I’m back after a short hiatus and even though I was quite busy, I must tell you how much I missed writing Stargayzing. There were so many times I had the impulse to comment on an issue and had to remind myself that I was taking a break. The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that I put down my “pen” for a hot second and all hell broke loose. Of course I’m primarily referring to the Miley Cyrus’ MTV Video Music Awards performance of her crappy new single We Can’t Stop, which reminded me of Madonna’s ability to shock us back in the day, but with a stunning absence of anything resembling the artfulness, humor, and style that informed Madonna’s most memorable work.
The end result was a discomforting exhibition of childish impulses married to creative vacuity and, perhaps, the suggestion of burgeoning mental illness. I have previously dicussed my theory of “Celebrity Mental Stagnation” (CMS), which asserts that stars begin to freeze emotionally at the moment they become famous for the simple reason that it is not possible to develop normally in the vacuum of fame. (I also have an attendant theory—the “Norma Desmond Theory,” which states that celebrities get mentally stuck at the apex of their greatest success as their psyches simply cannot transition into a decline). I have developed these theories over many, many years of Stargayzing and extensive personal observation. Using this matrix, Miley Cyrus is actually a 12 year-old child and we must adjust our expectations accordingly. Of course, this does beg the question of the what happened to her parental oversight.
Any reasonable person watched the MTV awards and wondered “how did we come to this?” It would seem that the sheer volume of media saturation around Miley’s sad performance is as much the story as anything she actually did on stage. As I mentioned on Twitter, Miss Cyrus’ depressingly effective ploy for attention says far more about us as a culture than it does about her as an “entertainer” or person. If Miley 2.0 equates finding an adult artistic identity with being an auto-tuned pole dancer who self-consciously appropriates urban culture, why does this become front page news? In a media landscape that values money, fame, and notoriety over anything else, we get the celebrities we deserve. Which leads me to Madonna, who is inadvertently responsible for this.
Once a pop culture trailblazer who elevated the questioning of social norms and mores to an art form, Madonna continued a rapid descent into caricature a few weeks back by proudly sporting a diamond encrusted dental grille or, if you’re from the hood or simply as phony as Madonna: grilzz. When a mini-media brouhaha ensued with many in the blogosphere suggesting that Madge was too damn old for such adornments, the 55-year-old entertainer responded on Instagram with a terse and highly ungrammatical “The Grilzz Are here to. Stay! So There! If you Don’t like don’t follow!” I guess I. Follow! Your point!
If you ask me the unfortunate appliance is a bad idea not because she is too old to wear it or because it may, as some suggested, betray the a fear of aging that seems to have hijacked Madonna’s every creative and now, sartorial, impulse in the last ten years, but rather because it is simply very ugly and unbecoming. It is time for Madonna to allow a ray of light into her boudoir, perhaps in the form of some new gays. And Madonna dear, regarding your suggestion that your fans “don’t follow,” be careful what you wish for; I’m reminded here of your MTV performance in less desperate times, when you brilliantly riffed on Marie Antoinette, who famously said the same thing. And look! Where it got. Her! In that truly memorable performance of Vogue you told us to “strike a pose,” which is ironic. It was Oscar Wilde who once said, “to be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up” and if the grilles prove anything, it’s that the pose you’ve chosen is “terrified aging pop star surrounded by sycophants.”
On a more litigious celebrity tip, singer Robin Thicke preemptively sued the estate of Marvin Gaye alleging that Blurred Lines, his super-derivative (though not technically plagiarized) song of the summer (number one for 12 weeks at the moment of this writing), is an original composition. As I said, he did this preemptively as the Gaye estate has not sued him. I have never heard of this happening before, though I did hear that a six figure offer to the estate to shut them up was refused, so perhaps this is just Thicke’s default. In my opinion Thicke has borrowed Gaye’s musical D.N.A. but not the lyrics or pattern of musical notes, so the Gaye estate made a mistake in not taking the settlement. We’ll have to wait and see. Personally, I preferred when Robin Thicke was more direct about his penchant for musical “homage,” as in his 2002 debut single When I Get You Alone. On that record he built the track around Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band’s 1975 number one single, itself a disco-fied cover of the public domain classical piece A Fifth of Beethoven. There was absolutely no confusion about the origin When I Get You Alone, but in the end it didn’t matter because the only person who bought it was yours truly. Check it out:
Looking forward for a moment, I’m quite excited to share some of the new pieces I’ve been working on over the next few months. I’ve also taken on a new project: I’ll be reviewing live music for bistroawards.com, an organization that acknowledges the jazz, pop, and cabaret performers who enrich the musical landscape of New York and has been supporting that community since the mid-1980s. My involvement with the Bistro Awards will give me the opportunity to hear and report on a wide range of new musical topics.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, there has been an interesting development in my ongoing coverage of Michael Jackson’s nose. Devoted Stargayzing readers may recall that after I published my big piece about my 45 minutes with Michael Jackson, I received a fascinating letter from a woman using the pseudonym “Miss A. Nonny” that addressed the subject of Jackson’s allegedly taped-on proboscis in stunning detail. I replied to her letter and ended up with another blog entry devoted exclusively to the Jackson nose and speculation about its place of origin. I’m thrilled to report that out of the blue “Miss A. Nonny” contacted me again and hinted that she may, in fact, be willing to step forward with additional revelations about the most recent iteration of the pop star’s most questionable facial feature. In fact I’ve asked her to reveal her identity and write a guest column. More on this story as it develops. Here is our most recent exchange:
Thank you to Stargayzer’s everywhere who permitted me the chance to take a break. I shall reward you with writing that I sincerely hope will delight you.
It’s good to be back!
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