Like it or not, the world is changing at an alarmingly fast pace. Thanks a lot, Internet. For example, who would have thought that a 32-year-old gossip blogger from Miami would become the biggest force in years to upend the crusty, too-slow-to-change music industry? Would you have believed me if I told you that over a latte five years ago?
Well, it's happened, folks: My old pal Perez Hilton has not only helped launch the careers of modern pop royalty like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Amy Winehouse, but he's now relaunching ex-boy bander Travis Garland as a solo act on no smaller platform than American Idol. I decided to ring up my ex-NYU classmate to get his take on the industry that he's busy redesigning -- and what do you know, he took my call! Read on for our interview.
UsMagazine.com: Congrats on the great response to Travis Garland!
Perez Hilton: Whenever they say something happened over night it doesn't. I've been working with him since last March. It's been a slow, long process and it seems like its all happening quickly and its so exciting. Travis is the first artist I've found and really been involved with every step of the way. I was there from signing him to helping him in the studio getting feedback and notes on photo shoots -- I was involved 100 percent. I found him online, thanks to the Internet. He was in this boy band with Kevin McHale from Glee called NLT, but the boy band never even released an album, they had just released a few singles. And I was never aware of them, until Travis posted this reworked version of Justin Timberlake's "Dead and Gone."
When Travis and I appeared on American Idol, people thought I said that he's better than Justin, but what I said was I like him better on that song. I'm a person of strong opinions, and I believe that his version of that song, which he rewrote, is better than the original because it came from a more raw, honest, passionate place. Travis has that special star quality that a lot of these other contemporary males don't have. He has what Jason Derulo lacks. Travis has what Jay Sean and Iyaz and Taio Cruz don't -- he's a superstar. Justin Bieber has it, that’s why he's been able to connect in a much bigger way. I do think that Travis kind of does fill that void that Justin Timberlake has left because he's not that much older, but he is 20 years old so he can appeal to an older broader fan base that’s just not tween girls.
Us: Did you always want to be in the music business or is this something that evolved over time?
PH: I always loved music, and I always could picture myself being happy working in the music industry, but it just never happened and now it is happening in a very organic way. It just really evolved from me mentioning artists on my site that I loved and really championing a few of them, to now having dealt with several record labels and releasing artists and managing acts and being involved in many ways. It's really time consuming, but I love it so much. It excites me, and it allows me to be creative and have fun and be challenged.
Us: There are reports you're getting ready to sell your blog for $20 million. Would you do that to enter to music business full time?
PH: No. What's so funny about that is that it was clearly a pathetic publicity stunt by these two competing gossip blogs, and the media got tricked into believing it and picking it up as a story. I'm kind of flattered that people want to use me for press, it means I'm relevant. I don’t want to sell, because [blogging] is not a job for me, and I don't know what I'd do without it. I really value my relationship with my readers, and I believe in full disclosure. A lot of them have really come to respect and trust my musical recommendations.
Us: You helped make Lady Gaga a massive star.
PH: I would never, ever, ever take credit for her success. I was happy that I could promote her because I really believed in her. I went back and looked at that first post I ever did about Gaga. And right in that very first post, I made the Madonna comparison. And it was so funny to me and amazing that I was spot-on, because she really is the modern day Madonna.
Us: Did you know then that she'd be as big as she is now?
PH: Hell no. Even she didn't know. But I knew she was different and special. The moment I knew Gaga was not like everyone else was June 2008, when she made this mini movie on her own, without her label’s involvement, with her own money. And it was the most amazing thing I had seen. I was like, nobody else would do this, and that's what makes Gaga Gaga -- she does stuff that nobody else would do or could do as well as her.
But now, everybody else is trying to do and failing miserably, like Christina Aguilera. I am a fan of Christina Aguilera, and I want to see her succeed, but she's making all of these mistakes and it's my job to call her out on it.
Us: What do you think makes Katy Perry, another singer you championed, so successful?
PH: Katy is clearly in her own lane right now. "California Gurls" sounds like a song Gaga would never release, and that image that she released for the single artwork looks like an image that's not Gaga at all. That's a very Katy, bright, fun, colorful, young image. So she's being very smart and strategic in how she's positioning herself. And people relate to that, people resonate with authenticity, and that's what's great about Travis. He's a real authentic artist, like Gaga and like Katy Perry.
Us: Do you think Amy Winehouse can make a comeback?
PH: I'm not confident in her having a comeback, no. But what's great is that she created that one album that is one of the most timeless records of all time.
Us: What do you say I guess to the people that say you have no right to talk about music?
PH: I have just as much of a right as anyone else. I am a lover of music and as a lover and a connoisseur of songs, it's my right to be able to talk about them. And I consider it my responsibility to share music that I love.
Us: Did you ever think your blog would lead you to where you are today?
PH: No. I continuously pinch myself because I never would have envisioned or believed any of this. And every year seems to keep getting bigger and better for me. Who knows what will happen next year? Maybe I will replace Simon Cowell on American Idol, or maybe I'll join Simon on X-Factor!
Even if I plateau right now, I'm so happy with everything I've done. A lot of people all over the world are stuck at jobs that they hate, and I'm not, so I’m really, really thankful and appreciative and blessed. And that’s one of the main reasons why I work so hard. I think the key to my success is hard work and not getting lazy. A lot of people, after they’ve achieved a certain level of success, they get lazy and complacent, and I have not. I work just as hard, if not harder now, then I did when I first started, or when I did last year. I also love the fact that not everybody likes me. I appreciate that because it really helps keep it all in perspective.