It’s interesting why “reality” would capture the imagination at all. You’d think the triviality of everyday life couldn’t yield anything exciting to the imagination. But that’s precisely what happened – and it’s not only reality shows about music. Ever since The Real World premiered on MTV over two decades ago, the public’s fascination with reality has not ceased.
How real are today’s reality shows about music? At this point, I’d say the only “real” thing about them is the “real” in “reality”, but there are still many people who think they are. Maybe the people in them are really good at appearing unscripted. Or maybe audiences want to believe they’re real because there’s something romantic about their stories. Like it could happen to you. Any girl from New York who raps can be Cardi B and any guy can be Lil Wayne. This applies to all musical genres, not exclusively rap, of course. Biopics about music stars have been wildly successful for this reason – claiming they are 100% real and painting an image of a big celebrity who was just an average Joe once, and you can be just like him.
You’d argue that not everyone who likes reality shows about music wants to be a famous musician. And you’d be correct to argue that. Music itself inspires – people love music, they listen to it together, they listen to it alone, they listen to it when they go out, but also when they’re at home. Almost everyone has some music they love that makes them feel good and excited. Combine that with a reality format and you have a big ratings winner. It’s the combination of film and music that gets audiences really psyched. People can see the story of a star, what they went through, what happened to them before they made it, and how they’re coping with celebrity life now or how it has affected them. Has it changed them in any way? Have they become better musicians with fame? Better people?
Through reality shows about musicians, we learn about who they are as people and feel like we know them. It’s almost like living with your favorite star. You imagine what it would be like to live with your favorite singer or another type of musician and how cool it would be and to keep that fantasy going, you tune into the show.