Let me start off this blog by saying that this photo was taken by Rob Ector. I don’t own the rights to it. Thanks…
Now, after Usher released the song, Papers, on Monday (click HERE if you missed it), I immediately said to myself, “I wonder what Tameka will say about this!” Don’t be fooled…I don’t have an inside track that informed me that what’s coming up happens to be about Usher and his new single. But the “my way” and “the light” reference (a name that, according to a fan, Usher is called in the Oceans 7 crew) really let me know that Tameka is speaking out. And can you blame her? Really? Peep her interesting (but long) blog after the break!
To be or not to be…but at what cost? It’s almost inconceivable the lengths that some artists & entertainers feel obligated to go to keep themselves in the headlines. The prioritization of fan base over God, family, morals, and over just plain ol’ fashioned common sense is an example of that remarkable distance. I think it’s important to understand the premise of letting a character that’s been created for fans drown out who you really are. One easily can become a zombie, while the people who love them waste away looking for the sea salt. It becomes so easy to sell your soul to the entertainment business while creating an illusion of grandeur. Hence, this painfully obvious thirst for relevance that completely overshadows sensibility. Thirsty much?
When I started in this business over 14 years ago, I was a stylist (fashion) for many well-known artists both upcoming and platinum selling, I never imagined the atmosphere would become this cloudy or eerie. I was trying to define the images of young hopefuls who thought “my way” would set them apart from the masses. Often dorky and clunky, trying to find themselves in defiant color schemes, wrongly combined textures and overworked fashion techniques. Although, consumers see the finished product but are remiss as to what goes into the development. It isn’t always a graceful process. Silly belts, headgear and nervously popped collars often highlighted a level of awkwardness in identity. I’ve watched boys become men and helped boys become men. Yet this identity crisis that hovers over much of the entertainment world is like a crimson cape of insecurity as does this obsession with being “hot” and having “followers.” While fans fixate over the lives of their idols, some celebrities have become slaves to the persona that has been created for them but rarely has anything to do with who they are. Shock value. Publicity stunts. Peddling relationships like a vagabond for a few hundred double clicks on their fans favorite blog sites.
Who are they really?
Some of your favorite artists were born into the industry or should I say “grandfathered” into it and never got the chance to figure it out. Driven by vicarious dreams of demanding managers/labels, artists are a “what” not a “who.” Their “what” is the gross, their “who” is the net. Artists get whatever is left of themselves after the world takes its share. It all reminds me of a scene from the film “The Devils Advocate” where souls were sold for money, class, and status.
The mirrors have definitely become smoky. So much in fact that it makes it hard for one to decipher reality from the facade. Is it Live or Memorex? Even the public should recognize the #FF (fame fanatics) who go to such great lengths to garner attention ranging from publicity ploys, outlandish stage outfits, sex tapes, head shaving, public grand standing, picture leaks and throwing tantrums. From vintage concepts of dating shows in hopes of finding a soul mate (huh? #wheredotheydothatat) to trying to hit Billboard Charts by any means necessary. Surely, the fans know better than to think what flows from “the pen” of any writer embodies the details of another human’s deepest and true desires. Sadly, men singing about love, politics, marriage, children or anything genuine and benevolent equates to album sales flop, mundane chatter and waning popularity. It takes a song about disparaging all the aforementioned just to get accolades and spins on the radio. Unlike a mathematical equation the negative induces the positive. The need to placate fans puts artists at their mercy, leading to maniacal decisions. But I guess desperate times call for desperate measures. I digress….
Nowadays some artists, entertainers, producers and even songwriters are going as far as buying magazine covers and paying photographers to follow them like paparazzi. It’s called #stayingrelevant. I say amass the fortune, help others and bump the fame, but that sentiment is not often shared. The fame, notoriety, popularity and prestige i.e. “the Light” for some is parallel to a drug. So much self-value is encompassed, without it life to them has little worth. Is it life imitating art or art imitating life?
Before the tirades and “smoke and mirror-esque” themes, when music actually made sense, even a mere decade ago, it was something we created memories with, celebrated, made and raised our kids to. It embodied our diverse cultures, experiences, and gave others a peek into our soulful worlds. Yet there are many like Lauryn, Mary J, Common and others that are non-conformists. They have never compromised themselves, their sexuality nor their art, yet they remain timeless. Although standing in “the Light’ has had its costs for all, selling one’s soul for relevance is completely different. It makes one wonder the cost of buying it back. I believe that many of these artists today lack the confidence in self that proves to be true staying power. Where there is absolute talent, no drama, no controversy, no nonsensical angles are needed. Its called: Do what God gave you the talent to do and leave the shenanigans to vaudeville and the games to Milton Bradley.
For those naysayers, I don’t feel the need to run down my list of qualifications or validate myself, or point out the careers I have funded, started, saved, and salvaged. Yet I will say to those that create diversions for relevancy…to stop, save face, don’t listen to those that benefit more from their advice to you, and ask God for suitable guidance. In the meantime don’t feel inclined to do anything that isn’t organic. At this point, I think I may start my own trending topic #betruetoyourself.
Those that actually KNOW me, know how I love a quote that is apropos, so as Dr. Seuss wrote:
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”