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Friday, June 20, 2014

In the Press: The Highs and Has-Beens

In Memory of Adelind Osmanli

For a gutter press obsessed with celebrity, sleaze and scandal, National Enquirer eat your heart out: Gossip-mongering galore as the Turkish press get to grips with its most famous popstar this month.

In a one-off June report to show non-Turkish speaking fans they're not missing much amongst the multitude of Tarkan tagged headlines, and to sympathetically highlight the rubbish Turkish readers have to wade through for a decent read about the music artist, the news snippets shared below include the normal gutter press fare of negativity, reports of name-dropping celebrities and rumoured upcoming projects.

Okay, so maybe the Turkish tabloids don't run amok like the British ones of late, with blackmailing politicians and celebrities, hacking into cell phones of vulnerable crime victims, bribing police for salacious information, and paying informants for intimate and embarrassing revelations about prominent figures, but they have their fair share of petty parlance - especially when it comes to Tarkan.

What?! Tarkan Joins the Secret Service?!

Has Tarkan finally done a James Bond and gone undercover from the paparazzi? Has the man loved by millions left music to hand himself over to the Turkish government and spy on enemy agents? Not in the least. He just didn't attend Justin Timberlake's 26 May concert in Istanbul.

Although according to the gossip press, even though Tarkan was conspicuous by his absence, he supposedly sent a "spy team" over to the concert to see if Timberlake was doing anything different on stage. To get the lowdown on the competition so to speak.

Rest assured, the entertainment gossips suggest Tarkan fans can breathe a sigh of relief: the Turkish crooner's crack team of spies were happy to note that Timberlake's concert performance was no better than Tarkan's own - in fact Tarkan's was better.

Who makes this stuff up? What are they smoking? And can we get it shipped over for medicinal purposes?

As an aside, the Timberlake concert caused some activity on the official Twitter account belonging to the senior executive of Tarkan's current record label, DMC.

As any Tarkan fan worth their salt will know, DMC rep Mr Samsun Demir is active on Twitter. He didn't attend the concert, either. And not for lack of an invite. Cynics may say that it's because of a Timberlake turn-down of an offer for a musical mash-up with his signed Turkish maestro, but Demir had very little good to say about the American A-list celebrity.

Demir held back no punches as he outed Western singers on world tours arriving in Istanbul, such as Timberlake and Madonna, who were paid the same money but put on a shadow of the show they did in other European cities.

Demir tweeted that this wasn't because Istanbul didn't have the facilities, but because American artists treated their Turkish fans as second-rate, by using excuses such as problems with venues to put on a third rate production, while still asking for full production costs.

The DMC exec described this as the imposition of musical imperialism, tweeting that Turkey and its musical associations needed to stick up for its own artists in the fields of copyright and promotion, because the Western music market was effectively blacklisting Turkish artists on race, religion, and the language factor - due to 9/11.

Following hot on the heels of a recent decision by Demir and his counterparts to shut down the largest music channel on YouTube as a result of this second-rate treatment, comes the news of the draconian way the video sharing site is proposing to treat independent artists: thousands of under the radar artists are set to suffer, plus several high profile acts signed to independent labels - including Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys and Adele.

With the independent labels appealing to the European court for support, in the meantime, channels such as Vevo will give independent labels platform to keep their music available on YouTube in some capacity, while Demir uses netd, a new video-on-demand site opened by parent company Doğan TV Holding to promote Turkish artists. It airs videos signed by DMC and other major Turkish labels and independents.

Sadly, this type of real background news doesn't make the entertainment press wires often, and you need to be a follower of Demir's social media account, especially for news of the latest projects from Tarkan - viewed as the only artist signed to a Turkish label who has even the slightest chance of a breakthrough hit outside of the country.

Demir's Twitter account is highly commended and recommended for project updates and tweets from a reliable first hand source, and for those who wish to catch up with the latest Turkish releases from DMC artists (or simply because he is an upstanding guy).

