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I think it is safe to say that everyone knows what TikTok is. The short video sharing app has become an integral part of the internet with roughly 3.7 million users in the UK alone. The wide range of content or ‘sides’ of TikTok appeal to everyone with the algorithm crafting the perfect ‘for you page’ for every viewer. Too often I have clicked on the app to enjoy a few minutes of funny videos to then realise two hours have passed and I have lost crucial productivity time. One crucial aspect of TikTok is music. Most the videos on the app contain music in some way and many artists have risen to stardom through the popularity of their music on the app. ‘Wellerman’ by Nathan Evans is a prime example of a song that many have found through TikTok. Certain artists have even shaped their songs for them to have catchy sections which users can dance to or use as a meme. TikTok can make a musician’s career.
This brings us to the topic for today. The Tramp Stamps are a girl band with their Spotify description claiming they are a “collision of pop and skate-punk.” There is Paige Blue on drums, Caroline Baker on guitar, and Marisa Maino with lead vocals. Before reading the rest of this article, I would encourage you to view their social media and listen to one of their songs. It is important to understand the band’s vibe before going forward.
I, like many others, discovered the band through TikTok. A video of their ‘Songwriting tips’ appeared on my feed. I did not really engage with the video after viewing it one time and quickly moved along. A few minutes later a video from their account about matching tattoos appeared. I didn’t like, share or comment and clicked away. Then another video appeared. You can imagine where this is going. The band had well and truly forced me to notice them by appearing on my page. After viewing their profile in full and listening to one of their songs, I concluded that the band wasn’t really for me. I like pop-punk but maybe not what they were going for. I moved on, until a few days later when videos about the band gained my attention. Many users of TikTok felt the band was an industry plant and not a good one at that.
An industry plant is an artist who has the backing of a major music label yet present themselves as self start-ups and organic. This is typically viewed quite negatively due to the fake personas involved and artists such as Lorde and Lana Del Rey were frequently accused of being a plant. These accusations spread to Tramp Stamps. Many people were quick to question the fact that their videos kept appearing on their TikToks as well as the fact that the band made it onto a few official Spotify playlists after only being founded six months earlier with no large following. The group presents themselves as a small, self-made band from Nashville. In a YouTube video, they claimed that they garnered their popularity through “being hot” along with a consistent social media presence. The evidence from TikTok and Spotify could be understood as luck however, it does not end here.
All three members of the band were involved in the industry prior to the band’s creation in February 2020. Most notably, Paige was already signed to a record label and had written songs that had appeared in a range of advertisements and films. It is a similar story for Caroline and Marisa who have released their own solo projects in the past. As a group, they all have experience from within the industry which would place them a huge advantage when trying to gain popularity as a band.
It is harder to prove that the band has current industry backing. The band has addressed these accusations in a post on their social media. They acknowledge their past within the industry however deny any current connections. The band publishes their music through a self-made label called ‘Make Tampons Free’ and it is distributed by ‘Artists Without A Label.’ Their professional-looking graphics are made by a 21-year-old freelance graphic designer they met in college. Tramp Stamp are adamant that they currently do not have any industry backing so cannot be an industry plant. As mentioned, it is hard to prove this either way. It could be argued that their previous range of experience in the industry constitutes them to a plant as they have an insider’s knowledge and connections.
People typically point to two controversies to justify the view that Tramp Stamps have current backing. The first is that all three were not seemingly involved with pop-punk before the band’s creation around February 2020. The majority of the band wrote and produced pop songs in their previous record deals. Their personal social media accounts show little evidence to show any involvement in pop-punk until the band’s founding. You can see a literal change in post styles from normal to pop-punk based on their Instagram accounts after February 2020.
However, not everything has to be shared on social media – maybe the band liked pop-punk in private? Well, a now-deleted TikTok shows the band doing a simple music challenge. The members had to lower a finger when they recognised a song with all the songs being classic pop-punk or rock songs. The group did not know most of the songs, most damning being not recognising ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’ by My Chemical Romance. Additionally, the image of the band appears quite generic. The girls have their hair dyed bright colours and wear punk clothes. Many claim this to be incredibly manufactured. Again, maybe pop-punk is a secret passion for all three that they are now sharing with the world – we don’t know. However, appearing inauthentic in the realm of pop-punk is an issue. A great video by the well-known Anthony Fantano highlights the importance of authenticity within this genre of music. Fans wish their artists to be genuine and the Tramp Stamps likely would not have faced the same scrutiny if they were a disco group. The lack of evidence to prove the band truly love pop-punk has led many to believe that it is an industry decision rather than a personal choice.
Now, the second and more concerning controversy for the group. If you did not know, Tramp Stamps are hardcore feminists and girl bosses. Yet, the group has a connection with Dr Luke (aka Lukasz Gottwald.) Dr Luke is a well-known producer who faced accusations of emotional and sexual abuse from Kesha. This has led many artists to cut ties with him and comment on the matter. Tramp Stamp’s music distributor (Artists Without a Label) is owned by Kobalt Music which Dr Luke part-owns. As a feminist group, this does not look too good. Also, this demonstrates the varied connections that the group have to the industry.
The accusations of Tramp Stamps being industry plants is just one of many controversies the band has had to tackle. I have already mentioned a few which resonate outside the world of industry plants such as their connection with Dr Luke. The group have also faced criticism for their lyrics. Their single ‘I’d Rather Die’ is a song about not wanting to sleep with “another straight white guy.” This has received a lot of questions when two members of the group are straight females with one married to a straight white guy. Marisa, who is not straight, claimed to be a lesbian on a TikTok then got annoyed when everyone called her a lesbian (that is another issue for another time.) The lyrics do not appear genuine. In the same songs, lyrics that ridicule men for not being about to “get it up” because of alcohol have widely been interpreted as advocating sexual coercion. This is just one song. Their other singles have a similar premise of girl boss and f*ck all men.
Maybe it is just me fascinated with the band. They really have made a name for themselves with more and more articles appearing about them every day. I haven’t even had a chance to even comment on the racist tweets made by Marisa in 2015. The group does deny all claims of them being an industry plant or being a problematic band in general. They do make an interesting point about sexism, as it is typically females or minorities that are accused of being industry plants.
This is a situation where you can form your own opinion. Some groups may view them as industry plants controlled by someone on the inside while others may just see the band as a group of people who happen to have industry experience. As for the band being problematic, I would argue they are but you may not agree. I think their refusal to acknowledge a lot of their mistakes says a lot about them but who knows, they may change. If you are looking for an all-female pop-punk band, there are many others worth listening (highlighted in a video by @sagehaleyofficial on TikTok.) The Tramp Stamps are a band at the start of their journey. Their music and reputation have a long way to go.