I read a brief piece about Melinda Doolittle’s elimination from “American Idol.” The article wasn’t about her talent, which wasn’t in dispute, but the writer suggested that if you are a female singer that is out of shape, or at least not young and sexy enough to “work it” in semi-pornographic videos, you probably won’t get a record deal (no matter how much talent you have).
Everyone knows that sex sells in the entertainment industry, but the idea that if you are out of shape, unstylish or “old” (over age 30) you can’t entertain, is ridiculous! What’s worse, I don’t see men being put out to pasture by their looks, shape or age (check out Eric Clapton, or Paul McCartney, or Ozzie). There is a double standard for women– if you’re not a “hot” young thing, forget it, ladies.
I wrote a post a while back when this season’s American Idol began, as I’d never watched it before, and during the auditions phase of the show, there seemed to be some talented singers in the bunch. While few of the less attractive (in that “Hollywood” sterotype) made it into the actual contest, those that did were gently, quietly, dropped along the way. In the beginning, I wrote in that blog piece that many of the contenders seemed to be virtual “pretty young thing” clones of one Very quickly, I got bored watching them, and the show, and the ascerbic Cowell.
But back to Melinda Doolittle. The other writer’s comments really struck a nerve. While these type of reality shows are just a load of well….. and I hope that the public loses it’s seemingly insatiable lust for them yesterday, I must have been crazy to think that this really was a talent contest. Why would it surprise me that Ms. Doolittle wasn’t eliminated for her lack of talent, but more for her lack of sex appeal (compared to the cutes-y, young Blake Lewis, and 17-year old Jordin Sparks, the “I wanna be a celebutate clone”)?
No wonder the record industry is dying. Older teens, forced to listen to the same-old-same-old sexpot singers gyrating in the same barely-there outfits to the same “I’ve got atti-tude” lyrics, are clamoring for something that really moves them. After all, isn’t that the power of music and of the entertainers that interpret the music and lyrics of songs? They’re smart enough to know that what is on the radio, is utter crap. They listen to the groups I loved (several decades earlier) because that music moves them and the performers had soul, talent, and weren’t recording artists only for their looks. In fact, at J&R Music world in NYC, I was told by a saleperson that turntables were the #1 holiday gift item last year, because everyone is seeking out old vinyl records, and they need something to play them on. I’d be willing to guess that many of those (not necessarily young or beautiful artists) on those records couldn’t get a meeting, let alone a contract, in the music industry today.
What’s left for the less than gorgeous, especially females? Well, you can play a sterotyped role (eg. Rubenesque Jennifer Hudson got a role in Dreamgirls, and “Fantasia” a former American Idol contestant is now playing a less-than-glam role in the musical, the Color Purple) or you can be ridiculous like Judy Tenuda and her famous accordion. And does no one remember the original talent behind Millie Vanilli, who wasn’t young or attractive enough to record his own songs?
With reality shows like American Idol eliminating talent over beauty and youth, the message that if you’re out of shape, not 20, or not beautiful, you are not going to be a star, is just reinforced. What kind of message is that?
The day Melinda Doolittle was eliminated from American Idol is, perhaps, the true “day the music died”