Sunday marked the 18th anniversary of the date Prince changed his name to that confounded "Love Symbol", and we can't help but wonder if he would have had more success had he waited a decade or two.
Like it or not, in today's highly compact, smartphone-addicted culture, abbreviations are becoming the norm rather than the exception, with RHCP and ICP, CCR and STP seen more frequently than the bands' full-length names. Then again, LMFAO can be found on any standard keyboard, whereas the Love Symbol - an unpronounceable, highly stylized combination of male and female gender signs - exists only in Prince's frilly, purple velveteen mind.
Prince made the change in an attempt free himself from Warner Bros Music, saying "Prince is the name that my mother gave me at birth. Warner Bros. took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music that I wrote." Yet the general bewilderment over how to represent the singer verbally and in print resulted in his being referred to instead as "the artist formerly known as Prince," alienation of his audience (or rather, the people formerly known as fans), and a rich buffet of material for comedians around the world.
Changing your name to a symbol is just one of many ways to thwart a successful music career, four more of which are listed below.
Beat the Crap Out of Your (More Famous) Girlfriend: Domestic violence charges are detrimental to any music career, particularly when the battered woman's fame and popularity surpasses that of her assailant. Widely circulated photos of Rihanna's bruised and bloodied face following the 2009 assault at the hands of then-boyfriend Chris Brown launched a firestorm of public outrage against the R&B singer. While Brown was only sentenced to a mere five years probation for the incident, the impact on his reputation, album and ticket sales has proved far more severe.
See Also: Ike and Tina Turner.
Create an Alter Ego: We blame David Bowie. Ever since his wildly popular Ziggy Stardust incarnation, musicians have been experimenting with genre-hopping alter egos, most with laughable results. And none had a more detrimental effect than Garth Brooks' manifestation of Chris Gaines, a fictional character Brooks was slated to play in The Lamb, a film about an emotionally conflicted alt-rocker with an uncanny resemblance to Papa Roach front man Jacoby Shaddix.
Paramount sought to promote the movie with the 1999 album Garth Brooks in...The Life of Chris Gaines, a mockumentary edition of VH1's Behind the Music, and a Brooks-hosted episode of Saturday Night Live featuring Gaines as the musical guest, but abandoned the project following dismal sales and a general what-the-hell-is-this-shit response from critics and fans.
See Also: Justin Bieber as rapper Shawty Mane, Bono as glam-rocker MacPhisto.
Screw Up on National Television: For many artists, an appearance on Saturday Night Live is a mark of achievement. For Ashlee Simpson, it was an epic failure. As the vocal track to her earlier performance of "Pieces of Me" rang through the studio for a second time, Simpson reacted with a painfully strange Irish jig-type dance she would later describe as a "hoedown" before running offstage seconds later.
The singer further complicated matters by blaming her band at the end of episode and later chalking the matter up to severe acid reflux disease resulting in the loss of her voice. The damage to her career was most apparent following an off-key halftime performance at the 2005 Orange Bowl that was met with boos from the crowd of 72,000 and an online petition requesting she be banned from performing music forever.
See Also: Janet Jackson's Super Bowl super-boob, Christina Aguilera's... "unique" version of the national anthem.
Toss Religion Into the Mix: John Lennon's infamous quote as it was originally printed in the March 4, 1966 issue of the London Evening Standard went largely unnoticed, seen more as commentary on the waning influence of Christianity in modern society than the popularity of The Beatles
Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.
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It wasn't until five months later that the highlighted central portion above appeared out of context on the cover of an American teen magazine, inciting a full-scale rebellion that included death threats, radio bans, Ku Klux Klan organized protests, and widespread concert cancellations.
See Also: Sinead O' Conner vs. the Pope on SNL, Kanye West's thorny-crowned Rolling Stone cover.