19 April 2009

The Susan Boyle phenomenon once again focuses our attention on the roles of beauty, age and glamour in the world of popular culture and pop music in particular. It’s clear that the reaction to Boyle’s undoubtedly impressive voice is genuine.

Many people, it seems, are yearning for a singer who does not conform to the usual stereotype.

Something similar, although on a much lower level, happened a couple of year ago with Beth Ditto from Gossip who almost made chubsters cool.

Perhaps music fans are now ready to accept pop stars who don’t look like Justin Timberlake or Kylie (below), pop stars who look real. However, it can be argued that we don’t want our pop stars to look real.

What’s the point of having pop stars who aren’t fabulously unreal? That’s why we love the Kylies and Madonnas and that’s why they use any means necessary to stay doll-like. A part of us needs our pop stars to be unattainable, unmatchable super-beings.

Unfortunately this manifests itself in some pretty, er, ugly ways in the music industry. More than a decade ago I worked for a fab new Scottish pop band. They were bright, fresh, stupidly exciting and had tunes coming out of their ears. One of their number was an 18-year-old girl, who I’ll call Natalie. Natalie was small and pretty but not skinny. But she wasn’t exactly portly either.

Soon, though, the nasty little public schoolboys on the music magazines were making sly digs about Natalie’s weight. Now, Natalie was no wallflower; she was plucky and she could stick up for herself. But, gradually, it seemed to get to her.

One particularly unpleasant journalist took a shine to her but when it became apparent that she had no interest in him he made some deeply offensive remarks about her body shape in his paper. I confronted him. His reaction was astonishing. If I was defending Natalie it was obvious I must be enjoying carnal relations with her. I managed to stop myself punching the putrid little man and walked away.

But Natalie was affected. This previously self-confident character became wary and introverted and lost a lot of weight.

Now, it may seem that we’ve moved past these vile, sexist attitudes but deep down the music industry hasn’t really changed that much. The surprise exhibited by the likes of Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan that a frumpy middle-aged woman could also possess an amazing voice is proof of that.

Who on earth really believes that you can only be talented if you’re incredibly physically attractive?

But nothing will change. Ostensibly glamorous pop stars such as Lily Allen and Kate Nash will still be the target of jibes about their weight, although the critics will have to be a little more sly. Susan Boyle will only be tolerated because she’s a one-off and can be marketed thus. And the lollipop likes of Kylie and Girls Aloud will still rule the pop world.

Source: http://connollyblog.dailymail.co.uk/2009/04/the-susan-boyle-phenomenon-will-change-nothing-the-music-business-still-craves-beautiful-stars.html

Posted by: Annechien