Besides, reading the Google and Bing English translations of his tweets makes for (unintentional) hilarious reading, as well.

Tarkan's "Pearl" Shines for Serenay

Back to the celebrity reports and more unintentional hilarity. A recent televised "shout-out" to Turkish pop's own wild child got the Turkish press furiously tapping at their keyboards on 6 June.

"Medcezir" (The Tide) is the highly melodramatic Turkish remake of the American series "The O.C.", which has been going strong in its first season. But unlike the original American series' eclectic indie-rock soundtrack, New York magazine's online destination Vulture has described the Turkish version's lilting, orchestral score as more "Dallas" than "O.C".

Recently, however, it saw Antalyian actress Serenay Sarikaya give her rendition of Tarkan's "İnci Tanem" (Ölürüm Sana, 1997) in character on the televised drama.

"Sarikaya's character Mira owned Tarkan's most difficult song!" came the media's cry, describing her rendition as "magnificent" and better than Tarkan's classic - showing as much melodramatic restrain in their act as journalists as the show itself. No surprise there, then.

Excuse Me... Do You Know Tarkan, By Any Chance?

Another thing which will come as no surprise is the question most Turkish celeb journos ask visiting celebrities to their majestic shores: Do you know Tarkan?

What a "yes" answer is meant to mean for Tarkan's status as a talented singer is beyond my comprehension, but trawl through over ten years of Tarkan news archives here at Tarkan Deluxe and you'll come to the conclusion that these journos need to get a new line.

It may not be so surprising that Tarkan's name is the first to spring to mind (you're not going to read of any other artist being asked for by name by such actresses as Monica Bellucci), but the most recent victim visitor to be accosted with this question by the Turkish press this month is American recording artist, dancer, actress and model, Cassie Ventura.

I had no idea who she was, and initially thought it was a daughter of Jessie Ventura's trying to grab a buck or two from an international market, but she certainly knows who Tarkan is (and can even hum a Tarkan tune) - if the 2 June dated entertainment reports are anything to go by.

Add Ventura to an ever-growing list of beauties, including Russian model Irina Shayk, known for her 2007 through 2014 appearances in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

Having the Russian eye candy brought over to Turkish lands for the Dosso Dossi Fashion Show, she couldn't escape the customary question. To which the Tartar tsaritsa reportedly answered that she's a fan of Tarkan, and his songs are popular in her own country. Cue the music.

The Long Wait for Musical Updates

Gossip about musical megastars, however domestic their market, is rarely going to be about their music. Unless you're a fan, that is.

Split between rumours of a professional rift between Tarkan and his long-term music producer (with eagle-eyed fans noticing Tarkan's 2012 contributions to Ozan Çolakoğlu's début album having reverted back to Tarkan without renewal for Çolakoğlu's use) and waiting for the release of a highly anticipated new summer track from Tarkan and music producer İskender Paydaş, fans are always on the look out for new Tarkan projects on the horizon.

For many in Turkey, when it comes to music, the pop star is iconic of not only quality, but of a conscientiousness that sets him apart from his peers, and many artists scrabble to get Tarkan on board for their tribute albums - a trend which has caught the imagination of the Turkish music industry in past years.

After Tarkan's award-winning contribution to late pop lyricist Aysel Gürel's album, came confirmation back in April that Tarkan would appear on senior singer-songwriter Kayahan's celebrity tribute compilation. Rising anticipation for the long-awaited album has been highlighted in a June piece by magazine Haftasonu.

UPDATES: Demir Tweets Kayahan tribute album nearly ready (16 July) >>
Kayahan tribute album released (28 November) >>

Kayahan has constantly defended Tarkan and his talent in the past from critics - and choosing Tarkan from a golden generation of nineties pop stars says much about how he is viewed: Having the music artist on your album doesn't just mean sales - it comes with its own pop prestige.

Needing some of that prestige is currently disgraced female singer Ebru Gündeş (whose musical career has been brought into disrepute by a super-rich lifestyle and the alleged shady business dealings of her Iranian-Azeri husband) with the news that Tarkan has given her a song for a new album. Gündeş had traversed outside of her traditional musical genre to sing a Tarkan cover in 2012.

