Monday, September 24, 2007

Who was the last unattractive, female singer in the US music scene?

Frequent conversations with my wife on the state of the entertainment industry coem down to the idea of imagery. Many movies are marketed on who is in the film rather than the merits of the film. The female images pushed by Hollywood fit stereotypes and are forever pushing women (especially white women) to be thinner and younger. Musicians are discovered and then glammed or shaped up to fit the message the music label thinks is the easiest to market. This can sully the waters of entertainment media and force listeners or viewers to go to alternative routes to find something they think is good. Think about all of the middle class families on TV living in gigantic sets with still only one wage earner. I swear the family on "Friday Night Lights" is the only midle class family on tv that faces middle class problems, and this is on a frickin' sports show.

The beauty of the internet was that is was suppose to make it easier for creators of music, film, & writing to connect with listeners, viewers, & readers. In a sense, the internet does that with the easy posting of music on central gathering sites like MySpace, compression of files into mp3/mp4, digital video, and then blogging for writers. Similar to the problems of chasing profit, the internet has hurt the dispersion of music/film/writing through the monitoring of downloads, blog hits, or 'eyeballs' (for internet ads). With the growth of the internet, I was expecting a few ugly ducklings to emerge. Ugly ducklings in the sense of a female singer who blows people away, creates a grass roots following and is launched onto the popular music scene. Not pop music as much as just being on the mainstream radio consistently. Country Music as an industry, I swear, has a by law that states you must be gorgeous to be a female singer. It has yet to happen.
Pop music has not launched a successful solo pop act with the exception of the American Idol crew since the former Mickey Mousers landed on the scene in the late 90s. Check the record sales. It's been nearly 10 years now. This brought my wife and I to think about an ugly female singer. Ugly male singers are everywhere (Adam Duritz, Ben Folds, Van Morrison, that dude from ELO with the shades & afro). Hell, David Bowie is ugly but chicks think he is sexy because he has a British accent, dresses weird-trendy, knows how to apply eyeliner and was pretty gay in the 70s. It's just so much easier for male artists (for men in general, put an ugly guy in abercrombie clothes, give him a modern haircut and girls will be all over him for being cute). We went over our memories, and conceded that video and the entertainment media killed the radio star.
Above is a photo of Sarah McLachlan (drawing on the Steveie Nicks wear flowing clothes look). You might be thinking, she's ugly. No, she's hot. Hot in a "not hot but you still think she's hot and don't tell your friends about it" way. She mastered this look and rode it into the ground to make men and lesbians fall in love with her. Sarah McLachlan is borderline. She's as close as the entertainment industry would get to having someone unattractive selling albums. She's also blessed with an amazing voice, and only a retarded sea monkey would not produce an album of hers. Ani Difranco wrote a song "The Next Big Thing" about this very concept.
Here are the rules:
1. Must be post-1980. MTV era to now.
2. Must be unattractive in a way that everyone can agree.
3. Must be have released a major label album and had radio airplay on a regular basis within the last 20 years.
4. Cant be Grace Jones. She existed in that weird androgynous era of the '80s.
5. No lesbians. Not for looks, but for the built in niche market of lesbian music.
My wife and I could not name one. Can you?
We could, on the other hand, name a few pre-1980 that are undoubtedly unattractive. They received their record deals on talent, pure talent. With these names, there can be no argument to their talent. Here's that list....
1. Carole King
2. Janis Joplin
3. Aretha Franklin
I will keep scouring the airwaves for that next great find. If there is an ugly duckling out there, I will be pimping her stuff.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

edie brickell? she had a hippie thing going and one hit.