Say my name, say my name: music fandoms that label themselves
‘What’s in a name?’ said Shakespeare’s Juliet. Well, apparently, quite a lot.
From Beliebers to the Beyhive, music fans of every mould and make are choosing to self-identify with monikers that assert their undying allegiance to a given artist, or band.
This ‘christening’ of fandoms is nothing new. There were Trekkies long before there were Beliebers – long before there was a Justin Bieber to ‘beliebe’ in, in fact. And the Beatles’ most die-hard fans were known as the Apple Scruffs (so-called for their habit of congregating outside the Beatles-run Apple Corps building).
So fandom names aren’t a new phenomenon. But they’ve exploded in popularity in recent years. It feels as if everyone – from the most well-established, globally successful, platinum-selling artist, to the latest breakthrough act to grace the top 40 – has a self-titled fanbase.
Much of this is down to the rise of social media. It’s easier than ever for people with similar interests or taste in music (or borderline unhealthy celebrity obsessions) to connect with each other, congregate, and form online communities. In this context, coining or adopting a name to cement the group’s identity is a logical step.
With that in mind, let’s explore the fandom names out there and where they originate from . . .
Justin Bieber: Belieber
A blend of ‘’‘’Bieber and believer. Alternatively, you might hear people talking about Bieberites, Belieberism, or Biebermania. In any case, fans serious enough to use these terms will not take mockery of the Canadian popstar lightly.
Beyoncé: the Beyhive
A play on words that celebrates Beyoncé, or ‘‘B’’ as she’s often referred to, as the Queen Bee / Bey. In the natural world, the queen bee comes with a devoted colony of bees that single-mindedly follow and fervently protect her. The millions of Beyoncé fans that make up the BeyHive can be expected to do the same. If you criticize the queen, prepare to be stung…
Rihanna: Rihanna Navy
After playing a naval officer in a film called ‘‘Battleship’’, the singer dubbed her supporters the ‘‘Navy’’, and fans ran with it. Officers in the ‘Rihanna Navy’ have a militaristic dedication to defending their dance-anthem-dropping commander, and are most likely to engage in verbal combat with members of the BeyHive.
Lady Gaga: Little Monsters
Inspired by the title of her second album, ‘The Fame Monster’, Lady Gaga began referring to her fans as ‘little monsters’ and the name stuck. Fans have returned the favour by branding the singer ‘Mother Monster’.
Taylor Swift: Swifties
The etymology of this superfan moniker is as transparent as the singer-songwriter’s lovelorn lyrics – which frequently hint at the supposed failings of her string of celebrity boyfriends.
One Direction: Directioners
A name conceived by the boy band’s fans. But with One Direction rumoured to be splitting up for good, will ‘Directioners’ begin to lose their way? And don’t forget ‘Directionators’, the name given by Directioners to those they consider fake fans.
Katy Perry: KatyCats
A play on kitty-cat, inspired by the singer’s soft spot for felines. Clearly a fan of a good pun, the ‘I Kissed A Girl’ also has a cat named Kitty Purry.
Mariah Carey: Lambs
The moniker for the Mariah Carey fanclub is unusually metaphoric. According to her publicist, the term reflects Carey’s Christian faith, and the idea of the ‘Lamb of God’. ‘Lambs of God’, he says, ‘are supposed to be those individuals who carry forth the work of God.’ The name is ‘symbolic of the strength that she puts in her fans’, and in return, it would seem, ‘Lambs are her biggest evangelists’. Look out for the term ‘lambily’ (lamb family) too.
Nicki Minaj: Barbies
‘Barbie’ was originally a pseudonym the rapper used to describe herself. It comes from her own, self-confessed ‘Nicktionary’ (personal terms and phrases). Once fans heard the term, it came to denote them too.
I could go on.
There are Bruno Mars’ ‘Hooligans’, Ellie Goulding’s ‘Gouldiggers’, Cheryl Cole’s ‘Soldiers’, Ed Sheeran’s ‘Sheerios’, Jessie J’s ‘Heartbeats’, Little Mix’s ‘Mixers’, and countless more…
Of course, modern fandom names aren’t limited to the world of music. Lovers of the same books, movies, and actors gather together under shared labels too. There are Harry Potter ‘Potterheads’, Game of Thrones ‘Thronies’, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s ‘Cumbercookies’, to name a few.
The Internet has enabled language to become less rigid, more fluid, and more playful – while also ensuring the rapid spread of those cleverly coined terms most able to capture the public imagination. While technology advances, our most basic human needs remain the same. With the advent of social media, our need for identity and community is perhaps, for some, met in the modern predilection for fandom names.