how his foundation (sound) is partly rooted in highlife; KiDi’s Likor has elements of highlife in it sonics; Kuami Eugene, Kofi Kinaata, Akwaboah, Juls and a many others continue to meld highlife music into their Afrobeats songs. (Afrobeats as a genre has deep-rooted highlife foundation). Relatively new acts like Kofi Bruce, Seven Kisz, Baaba J are crafting songs that lean on highlife elements. It is not too surprising that in 2024, the first viral “hit song” of the year is a highlife song. So the question again is, is highlife Ghana’s surest bet in gaining global recognition?
Handling the fame and attention that come with being a viral star or enjoying a viral moment is never easy. It opens the floodgates for consumers to project their expectations on you, and in most cases, expectations that you are probably not prepared to meet. The truth is, consumers do not care about what happens in the background. They are more concerned with what happens in public and seeing if you, as a person, is progressing based on the support they offered/offering. Or, whether you are going to prove their suspicions right: that you are nothing but a time stamp for a period.
The question can best be answered by the person whose face, name and music is trending across social and mainstream media.
Written By: Nana Kojo Mula, a Communication and Media Relation Professional. His writing covers pop culture in Ghana and Africa.