It’s been about a month now since TIX and his Russ-driven fanbase propelled him to the winner’s spot in Norway’s Melody Grand Prix. And for the past month, I’ve been trying to figure out out how I should feel about TIX – is he a serious contender, a knowing parody of a pop act, or just a douche?
There’s a lot about TIX which should make us sympathetic toward him as a musician. He’s talked openly about how he developed an alter ego, giving him the confidence and swagger that he didn’t have as himself. He’s given interviews about his struggles with mental health, and the battle he’s had between maintaining his real life and his on-stage persona. He’s even adopted a stage name that’s a reference to his Tourette’s syndrome – a way to reclaim a slur as a badge of honour. TIX should be admired for how he’s taken the things for which one might normally be bullied and turned them into a successful career in music.
But in building his career in the Russ music world, TIX seems to have thrown off the taunts of potential bullies by emulating the worst characteristics of those bullies – especially xenophobia and misogyny.
TIX started his career as a rapper with The Pøssy Project, performing songs for the Russ – a Norwegian rite-of-passage in which graduating secondary school students celebrate with several weeks of fun, games, and often debauchery, much like Senior Week at an American high school. There’s a lot of drunkenness, a lot of sex, and a lot of partying – to the point where it’s spun off a music genre to soundtrack the festivities, which is where TIX comes in.
The antics of drunken teenagers is one thing, but the antics of adults that make money off of these drunken teenagers is another thing. A lot of attention has already been paid to the lyrics to his song Sjeken (https://youtu.be/Wm5m9ufDoFc), where he crudely caricatures the debauchery of rich Middle Eastern visitors to Norway.
But he’s also got songs like East High 2016:
The lyrics in this – recorded when TIX was in his early 20s – are all about having sex with girls in the bushes, sneaking into the girls’ locker room, and looking at cheerleaders without clothes.
And this is why I have problems with TIX. There are lyrics about partying and having fun, and then lyrics about becoming popular enough to sleep with high school cheerleaders. It’s an archetype of masculinity that’s drawn from 80s American teen movies, where girls are both objects of desire and sluts for exploring their sexuality. It’s a vision of teen popularity where young women aren’t people, but a commodity to be won by the most worthy man.
I admire TIX for rising above the bullying he’s received and being so open about his mental health struggles. But he’s gained popularity by reinforcing the status quo that enables people to bully outsiders; to treat women as sexual objects; to focus on material gains. He’s overcome the bullies by becoming one of them, providing the soundtrack to their partying.
With Fallen Angel, TIX is attempting to distance himself from his russ past, and he’s spoken about how he doesn’t want to be judged by his TIX alter ego. But by clinging on to the excesses of TIX – the fur coats, the chains, etc – it makes it hard to judge him on anything else – especially when that persona was built on endorsing the worst behaviours of teen culture.
I like Fallen Angel. I think TIX is an engaging stage presence who has enough self-awareness to play up the parody in his persona. But until we hear more about how TIX has matured from the guy who sang about wanting to take cheerleaders into the bushes behind school, I remain skeptical about whether we’re seeing the actual Andreas on stage, or whether the person behind the costume has adopted the worst excesses of his act.