The Tale of Two Careers through Storytelling
Last night, having some fun with old 80s dance tracks with my wife, two songs & two singers came up and she had no idea who one was, but knew the other all too well. Both go by single-name monikers. Both had a mega-hit single around the same time that would be come legendary. Both should have reached hall-of-fame career heights. But the truth is one skyrocketed and the other had a "nice" career. The kicker; the songs had nearly identical DNA. Don't believe me? Let me offer the evidence.
Madonna you know all too well, and the track was "Into the Groove." But do you know the other? Shannon is her name, and her song, "Let the Music Play" is still a dance floor smasher. Funny bit of irony is that Shannon's track dropped a year earlier, and the opening lyric of the hit states, "We started dancing and love put us into the groove." (Word?! But ain't that the title of… nah, couldn't be) Listen to the tracks and recognize the resemblance. Both songs are still hits today and get tons of play on retro radio and dance floors. So, why is it that most of you know Madonna, and Shannon was relegated to relative obscurity? Why? "The Art of Storytelling" of course.
There is a much deeper story, but the basic point is that from the very outset Madonna—or the team surrounding her—began to weave the story of a street kid turned vamp, who went from rags to glamorous rags. She kept it raw, dirty, but approachable and told you things about the world your mom didn't want you to know. And admit it; you swore that at some point, you could have had a shot—guys and girls, alike—because it seemed like she wanted you. Whoa! On the other hand, there was Shannon. Really cute, great smile, seemed "city" enough for the dancehall party, but looked like she had to be home by midnight, while Madonna and her friends went to after-hours. Par-for-the-course Shannon. Damn. One is no more talented than the other. As a matter of fact, Shannon has a better voice, in my opinion. But she has no story. Nothing compelling to keep you after the voice and song have drawn you in. Madonna was a bright, brash and brilliant spectacle. You don't have to like her tactics or story, but you damn sure know it and remember it.
This is obviously the simplified version, but the seed is planted—check it out! A clear case of the fact that human beings buy—and buy into—stories. Good, bad, like or dislike, we engage with a story. Nice is just… well, fine. But give us something to attach to or be polarized by and we'll float a message for decades