Meanwhile, crossing musical genres again, there are rumours that Tarkan may contribute to a tribute album for folk artist Neşet Ertaş, who passed away in 2012. If true, Tarkan will be attempting a different style of folk song than tried previously.

It highlights that a wide range of people in the Turkish music industry, from the well-respected to the disrespected, treat Tarkan as something special.

Is Tarkan Some Great Leader?

Of course, not everyone agrees. Thus, finally, on to some of those critics, and some more negative press, where we have left the worst to last.

We move out of the written press and its digital outpourings, to the televised kind. Tarkan's name has been dropped in a ratings war between rival daytime gossip shows vying for the most paper space and quotable headlines.

This "war with words" goes on a lot behind the scenes with certain entertainment portals "blackballing" certain singers and acts, and reporting negatively on the television entertainment programmes that support those artists - well, you get the picture.

You can read a lot of this in celebrity gossip portals if you look between the lines (like Perez Hilton being down on Lady Gaga and so on). Most reporting, negative or positive, in such instances is really just another type of PR in the dirty war of getting talked about.

Enter then, female celebrity Tuğba Ekinci, who recently embarrassed herself on air when she tried to sing live and failed miserably, appearing on daytime TV and getting riled when the presenters asked her if she would be most remembered as "that woman" who hijacked Tarkan's acceptance speech at the 38th annual Golden Butterfly Awards.

She had jumped on stage uninvited, some thought to photobomb but what turned out to be an impromptu interview with Tarkan, as he was handed his gong for best male pop artist. Causing a media controversy with her scene-stealing antics back in 2011, now some three years down the line Ekinci took the (unwanted) opportunity to blast Tarkan to ask what he had done for Turkey (again).

"He's only benefited himself ... I get so mad at these egotistical situations. He can't be successful in Europe or America, what does he think he is, some grand vizier? ... He wants people to bow down before him," she said, getting herself back on the entertainment pages over her three-year old theatrics (although not of her doing this time).

This type of questioning is the often seen, if sordid, tale of name-dropping: trying to notch up TV ratings against rival morning gossip shows with prefabricated (or regurgitated) "scandals", which reminds me of an article our correspondent Mark Mayhey wrote for us six years ago about the state of Turkish daytime television.

If anything it has deteriorated further; it's a bit like watching vomit build up in the mouth. But to be fair this programme's rival "Soylemezsem Olmaz" (Got To Tell) has tried to raise the bar.

Like the rest, it's a daytime talk show, entertainment/infotainment programme that offers the straight skinny on Turkish celebville and the flash-in-the-pans that spark it up. Literally translated as "It Just Won't Do Unless I Tell", the quartet (similar to ABC's The View) run the gossip treadmill, getting the inside scoop by word of mouth and from the celebs themselves on the current stories making the papers.

With full and frank disclosure, it has brought a lot of media stories out into the open, and the hosts have persuaded their guest celebs to spill the beans, giving the impression that their show is the one where the rich and famous have just "got to tell" all.

Divulging the daily dirt, is one thing, dishing it out is another. The show is not above name-dropping Tarkan, but have pursued a strict policy of refusing to push negative tactics. They have managed to rise above a lot of the poison being thrown about, however its suspect if the hosts will survive the bombardment of "bad" press spin from rivals.

If "Soylemezsem Olmaz" doesn't survive its first season - especially in its original format - due to the tactics of its rivals, then it's a good indication of the continuing downward trend of Turkish celebrity reporting.

Maybe there's a-change a-coming on the horizon (I won't be holding my breath though).

But you know the best thing to do with this stuff is to skip it. Switch it off. Not let it junk up your brain, or your blog. Which is why we have become even more selective in recent years about what we publish at Tarkan Deluxe. Quality before quantity.

Something the gutter press - in all its forms - would do well to heed.

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