Teenage me was very much in love with The Lonely Island. When their SNL days hit peak insanity with parody songs like “I’m On a Boat” I thought they were the funniest thing I had ever seen. But I couldn’t necessarily explain why. They were just making joke songs about random things, right?
Now I understand why I always thought they were so hysterical, and maybe even genius. They’re new movie “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” written by the Islanders Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer, directed by Taccone and Schaffer, and produced by Judd Apatow, tells the story of “Conner 4 Real” played by Samberg. He’s a Bieber-like pop act that’s larger than life, and has forgotten that music is about talent, not the glitz and glam.
Sound familiar? The deja vu really comes in “Popstar” with the small, but mighty details. The mockumentary follows Conner from his humble beginnings with the rap trio “Style Boyz” formed with his childhood friends Owen (Taccone) and Lawrence (Schaffer), to his new tour. Since selling out after a fight with Lawrence, Conner has gone solo with Owen as his DJ. At first the world loves him. He’s attractive and funny. He shares every detail of his life on social media with his millions of fans.
But his second album isn’t selling, possibly because people have become tired of his huge entourage, product endorsements, and bad attitude, but probably because his songs are really bad. Conner has decided to write all the songs on his new album by himself, resulting in tracks calling the Mona Lisa an “overrated piece of shit” and a song about a girl who wants to be “fucked like Bin Laden.”
The offensive songs are where the film truly shines, though. A particular highlight is simply called “Equal Rights,” a song that mocks Macklemore, a feat that only The Lonely Island can really pull off. Samberg raps about wanting equal marrying rights for all, while also reminding us that he’s definitely straight every other line. The joke here is, of course, that gay marriage is legal so what Conner is trying to accomplish with his politics is a little murky. Is he trying to take a stance or just fit in with what every other celeb is talking about?
The most harrowing part of “Popstar,” though, is the way in which Conner’s fans worship him one minute, and are gone the next. The film shows that pop musicians are like velveteen rabbits; we love them to the point of obsession until we no longer need them. With our current media-driven society, we don’t just abandon them in gardens respectfully. Instead, we push them off a cliff, making a point to let them know we never want to hear from them again. We’ll then move on to a new obsession, until he starts to behave oddly, and we decide to turn on him, too.
In a viral video segment toward the end of the film, a young girl pleads to her iPhone, “I used to love Conner 4 Real. Now I wish he would just go away.”
Luckily, “Popstar” comes with a sweet ending that doesn’t always happen in the real music industry. I’ll let you check out the movie yourself to see what I mean. But know that you’ll be walking out of the theater with much more on your mind than just another catchy Lonely Island tune.