The trio have been accused of being industry plants, working with the controversial producer Dr. Luke, and writing lyrics that promote sexual assault and fetishize people of colour
The Nashville-based pop punk band Tramp Stamps first popped up on TikTok in November 2020, sharing a cover of Blink-182’s “All the Small Things” and introductions for each member of the band. A few months — and more pop punk covers — later, the group is approaching 400,000 followers on the platform, and is now facing controversy over where that following came from.
The majority of the pushback revolves around claims that Tramp Stamps (a trio made up of singer Marisa Maino, drummer Paige Blue, and guitarist Caroline Baker) are “industry plants” and have manufactured their aesthetic to push up their follower count. Others have accused them of writing lyrics that promote rape culture, and have alleged that they’re affiliated with the controversial producer Dr. Luke.
As a result, Tramp Stamps have been fast-tracked to a modern music career milestone, their first notes-app response, after releasing just three songs (including the latest single “I’d Rather Die”). “The misinformation and lies that feed this cancel culture are so fucking toxic,” the statement reads. “We are three women who have been writing and producing music for many years, busting our asses in the music business while building our personal careers.”
“You have gone to the ends of the fucking earth to shit on us, have told us to kill ourselves, and have used conspiracy theories on TikTok as a trend to get more views on your own videos. Fuck you. You don’t like our music? Don’t fucking listen to it. We’re not going anywhere.”
Unsurprisingly, the message itself has been polarising. In the comment section, fans have applauded their defiant response, while critics maintain claims of hypocrisy and disingenuous marketing strategies. Below, we’ve unpacked the reasons that people, and TikTokers in particular, are so mad about Tramp Stamps.
THE CLAIMS THAT THEY’RE ‘INDUSTRY PLANTS’
In an explainer on how the band met, posted to TikTok late last year, Tramp Stamps sum it up pretty concisely: “Three girls got drunk at a bar and wrote a song.” More recently, they added on Instagram: “We all crossed paths and wrote together as a band for the first time in February 2020, and our unfiltered conversations together led to the songs you are all so pressed about right now.”
However, they’ve been plagued by claims that they’re the product of industry executives from pretty much the beginning. On TikTok, part time detectives have also uncovered evidence, pointing out that Blue has been producing music for major and indie labels for years, as detailed on her website. According to Rolling Stone, Baker and Maino also have deals with Prescription Songs, a publisher owned by Dr. Luke that has also worked in connection with the likes of Doja Cat and Dua Lipa.
Naturally, the theory that they’re industry plants — in other words, artists that appear to be independent and “homegrown”, but are actually backed by an established label — has spread like wildfire on TikTok.
In their recent response, however, they claim that they chose not to sign with a major label. “We made our OWN label called ‘Make Tampons Free’,” they say, “which is distributed through AWAL (which literally stands for Artists Without A Label). WE own ‘Make Tampons Free’ and no one else.”
THE ‘FORCED’ POP PUNK AESTHETIC
Social media users have also done some digging on the Tramp Stamps aesthetic, which pretty much hits all the notes you’d expect from a pop punk revival on TikTok: three shades of neon-bright hair, cute graphics, and plenty of fishnet.
“It’s so easy to see how not punk this band is when you look at their Instagrams,” says one user, Beccabeean, sharing images posted to their personal accounts, which see them wearing significantly different styles. Another TikToker adds: “Everything about this group is so calculated.”
This particular fire has only been stoked by a video the band posted back in January, which sees them list how many “emo” songs they know. Despite churning out covers of tracks by Paramore, Avril Lavigne, Weezer, and more, two out of three members don’t recognise My Chemical Romance’s 2004 emo anthem “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”.
THE ALLEGED DR. LUKE ASSOCIATION
Besides providing a basis for claims that Tramp Stamps have insider connections in the music industry, the alleged involvement with Dr. Luke’s Prescription Songs doesn’t sit well with many critics due to the producer’s past. In 2014, Kesha sued the producer (AKA aka Lukasz Gottwald), claiming that he sexually assaulted and emotionally abused her. The legal fight is still ongoing today.
Though there’s no evidence that Dr. Luke is directly associated with Tramp Stamps, he was linked to Kobalt Music Group, a company that reportedly sold their distributor, AWAL, to Sony Music Group in 2021.
“Not y’all being involved with Dr. Luke,” writes an Instagram commenter. Others have said that the band is hypocritical for selling an overt feminist message, while engaging with a figure embroiled in such allegations.
LYRICS THAT ARE SEEN TO PROMOTE SEXUAL ASSAULT
The Tramp Stamps controversy has really ramped up with the April 14 release of their latest single, “I’d Rather Die”. Namely, some of the track’s lyrics have come under fire for allegedly promoting sexual assault. At one point, Maino sings: “I don’t know how you think we’re gonna fuck / When you can’t get it up / I’m sick of hearing it’s the alcohol… I’m just saying / It’s not fair to / Leave me hanging like this.”
“I didn’t know this needed to be said,” writes one Twitter user (DechennePepper), “but Tramp Stamps it’s not a girl boss move or punk to sing about pressuring people to have sex with you when they don’t want to or unable to properly consent due to alcohol.”
That’s not the end of the issues with the new single’s songwriting, however. Others have stated that the language used on the song is hypocritical, specifically pointing to the line: “I’d rather die / Than hook up with another straight white guy.” Critics claim that the lyrics fetishize people of colour, while others have brought up Paige Blue’s marriage to a white man to emphasise the apparent double standards.
In a recent TikTok, Tramp Stamps respond to some of these comments, saying: “We see you, we hear you, we don’t want you to feel like we don’t.” Watch the full video statement below.