How Yve Blake turned pop’s fangirl phenomenon into a hit musical
Fangirls The Musical is a hilariously penned and heartwarming production that explores the depths of the cultural phenomenon of fangirls within the music industry.
With a book, music and lyrics by Yve Blake, she has ignited a quest into the misunderstanding of the culture and the important role fangirls actually have in society and as consumers.
The playwright, composer and comedian began her quest by trying to understand the double standards that are littered throughout society that look upon fangirls as embarrassing.
Inspired by the pandemonium surrounding Zayn Malik’s departure from One Direction in 2015, Blake observed these young women get ridiculed for being upset, and decided that she wanted to do something about it.
“I started questioning why the image of young women screaming their lungs out at a Justin Bieber concert is labelled pathetic, but young men screaming their lungs out at a football match would be considered as loyal, passionate and for the love of the game. So when I noticed this double standard I wanted other people to realise it,” Blake explained to TMN.
With this concept fresh in her mind, she started interviewing One Direction fans about their thoughts before speaking to peers who were musicians, comedians and actors that had dealt with fans.
It was a complexity that she needed to tactfully embrace while highlighting their importance.
A friend who works at Future Classic had some amazing stories about what fans had done to meet their artists, and also shared some interesting insights, all of which helped Blake to dive deeper into the reality behind fangirls.
“It’s interesting that teenage women are courted as this massive consumer base because they are an incredibly powerful market. They also have so much power to make and shape mainstream taste, and everyone I spoke to in the music industry illuminated to me just how much teenage girls are tastemakers,” she highlights.
“There’s a story I am obsessed with, about how a bunch of One Direction fans were outraged that Louis Tomlinson hadn’t had enough spotlight in the group. So when he got a solo on the song ‘No Control’, they started a scheme called Project No Control where they demanded it was played more on radio and drove the success of the song through market demand. It was then released as a single, and I think stories like that are the ones that are really exciting to me.
“Another story that I was really fascinated by was Rainbow Direction which was a queer alliance of fans that were all about concert spaces being safe spaces for queer fans. They would arrange a meeting place to meet up and attend together. They would then orchestrate stadium rainbows where the fans would get their phone lights out and create a rainbow with cellophane to show their stance on inequality.”
She was learning just how impactful fangirls could be, and it was a side she had never even thought of. “My early assumptions of fan culture would have been a bunch of young women buying things that are manipulatively being sold to them by old crusty men in marketing board rooms. But it’s actually a lot more than that,” she confesses.
Fangirl culture is more than just “obsession”, it’s a community. It’s a way for young people to come together and be apart of a movement and support something they’re passionate about. And the music industry has a lot to thank them for – they can drive sales in ways that traditional marketing couldn’t even predict.
Their passion is what drives Justin Bieber, Harry Styles, Taylor Swift and Shawn Mendes’ songs straight to the top of the charts every time they release something. But for some reason, we still have a negative outlook on fangirls and what they represent.
“It’s interesting to watch Justin Bieber, who was ridiculed and treated like an international punching bag early on in his career.
“People decided his music was low brow because it was embraced by young women. So what does that say about how we treat and respect the taste of young women, and how we value things if we believe they value it?
“I think there’s a deep issue there where we believe if it’s loved by young women then it’s embarrassing because they are inherently embarrassing. And that’s deeply problematic.”
After receiving a small grant of $10,000, Blake began working on the show and supplemented the income she would earn from working a cafe job to make take time to write and produce the songs with David Muratore (also known as Sweet Potato). After finishing the script she pitched the show to producers through a one-off concert where a lot of interest started brewing for Blake.
She explains the show to be like a glittery trojan horse. “It appears to be one thing and make fun of fangirls and be a bloodthirsty comedy with pop music, but it actually smuggles inside it the guts of what all of that means, and what it means to be a parent of a teenager who won’t look away from their screen, what it’s like being a young woman in this world, and what it’s like growing up and listening to a world that is telling you all of these negative things.”
It also really highlights the impact fangirls have in the music industry, and the acknowledgment and respect they deserve to have.
Fangirls The Musical premiered at Brisbane Festival and wrapped up its season at Queensland Theatre last week and heads to Sydney for a run of dates at Belvoir Theatre from October 12 to November 12.
The buzz around this project is continually growing after rave reviews from the Brisbane premiere, as well as Blake’s virally shared Ted Talk at TedxSydney.
The concept has even been signed on to be developed into a TV show in London which could take the Fangirls brand global.
But her next step in Australia is to record the cast soundtrack to release by Christmas.
“It’s interesting when I’ve made something that is inherently about the music industry, but I work in the theatre industry. So bridging that is going to be a bit of a hustle.
“My great dream is to get this on Spotify, because that was how I fell in love with musical theatre as a teenager as I discovered it online. It was so hard to access in Australia and that’s how music is being consumed and discovered now,” said Blake.
She’s just paid for everyone to put their vocals down and is launching a crowd funder to get it mixed and released so Fangirls The Musical can evolve.