Wednesday, February 14, 2007
The message of the Grammys
I've been amused by articles wondering if the Recording Academy, the institution behind the Grammy Awards, was sending a message by anointing the Dixie Chicks with album, song and record of the year.

Here's some news: The Grammys always send a message. It's just that the message is usually "Thank you for selling a zillion copies of your mediocre album" and all too rarely "Thank you for changing the face of pop music with your excellent release."

If the Recording Academy is saying that it supports the Dixie Chicks' political stand, it's rather meek to say so now; Natalie Maines made her remarks four years ago. And if the Academy is thumbing its collective nose at country radio, which dropped the Chicks from playlists, it's a little late there, too.

Indeed, if the Academy is angry at country radio, maybe it should take on radio in general, since the medium has long since become so pre-chewed and safe it makes the Grammys look bold. Perhaps then a wider variety of music would get more exposure. There's a message there, too. But I don't expect it to be heard.

(Addendum, 3 p.m.: Some commenters are interpreting this post as anti-Dixie Chicks. Actually, I have no problems with the Chicks, their album or whatever they want to say. My post is aimed at the Academy, which seems craven in its support -- they're still playing it safe, in other words, waiting until it's OK to "send a message." After all, if it really wanted to be political, the Academy could have voted for "American Idiot" for album of the year two years ago. Which deserved it, too.)
Monday, February 12, 2007
Let Anna Nicole be a warning, Britpack
Before there was Paris, there was Anna Nicole. And now that Anna Nicole is gone, there is still Paris. And Britney. And Nicole. And Lindsay. In there, and with them, lies a cautionary tale of fame for the sake of fame -- an empty fame full of flourish, flashbulbs, and in Anna Nicole's death, finality.

New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser puts it succinctly, writing "the ugly death of Anna Nicole Smith should be a wake-up call to the upstart bimbo triumvirate of Paris, Lindsay and Britney. You, too, Nicole." The point, as it goes, is that as you spiral downward, flaunting your debauchery with reckless abandon, the law of averages dictates that you can outrun fate only for so long -- more so if you encase yourself in an armor of self-importance, ignorance, arrogance and narcissism.

Paris Hilton could only tempt fate for so long before getting arrested on DUI charges and then having her life splattered and spread across the Internet simply because she failed to do something as simple as pay a storage bill. The result: Someone else scooped up her personal books and photos, creating a Web site that attracted more than one million Paris voyeurs in just the first few days.

Britney Spears' voyeurism had more to do with failing to don a simple pair of panties, repeatedly, then flashing her privates for the paparazzi, creating a permanent record of a below-the-belt mistake that will haunt her for the rest of her life. "Pantyless Partying With Paris" has become an alliteration repeated so many times now it is a part of our lexicon. Her nightlife indulgences continue unabated.

Nicole Richie also tempted fate until she was found dazed in her vehicle on a Southern California highway. "Wrong way Nicole" we can now call her, her highway mishap a metaphor for her life, and she, too, faces a DUI charge. So much for a simple life.

Then there's Lindsay Lohan, who treated trips to Alcoholic Anonymous classes as just another appointment before heading back to the clubs. The reality check seemed to come as she checked into rehab, which she then proceeded to treat like a 30-day inconvenience punctuated by field trips to get her car serviced, grab a bite of lunch with friends or do some work on her latest movie. Serious is as serious does. While she pretended to get serious, it was not something she did.

So, with all that said, it is striking to read what Caryn James writes in The New York Times about Anna Nicole Smith: "She was a glittery spectacle who offered guilt-free voyeurism, as we watched her dramas with drugs and weight and inheritance laws. And the lesson of her fame is that there is no lesson."

Caryn, I would beg to differ. There is a lesson to Anna Nicole's fame. You can tempt a vapid fame only for so long if it is constructed of falsehoods, recklessness and self-abuse. It is a lesson the "Britpack" should examine closely.
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