Mononym Mythology is a music video culture newsletter by me, Sydney Urbanek, where I write mostly about pop stars and their visual antics. I’ve been writing it since 2020, and in that time have been lucky enough to see it cited places like the Guardian, MUBI’s Notebook, Vulture, Criterion’s Current, and the recent book David Fincher: Mind Games (here’s an interview I did with author Adam Nayman). For the time being, it’s also totally free.
You can consider “Mononym” more of a guiding ethos than a stipulation; I’ve covered one-named artists like Beyoncé, Madonna, Prince, and Solange, but I’ve also gotten into Lana Del Rey, Taylor Swift, Tony Bennett, and plenty of other pop icons who aren’t officially mononymous. (Cultural cachet is cultural cachet.) As a former aspiring cinema studies PhD student, what I’m really interested in is anything and everything at the intersection of pop music and moving images—music videos, rockumentaries, artists starring as thinly-veiled versions of themselves in blockbusters, and so on—but especially how artists use those things for mythmaking purposes. What do they seem to hope to be remembered for? Who and what do they put themselves in conversation with? How do they shape and even revise their own histories? Sometimes I dive into a particular music video, sometimes I interview an author or director (like Jonas Åkerlund, who I wrote my master’s thesis on and—fair warning—someone who tends to pop up in this newsletter from time to time), sometimes I embark on a research project to better understand a piece of history or the industry, and sometimes I just string sentences together and hope for the best. I like playing things by ear and following my nagging questions in a given moment, and the depth and scope of Mononym Mythology both change as I do.
As for me, I’m a freelance writer and editor based out of Toronto, where I was born and raised. That last bit doesn’t tend to mean much as far as this newsletter goes, but you might notice it in my spelling. My work has otherwise appeared in Billboard, the Guardian, CBC Arts, Sight and Sound, Little White Lies, Paste, the YouTube channel Be Kind Rewind, and elsewhere. Here’s where you can subscribe, here’s where you can send me a note, and you can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.