There was a rather funny-but-trivial item on the Ananova.com site. Apparently, while shopping in Chicago, Britney Spears was told by a presumed admirer who didn’t know who she was (presumably he was admiring her, not admiring the brand “Britney Spears”) that she resembled a famous star. No, not the famous star “Britney Spears.” Rather, the famous star “Jessica Simpson.” The bona fide Britney was reportedly not happy with the observation. Which is all the more puzzling, in that Ms. Simpson graces the cover of the April issue of Allure magazine, on which she is described as “Temptress in a D-Cup.” Given the costumes that Britney is wearing on her current tour, she probably wishes that she could be described that way. (This leads to a slight diversion in the post-Janet wardrobe malfunction: Have you noticed the photo of Madonna that is used in the ad for her “Invention” tour? There she is, down on all fours, fitted with a wig that seems to have been borrowed from Amadeus, with her bodice down and her décolletage in full view: Perhaps gravity has trumped perkiness and she wants to show that she’s still got it. . .lest people turn away and buy tickets to whatever Jessica is showing.)
One of the aspects of all this is the veritable interchangeability that seems to exist nowadays with regard to the multitude of female vocalists. There is a certain lack of distinguish ability, not only physically, but audibly, as well. One can slot in for another, Lego-like. There may be some circumferential differences, but it is pretty much a wash. There may be some vocal range distinguishing features, but they are pretty much electronically compensated for where lacking.
The bottom line is that there is a bottom line, as in cute derrieres: This is, make no mistake, Show Business. If they’ve got It, they flaunt It. If they don’t have It, you probably don’t know who they are, even if in terms of their vocal performance they are astonishing.
This is not meant to be (a) a sexist rant, as the same can be said for the male side of things, but probably more accurately by a female, nor (b) a plea for there to be not-as-attractive people gracing the covers of magazines and prancing on stages. Rather, merely a question as to whether the physical aspects of performers aren’t becoming increasingly important and relevant in terms of public acceptance. Same as it ever was? I don’t think so. For every back-in-the-day semi-hot Grace Slick there was a Janis Joplin, for Diana there was Aretha (and notice how in that pairing, one is still relevant and the other is a parody). But with always-on coverage of one sort or another, it’s all about the Look, not the Sound.