In a year when the Summerfest lineup features the likes of Kendrick Lamar, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, and The Flaming Lips, a performance by a former reality TV star has somehow managed to garner the most national media attention. So, in the interest of SERIOUS JOURNALISM, I drank my body weight in cheap gin and went down to the Summerfest grounds to watch Paris Hilton hit play on her iPod. Here’s what I learned.
EDM fans are giant babies
Most of the aforementioned media coverage of Paris Hilton gracing Milwaukee with her presence came in the wake of an angry Change.org petition demanding the removal of the billionaire heiress-turned-DJ from the festival lineup. The list of grievances mostly boils down to “she’s just a bored celebrity,” “she doesn’t have any talent,” and “wahhh I made a poopy in my diaper.” It’s almost like the creator of the petition thinks the concept of bored rich people making shitty music was invented by Paris Hilton. Maybe you should lock yourself in a sensory deprivation chamber with Don Johnson’s “Heartbeat” playing on repeat if you honestly believe Paris Hilton is the biggest blight on the landscape of popular culture. Really, you don’t even need to venture outside of the world of EDM to find a plethora of rich pseudo-celebrities leveraging their fame to make even more money. Former Jersey Shore star/insufferable douche bag Pauly D seems to be doing quite well on the DJ circuit. EDM golden child Steve Aoki is the heir to the Benihana restaurant empire and currently using his wealth and influence to throw cake at people and find eternal life.
The claim that Hilton doesn’t deserve to be on the Summerfest stage because of her lack of talent is even more laughable. The Summefest approach to festival curation has always been more is more. For every Rolling Stones set, Summerfest concertgoers are treated to dozens of cover bands and washed-up one hit wonders. In a year when Smashmouth and Sammy Hagar are both headlining acts, the author of the petition somehow still has the audacity to call Summerfest “one of the premier festivals in the world.” DJs phoning in performances is nothing new either. Calvin Harris, David Guetta and Deadmau5 have all admitted to getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to show up to a performance with pre-mixed tracks and hit play. The only thing more embarrassing than the petition is the blatant misogyny in the comment section. Here’s a novel idea: Maybe instead of calling a random woman a “bitch” and a “whore” in an attempt to drive her away from Milwaukee, you should just avoid her set and watch something else.
Paris Hilton is the pied piper of teens
The anti-Paris Hilton petition managed to round up seven thousand signatures, but that didn’t stop a massive crowd from cramming in front of the stage like drunk, underage sardines. Most of the skeptics and hate watchers kept to the outskirts of the audience while everyone under eighteen beamed with the sort of joy usually reserved for cute animal videos on YouTube. Before arriving at Summerfest I was expecting the inverse. If there were any hecklers in the crowd, they were completely drown out by shrill woo-ing and kids pestering me to buy them beer. It’s been nearly a decade since Paris’ breakout reality show The Surreal Life was canceled and five years since the cancellation of her short-lived My New BFF series. Against all odds, Paris Hilton has stretched her fifteen minutes of fame further than almost any celebrity debutante who preceded her. Say what you will about her musical chops, but never doubt Paris Hilton’s ability to remain an icon for well-to-do white teenagers.
I probably should have watched the New Pornographers instead
After a quick bathroom break I wandered over to an adjacent stage where the New Pornographers were tearing through their set in front of a small, anemic crowd. I was able to catch “The Laws Have Changed” from the band’s 2003 album, Electric Version, before I headed back to Hilton’s stage begrudgingly. Seriously though, why weren’t you at the New Pornographers? They’re amazing.
Paris Hilton has a new single and it’s awful
During one of the more surreal moments of Hilton’s set, she stopped fist pumping momentarily to strut about on stage and lip-sync to her brand new single, “High Off My Love.” If you’re saying to yourself “Wow! I had no idea she had a brand new pop song!” don’t worry, the crowd seemed equally confused and unenthusiastic. If you’re curious (or just a masochist) you can listen to it below. The nearly monotone vocal track features Hilton musing about sex, drugs and intergalactic space travel. It’s not quite at the level of Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, but it’s… something. Shockingly, Hilton did not perform a rendition of her hit 2006 single, “Stars are Blind” which is basically the “Free Bird” of ex-reality star pop songs. Allmusic even called the song “sweet and bubbly as a wine spritzer.” Why Paris would choose to withhold this masterpiece from the Milwaukee audience is beyond me.
Nothing makes a crowd go wild like half-baked mashups and remixes
It was almost sad watching the Paris Hilton naysayers rubbernecking from the back of the crowd to find something, anything, to get upset about. It wasn’t long before their crossed arms turned to slumped shoulders as they marched off disappointed. Of course, Hilton’s set was far from perfect—at one point the volume abruptly went from eardrum bursting to nearly silent as she frantically fiddled with knobs and sliders. Overall, her music was a banal mix of current top 40 tracks and classic hits with the tempo adjusted to accommodate the constant thump of a generic boom-chick-boom-chick techno beat. I’m sure a few drunk dads sweating in their Wranglers groaned when she turned Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” into “Sandstorm,” but the people who came to actually watch Paris Hilton perform seemed happy (or maybe just too drunk to care). Either way, there are better things to channel your anger into. I recommend screaming David Lee Roth-era Van Halen songs during Sammy Hagar’s set.