19 April, 2009

Things That Piss Me Off: Shallow Culture Edition

Back when Tarja quit Nightwish, I remember reading the band's criteria for a new lead singer. They nattered a bit about great voice, etc., but above all, they said, the singer must be physically beautiful. With extra emphasis on the beautiful. And you know what? They ended up with someone gorgeous - who's not a fucking patch on Tarja. She doesn't have the voice for symphonic metal. That's why our relationship ended when Tarja went solo.

What brought this to mind? George at Decrepit Old Fool found a gem:


I’ve heard that the music industry is driven by how photogenic performers are, as much as by how the music sounds. But see if this performance by unknown Susan Boyle on a British talent show, doesn’t make you want to stand up and cheer. And be amazed by the emotional impact of unexpected difference between expectations and reality.

Only for a dear friend like George will I subject myself to idiotic British spinoffs of American Idol. And I'm glad I did. Susan Boyle has a double chin, a pug nose, a body that figures in few teen male fantasies - and a voice that belongs on Broadway. Fuck her lack of fashion sense. To hell with cultural ideals of feminine beauty. It enrages me that a voice like hers got confined to her shower and a circle of friends just because she's not a physical knockout. Besides, don't these shallow little money-grubbing record execs realize that two hours with Stacy and Clinton would turn her into a supermodel? If physical appearance is that damned important, fucking hire somebody to solve the problem with some clever clothes and makeup tricks. Or maybe, y'know, stop being so fucking superficial.

Listen to this and tell me this woman doesn't deserve a CD just because she's not a pin-up:

Great music transcends physical appearance. You only need a great body if you have no fucking talent. And I think the response to this woman proves that in spades.

I'll tell you what delighted me about this, aside from the fact that Susan Boyle is one of the only people who's ever sung Fantine right and the fact no one expected her to because they were too busy laughing at her frumpy appearance: the expression on Simon Cowell's face. Mind you, I've always liked Simon. I've a soft spot for absolute bastards with British accents. But usually the poor man looks tortured. He genuinely loves music, which probably goes a long way towards explaining why he's always so acerbic. Wouldn't you be were you in his shoes? And while the other two judges were reacting with shock, awe and tears, he just sat back with a blissful smile that said he'd been transported. This was what he'd been waiting for. Yes, I melted. I likes to see Simon happy.

Simply outstanding, all round.

Feasts for the eyes are nice, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that physical beauty doesn't have its place in the list of Things That Make Life Worth Living. But it's not so essential that it trumps all other glorious talents. Susan Boyle could've had running sores and an ear growing out of her nose. It would've ceased to matter the second she opened her mouth and sounded that first ethereal note. There's beauty, and then there's beauty, and I don't want some jackass denying us such auditory euphoria simply because he thinks only sexy bodies sell.

There's a fan club, by the way. C'mon over and join the rest of us who love a lovely voice.

1 comment:

Cujo359 said...

Unfortunately, that's the way it is nowadays. Like the old song says - dance 10, looks 3 just doesn't work. The modern way to develop an act isn't to let a group of musicians hang out and play together until they find their signature sound. It's find some really cute kids, teach them to sing and dance passably, and then cut an album.

I can't help but think that neither Janis Joplin nor the Rolling Stones would have made it in this popular music culture. Ditto Patsy Cline. None of them were unattractive, mind you (with the exception of Keith Richards, who managed to look like he'd just been run over by a truck since his earliest days), but no one would mistake them for fashion models.

Of course, it's never been all sweetness and light. Much of what is now rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and jazz was begun by blues and jazz musicians who were largely ignored by the music business due to their being black. It wasn't until young white kids in the U.K. started picking up on the blues that it became important in popular culture. Even back then, appearance counted for something.

What they've managed to do nowadays is suck the life out of the music. There's more equality in the music industry nowadays, I suppose, but there's no soul. We've gone from Howlin' Wolf to Beyonce. Whether that's an improvement is an interesting question.