Thursday, February 05, 2009

Etta versus Beyonce: the Broader Context

I posited this on JackandPolitics (click in the sidebar blogroll; I think Rikyrah started the evening's thread) regarding Etta James' unhappy licks on Beyonce singing her song to the First Couple. It likely goes back to the flick Cadillac Records. For details check Bossip and The Black Snob, also on the blogroll. Apparently Jennifer Holiday was supposed to deliver the song, and it would have been an instant classic rather than the gimmicky/typical marketing event it was (though a patina of hype...yes down deep it was magical, visceral for all including Mrs Jay-Z; it was history). Still...I side with Etta and there's some allegory here:

I think the American public has been infantilized beyond repair. However,
like children, if they have little choice, they'll eat what you give them. If
the quality can be turned up even just a notch (w/Barack at the bully
pulpit--and don't poo poo that, b/c due who invented the bully pulpit, Teddy
Roosevelt,along with JFK for three years, actually did influence public tastes
for the better) it wll happen. As for Etta I think there's definitely a
disconnect which lends back to this infantile, manufactured/overpoduced/hype
marketing machine that's permeated our culture. Etta should have sung it in the
first place, but the producers of the ball wanted to appeal to the infantile
element. If that means Nick Cannon and Beyonce then that's the deal. I
understand that in this era of music moguls and lame creativity. But that
doesn't really do much to laud our classics and our pioneers. Etta's been
rediscovered as a marketing gimmick, which bugs me.

Look at Faye Dunaway commenting on Hillary Duff being cast in her classic
role in the iconic Bonnie & Clyde. So who plays Clyde--dude from The O.C. or
Gossip Girl? What's next--Lil Wayne (because of his marketing pull with the
young folks) playing Nat Turner? ;-) Back to the silly shit, that's cool. But as
I've said in the past, that stuff, from madea to dumbass Kevin james or sandler,
should be the treat, the dessert, not dinner. We have the script flipped.
Serious engaging stuff as the exception, brain candy as the norm. Frankly isn't
that what Barack said had to end on a political policy level if we're going to
survive this mess? Maybe stimulus $ should go to cultural rehab/repair, as they do in


Lisa said...

Preaching to the choir, man!

Stupid sells. What's popular and exposed grabs the ratings, so Beyonce, even if Jennifer was well enough to sing, was the commercial option. Ironic because that's the plot of Dream Girls :)

I agree about infantilization.

I saw the thread on JJP and you need to leave Paul Blart alone! I LOVE the King of Queens!!

Unknown said...

No wonder Lady James wasn't happy; she was effectively wiped away from history with her own song! If Hollywood, meaning the entire media apparatus in America, had a true feel of the pulse of the nation, so much would be different. Network news would be true jounalism again. Radio and music video would show a real variety. Historic moments would feature proper depth of understanding; a classic singer like Etta James would get her due place in history, performing for the first historically-accepted Black President of the United States. Younger generations would get the chance to see the faces that match names that are buzzed quickly in the idea lines and filler buzz on music websites and "news" stories, names that are living history.

Anonymous said...

Lizzie McGuire as Bonnie? I make it a point to always disagree with you, but here, I demurr.

Anonymous said...

After the life that woman has led, did they really think that she wasn't going say anything.

That's Etta James, bitch.

We are not talking about a marketing group manufactured dreamgirl with little talent and no substance. No sir. This is no self-proclaimed diva. James is the real deal.

Shewhoisblankbehindtheeyes better recognize.

Anonymous said...

I think some one could not get it up!

Dr. Tracey Salisbury said...

Sorry Uncle Nat, but Ms. Etta was wrong. They did ask her and she cried sick. She missed the moment and that's her fault not Beyonce's.

I agree with your view that it Beyonce's performance was repackaged fluff-covered doo-doo balls, but maybe if Ms. Etta had not spent her early years battling heroin, alcohol, and food, she would have been able to claim her rightful place like the Queen of Soul has done with President Clinton and Obama.

cinque said...

I think its the battling of those demons that make Etta unique and an icon and someone Beyonce chose to play in film. Etta is right on this one. Great post!!!

Anonymous said...

I think it is funny that every one is discounting the fact that Beyonce can actually sing and did a good job on the song. Didn't James sing it 19 years after it's first release and it was more popular with her because she was of a lighter hue as well? I like Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce but there are tons of TRAINED actresses who would have been better for the role but it comes down to what will make the money to pay the salaries. Also, I am sure we all have seen better portrayals of Effie than Hudson's but America loves a Cinderella story. So Jennifer has benefited from the "infantilization." The whole thing is still silly to me and a little misguided in that a producer made that call not Beyonce or Obama.

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