The Tramp Stamps once had all the makings to be a digital age pop-punk smash. With each of their members respectively donning pink, blue, and purple hair and fishnet tights, the trio, in all their confident Scooby-Doo Hex Girls-inspired glory, quickly climbed their way to the top of every Zoomer's "for you" page. Sharing their covers of popular mid-aughts staples, like All-American Rejects's “Gives You Hell,” their takes on viral challenges, including a video transforming themselves into boys to the tune of Mike Posner's “Please Don't Go” that garnered more than 1.7 million likes, and sharing snippets of their own original songs, Tramp Stamps hit alt TikTok's viral jackpot.
In the roughly five months since their TikTok debut last November, The trio, consisting of Marisa Maino, Caro Baker, and Paige Blue managed to amass more than 386,000 followers, supporters flocking to their every post. “I have to say, ya'll are gonna make it big. I'm so glad to have come across yall's music,” wrote one fan on one of their videos from late January. “It's the real life hex girls!” wrote another, on a later post promoting their single “Sex With Me,” referencing the animated iconic all-girl rock group. “I'm in love with you all.”
Yet in a true testament to the capricious nature of viral success, Tramp Stamps's fame quickly soured into infamy, a downfall perhaps singlehandedly catalyzed by a clip promoting their latest single, “I'd Rather Die." An upbeat pop-punk installment with a hook of “I'd rather die than hook up with another straight white guy,” the song and accompanying TikTok, reposted in a similar format to their Instagram page, sparked alarm from fans, with several listeners raising concerns that the single fetishizes LGBTQAI+ People of Color and saying that the song may have undertones potentially alluding to possible sexual misconduct ("I'm just sayin' it's not fair to/Leave me hangin' like this").
After an onslaught of comments condemning the single, the group released a series of TikToks addressing some of the controversy, including a video both apologizing for and defending their song. “We see you, we hear you, we don't want you to feel like we don't," frontwoman Maino said on behalf of the band before delving into how they didn't intend to fetishize People of Color, and noting that the song was inspired by a bad sexual experience they had with a straight, white man by the same name.
Although they ultimately chose to pull the song from TikTok days before it was set to debut, they still rolled it out on other streaming platforms through their record label, Make Tampons Free (as listed on iTunes) promoting it on their other social media accounts, a move that largely angered fans and critics across the board. Amid this backlash, several TikTok sleuths, their suspicions apparently piqued by the group's sudden downfall, decided to look into Tramp Stamps, its members, and their origins, with some claiming they've found evidence that the band is perhaps not the self-made feminist punk number they claim to be, alleging they're an "industry plant," or “an artist who has label backing but presents themself as self-made,” according to Rolling Stone.
According to Newsweek, much of this speculation comes from information gleaned from each of the members' seemingly successful careers in the music industry respectively as singers and songwriters, working in genres that are definitely not punk, prior to the Tramp Stamps's formation. According to her social media pages, Maino released several songs seemingly inspired by pop stars like Lana Del Rey and Marina and the Diamonds over the past few years, with, Baker, under the alias “Carobae” dropping several indie-pop singles as a standalone artist as recently as three weeks ago, per her YouTube channel. Blue, too, has worked as a songwriter, published by Pray for My Haters and Downtown Music Publishing, the publication noted.
Others, too, argued that the curation of their social media presence and their polished website was alleged evidence pointing towards this purported theory. “Now keep in mind, this is supposedly a band that only got together last November, that’s like five months, basically, and yet they have a professionally done logo, like a professionally done website, professional pictures, with fancy, expensive Dolls Kill clothes, a professional music video, an about section that’s complete trash … and then somehow these three women manage these social medias together,” @thespaceslut said in a viral video commenting on the situation. “It’s just so obvious they have managers and marketing people behind their every move.” It should be noted that while the band emerged on TikTok and other platforms last fall, their Twitter account says it was created in April 2020, implying the band could have existed for longer than its time in the public eye.
In their coverage of the debacle, Rolling Stone also noted that fans have stumbled across proof that Baker may be signed to Prescription Songs, a music publishing house owned by Lukasz Gottwald, a.k.a Dr. Luke, whose name you may recognize from his highly-publicized lawsuit, as a part of which, pop superstar Kesha sued him for allegedly "sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally" abusing her. While the music publication notes that several popular artists like Doja Cat, Kim Petras, and Saweetie have worked with Gottwald since the lawsuit, most commonly under his new pen name, “Tyson Trax,” it seems out of character for a band portraying itself to be founded on and openly championing feminist principals to purportedly associate with someone who has faced such allegations.
Although none of these accusations have been confirmed or denied – Tramp Stamps did not respond to Cracked's several requests for comment – some music enthusiasts still expressed alarm over what it would mean if Tramp Stamps was, in fact, an industry plant.
"What really baffles me about this entire phenomenon is the fact that industry figureheads thought that putting these — this group together would be what young people are interested in," user @seapunkhistorian noted in a video commenting on the situation. “Everything about this group is so calculated, almost insidiously, insidiously like, even down to the hair colors.”
To user @warpedtori, the controversy over their alleged industry plant status can be best summarized as a question of transparency. “Rather than back smaller artists with a lot of potential, record labels will throw a lot of money at plants to boost them in kind of a low-risk, high reward situation," she explained in a video discussing the concept of industry plants and why they don't always succeed in punk rock. "This works better in some genres like pop but not in others, like rap and punk, where there's a skeptical fanbase. Industry plants are not necessarily a bad thing if they make enjoyable music and they're honest about their backstory. However a lot of the time there's a conscious dishonestly, with a lot of them pretending to be something that they're not.”
Although again, its unclear whether or not Tramp Stamps is presenting themselves disingenuously, remember, the notion of honesty is a critical element of music in all its forms – especially Punk Rock.