Who is dvsn?
The thought of OVO’s latest signee identity lingered on my mind about the length of time it takes for cigarette smoke to evaporate in thin air. I could almost hear DJ Khaled say another one. Another faceless singer (singers?) cloaked in mystery, anonymous, hiding behind a symbol. I wrote last year about the allure of artists that chose anonymity in the age of sharing and selfies. Privacy is power for those that can turn what’s hidden into an attractive attribute. Instead of someone who gives us all the answers we are drawn to those that inspire more questions.
The Weeknd did it without flaw, the internet cared about who was living in this strange house of balloons. The internet cared about Captain Murphy - who was this man with the pitched vocals that seemed more cartoon character than rapper? It’s been done and redone - secret identities and the inevitable unmasking. MF Doom hasn't been seen without a mask in decades. With every new act following the formula it becomes a banal form of branding that won’t get the people going.
There’s nothing more boring than the painfully obvious and it seemed OVO took the strategy that worked for The Weeknd and applied it to their new act. They premiered dvsn on OVO Sound and let the world begin to wonder. And it worked, there’s plenty of hits on Google if you search for “Who Is DVSN?” but it didn’t have the same excitement of a Murphy or a Weeknd. There’s rarely any thrill watching a new dog perform an old trick.
It would be different if the voice behind dvsn never had any intention of coming forward, making a career singing from behind the division sign, but that wasn’t the case, eventually Daniel Daley would come forward and we all knew it. SXSW was the stage for his grand unveiling but there was no frenzy, no uproar, nothing too grand about it, just another moment at South By that would be replaced by a million other moments. This wasn't anonymity as art, this was anonymity as temporary marketing device.
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It’s not just dvsn, there’s been a few recent identities that were kept secret that failed to stay compelling. LoveDragon from Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly comes to mind. When Lucas was researching all the people who are featured on the album, he ran into a wall when it came to LoveDragon. He went on a hunt to discover who this mystery musician was and so did a lot of other journalists. It was a big question mark on one of the biggest albums from last year that needed to be solved. Last week, a follower from Twitter hit me up about if DJBooth updated our article on LoveDragon from last year. Terrace Martin, in an interview with Green Label last month, spoke about how he created the alias as a separate entity. LoveDragon is where he could work with creatives and co-workers outside of being Terrace Martin. I don’t know if it was the first time he admitted to being LoveDragon but the internet didn’t explode. Something that was once a big deal seemed so small once the time passed. We've updated the article, but the public has long since moved on.
It also happened with D.A., the mysterious artist that Tyler, The Creator shot a video for. The release of “Glowing” had the internet guessing and speculating who was behind the voice. When D.A. Wallach, the former frontman for Chester French, finally outed himself as the singer, it didn’t receive the same wave of enthusiasm as the song. There was no big shock or surprise, once the mystery ends so does some of the allure. It’s like a giant earthquake with a miniature aftershock, which one is going to make more headlines?
We know who dvsn is now but it was never some big, perplexing question that kept me up at night. With each new act that sings from the shadows, I care less and less. DOOM embraced the mask, he ceased being the man and became a character full-time, and it's commitment that makes him so interesting. How boring would Scooby-Doo be if the villains conducted all their evil without being a ghost or ghoul? The mask is worn because they want to create distance between their art and who they "really" are. DOOM could care less if you know who he really is. But with new mystery acts we know unveiling day is slowly coming. Now it often doesn't feel a character but a gimmick, branding, insert all the other buzzwords that get thrown around.
I’m only really interested in an act that doesn’t just lurk in the shadows but lives there, who would rather be heard and not seen. Maybe that will mean not ever being as big as Drake, but if we’re being honest with ourselves very few artists will ever be. Do it for the art or do it for the Vine, but don’t keep recycling the same tactics as those that came before and expect us to clap like it’s never been done.
There's nothing mysterious about an artist maneuvering to step into the spotlight, not any more.