Monday, December 21, 2009

Over Rated 2009

R&B Singers That Are Beyond Reproach

Being in the public eye is difficult and today’s climate of gossip magazines/websites, bloggers and paparazzi ensure that even the most beloved celebrities will eventually falter (Christian Bale and Tiger Woods immediately come to mind). However in this extremely hostile environment, several celebrities, and in particular female R&B singers, have managed to evade the media’s magnifying glass and win in the court of public opinion. Exactly why these “Chosen Ones” can do no wrong is not clear, but it is truly remarkable the amount of leeway they get in the media intensive climate of 2009.

Over the course of the last 12 months Alicia Keys has remained at the top of female empowerment/musical talent/physical beauty lists and continues to win all kinds of “Presidential Awards” for good citizenship despite releasing several singles that failed to connect with fans (usually the sign of an album flop), obvious weight gain, needing Jay-Z to maintain relevance and clearly breaking up the marriage of Swizz Beats and aspiring singer Mashonda. Alicia Keys has been one of the most prominent artists of this decade, but it’s hard to imagine many other celebrities getting a pass like this from the media and fans.

Similarly, Beyonce can do no wrong in the eyes of America despite spending 90% of the year barely clothed and gyrating on stages around the country, releasing heavy-handed sex metaphors (“Big Ego”) and odes to sexual fetishes (“Video Phone”), changing her message to young fans from “Independent Woman” to “Put a Ring On It” (because, really, isn’t the whole point of female empowerment to marry a rich & powerful man?) and maintaining a “marriage” where it is unclear if husband and wife ever actually speak to each other.

The biggest beneficiary of the public’s love for certain female R&B singers is Whitney Houston. Houston has been out of the public eye for nearly a decade and after the poor sales of her 2009 “comeback album” (with production from Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats...who were conspicuously not blamed for the flop), went on Oprah and admitted that she spent the last 10 years in a drug induced haze, neglected her children and cost herself, family and business associates millions of dollars. I doubt many celebrities would be welcomed back with open arms after such a confession.

However, this virtual lovefest with the media and fans does not extend to all R&B singers. In most circles, Kelis is now known as a “the B**th that was married to Nas” despite a fairly successful career. And Mariah Carey (who has reached levels of success beyond any other female entertainer in history by releasing a seemingly endless string of hits and staying current after two decades in the business) is constantly ridiculed as a “Fat, Wanna-Be-Hip-Hop, Has Been” despite consistently selling records, being in better shape than most 40 year old women and releasing a bigger hit in 2009 (“Obsessed”) than any of the singers the media and fans chose to deify.

I’m not saying it’s not fair...I’m just saying.

The Kardashian’s Work Ethic

2009 saw Chloe marry Lamar Odom, Kim break up with Reggie Bush and Courtney become impregnated by erstwhile slacker Scott. On recent episodes, the Kardashian family/media conglomerate constantly bash Scott’s work ethic and claims he is “going nowhere in life.” This is an absurd claim from a group of people that have fallen ass backwards into numerous income streams because Kim fell ass backwards into Ray-J.

Summer Blockbusters

Trying to follow 2008 (“Iron Man,” “The Dark Knight,” etc.) was no easy task, and 2009 failed miserably. The summer blockbuster season was marred by movies filled with mindless action, poor plot/character development and offensive characters (“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”). At it’s best the Summer of 2009 provided a few hours of air conditioning that didn’t make you immediately regret your decision to spend $10 (G.I. Joe).

NOTE: This does NOT apply to “The Hangover” which is arguably the funniest movie of the decade.

“There’s No Good Hip-Hop Out There”

To put it simply, if you are not enjoying the current state of Hip-Hop, you are not looking hard enough. 2009 had great releases from legends like Jay-Z, Raekwon and Eminem, exciting new artists like Drake, Kid Cudi and Wale and underground/experimental releases from Cage, La Coka Nostra and Felt that all significantly raised the bar for the culture. The 2000’s closed on an extremely high note and fans should be excited about what the next decade will have in store.

Rihanna being a Strong/Courageous Women

Rihanna apparently got beat up pretty bad by Chris Brown, this is bad, violence against women is intolerable and should be punished. However, the media/general public’s initial declaration of Rihanna as the strongest female alive and the best role model for young girls since Eleanor Roosevelt and subsequently accepting her as a “Bad A** Rock-n-Roll Chick” seem misguided.

Last winter Rihanna got beat up and then went to the cops, two of the least bad a** activities an individual can do. A few months go by and now she shows up on BET talking about drinking and having sex like she’s Jenna Jameson, decked out in leather dominatrix gear with gun tattoos and sporting a haircut from Mad Max. Even if you ignore that she jacked this whole persona from Kelis, it’s hard to take this new “Bad Girl” image seriously.

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