Whenever I hear Britney Spears on the radio these days, I can’t help but think of her as some sort of non-entity; a quivering mound of protoplasm in a halter top and platform sandals that bleats out lyrics every few months on command when it notices it has been placed in a recording studio. Those lyrics are then autotuned and overproduced into the familiar, record-selling sound we’ve come to expect from Britney, which is then set to a pounding house beat and released gently into its number-one slot on the billboard charts.
This train of thought led me to recall those legendary brainless, soulless chicken-substitutes that are grown in laboratories across the country and served to unsuspecting (or suspecting) patrons at KFC– which as we all know can no longer be called ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’, as it no longer actually serves actual chickens.
Those depressing, zombie-chicken caricatures of living flesh, despite their unsavory origins, produce appealing enough fried drumsticks and meaty breaded breasts of the kind we’ve come to expect from KFC. They’re tender and juicy and utterly regulated. Superficially delicious and satisfying, they’re enjoyable in part because of their predictable sameness and dependability. They have, after all, been precisely engineered to meet our criteria for a fast, fried, chicken-y dinner of adequate taste and quality. But think too long about their origins, and you’re bound to feel a little queasy.
In a way, those sad, brainless laboratory chickens remind me of our current crop of celebrities, pop stars and prize athletes. They’ve been hand-selected by the same greedy, shadowy boards to meet our exact standards for dazzling celebrity sex appeal. Young and tender, sexy and shiny-haired yet pleasantly homogenous; while they weren’t exactly grown in laboratories, we know that they’re not naturally made, either. We know that what they say and do and the way they perform is not the genuine article. The legacies they create weren’t born of a natural wellspring of passion, creativity, or intellect. But we eat them up and follow their antics mindlessly, because they’re what we’ve come to expect, to demand. We think they’re no better than what we deserve.
Well, I’ve about had my fill of these KFcelebrities. I’m ready to bestow my interest, envy and admiration on genuine artists, writers, and other public figures who grew into fame in their own ways, in their own terms. People with real meat on their bones!
Akie and I discussed the state of the female musician in this week’s Perpetual Post.
There’s something missing from the women of mainstream American music today. I don’t want to generalize and say ALL of American music, because I know that’s not true. But among those females whom fate or luck or talent has elevated to the heights of fame and fortune, I feel that there is a distinct lack of a certain je ne se quoi that for simplicity’s sake I’m going to refer to as SWAGGER.
Where are you, crazy rock goddesses? Where is your cheerful destructiveness, your wild and devil may care ‘go fuck yourself’ attitude? Your MOXIE?! Why, when I want to live vicariously through a rough and ready rock musician, does it STILL always have to be a man—and one who is usually over fifty, to boot? Who is going to step up and take the torch of the ass-kicking, take-no-prisoners rock star away from Keith Richards, before he smokes it down to nothing? And why can’t it that person be a woman?
I’ve endured so many disappointments during my search for a smart, self-assured female musician with flinty eyes, awesome hair and staggering talent who doesn’t take shit from anybody. In the beginning I had high hopes for Amy Winehouse, but then she started losing weight and doing drugs and that went nowhere fast. Pink piqued my interest for a little while, but there’s still something kind of manufactured and by-the-numbers about her. Britney Spears is a puppet; Christina Aguilera is a ghoul. Lady Gaga is a pretentious twit. Katy Perry is like the Hello Kitty of pop music. Fergie can be kind of a bad-ass in her own right, and there’s something a little crazy and half-baked about her; she might be the closest thing I can find to what I’m looking for, but I’m still unsatisfied. She’s no Pat Benatar.
And don’t come at me talking about Beyonce or Miley Cyrus. I’m not looking for a diva, or a child. Rihanna either; the kind of icon I crave would have eaten Chris Brown for breakfast. Bjork is borderline; she’s half out of this world, although she doesn’t seem to give a shit what anyone things of her, which I appreciate. Modern female pop stars on the whole, though, lack the charisma and charm of Cyndi Lauper; the poise of Stevie Nicks—not to mention the steely, hungry ambition that has made Madonna a force to reckon with for going on thirty years.
So-called ‘girl groups’ are also a whole lot of nothing. You could replace each member of the Pussycat Dolls or Danity Kane with a different person, and I’d bet you 75% of their fans wouldn’t notice right away. Each member of those bands is carefully crafted and coiffed and insultingly counterfeit. At least bands like the Spice Girls knew they were a fluffy, manufactured joke—and they were in on it.
Hugely successful all-female bands didn’t used to be cotton-candy assemblages. The Go-Go’s, the Bangles—these were bands whose members played their own instruments and even wrote some of their own songs. Instead of being cobbled together from soul-shriveling auditions filled with aspiring models and actresses, they sprang organically from hard-working and talented female singers and musicians. Somehow we managed to go from, “Hi, I’m Kathy Valentine, and I’m out of my fucking mind and having the best time ever.” to “Hi, I’m the Blond Pussycat Doll, and these are my tits.” Is the genre de-evolving?!
Maybe it’s the times we live in. Maybe it’s difficult for celebrities of any kind to be reckless and raw and learn lessons the hard way anymore. Maybe by the time you attain a certain level of fame in the music business these days, you’ve already got publicists and stylists and handlers and an image to uphold. Or maybe I’m wrong! Am I forgetting someone? I’m throwing down a gauntlet here, but I’d be ever so pleased to be schooled in the world of female musicians who are actually inspiring to either females or musicians. Please, PLEASE, give me some hope. Hit me with your best shot.
Oops I did it again
Messed up the coffee
Got lost in the game
The coffee ga-ame
Oops, you think that I’m smart
And able to brew-oo-oo
But I’m in-com-pe-tant
Last night I set up the timed coffeemaker, filled it with water and added the grounds…and then pressed the “ON” button instead of the “TIMER SET” button. I then turned and walked away, apparently unalarmed by the completely strange and out-of-place sounds and smells of a coffeemaker that had begun brewing coffee at 11pm at night.
It made two full cups of coffee before I wheeled around suddenly and realized what I’d done.
Noooo! When will I learn???