Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, Justin wrote Iceland, a blog about his band’s American tour. Justin isn’t on tour anymore, but Iceland continues, twice a week, on City Desk.
“I hear you write songs about celebrities,” a stranger commented. We were communicating via e-mail.
“It’s true,” I replied. “I have been known to write songs about Martin Sheen and Sigourney Weaver.”
“Consider this,” the stranger replied. “I have written a short story collection centered around Ryan Seacrest, host of the popular American Idol reality series. This book is forthcoming from an independent publisher. In the name of publicity, we would like to contract you to write a song about Ryan Seacrest.”
I am a supporter of multimedia collaboration. For this reason, the prospect of writing a song to help publicize a short story collection excited me. However, I had a problem with writing a song about Ryan Seacrest, the host of the reality program American Idol. I am not against American Idol and have little patience with people who are “against American Idol,” but I have never seen an episode of American Idol. Still, I drafted a reply.
“I’d be happy to write a Ryan Seacrest song for you,” I wrote. “However, you should know: I am a fan of abstraction in art. Thus, I might not actually say the name ‘Ryan Seacrest’ in the hypothetical song I would write for you. Though I assure you that my hypothetical song ‘Ryan Seacrest’ would be good art about Ryan Seacrest, I wish to warn you that it may prove useless for promotional purposes.
“In addition,” I continued, “I would have to get paid something to write the song. My songwriting is build around the model of Andy Warhol’s Factory. As you may be aware, numerous celebrities contacted Warhol for portraits. Warhol painted these portraits for about $20,000 a canvas. If you have $20,000 for ‘Ryan Seacrest,’ please pay me that amount.’ If I cannot get $20,000 for my hypothetical song, word might get around that I am a cheap date.”
I stared at my draft e-mail reply. I am an artist, I thought, and now I will be paid for my art.
After drafting this e-mail, I left my desk without sending it. Later that evening, I watched Rear Window (1954) starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly. I fell asleep during Rear Window. Much later in the evening, I woke up, sat back down at my desk, and re-read my draft e-mail. Then, I reread my draft email again and deleted it. I opened a new mail message.
“I will write ‘Ryan Seacrest’ for $100,” I wrote to the stranger, and pressed “send.”