Two of the hottest acts in the music industry right now are the jazzy, soulful, doo-wop fusion British singers Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen. They're also two of the most controversial.
While critics have fawned over Allen's first U.S. record "Alright, Still" (released last fall), the tabs have gobbled up her countless rants. She's been picking on Victoria "Posh" Beckham, saying she's too tan, too skinny, and just too too … She's trashed Kylie Minogue, even called British musician and knighted, noted humanitarian Bob Geldoff a "c-nt."
The 23-year-old Winehouse, meanwhile, is the talk of every party I've been to for the last month. She's been quoted in the press admitting to having manic depression, anorexia and bulimia. Her arms are filled with cutting scars. And then there's the partying.
Public boasts of heavy drinking. Photos of white powder-encrusted nostrils. A bunch of abbreviated and canceled performances. Ironically -- or not so much -- her big hit is called "Rehab" ("Oh no no no no I won't go").
Is it really all that good to be bad? What's so wrong about simply being creative and talented, respecting your family, and just being a decent human being? Must Beyonce, Jewel or Norah Jones create scandal to be successful? It doesn't seem so.
For decades we've had a love/hate relationship with brash and controversial divas who battle addiction and despair. All the talent in the world can't help them overcome their biggest obstacle -- themselves. Josephine Baker, Billy Holiday, Marilyn Monroe, Janis Joplin…
Sure, we all love a little controversy, personal style and gritty self-promotion, but why go after others? Can't we all just get along? Isn't the universe big enough for all the stars to sparkle?
When Allen and Winehouse aren't attacking their peers, they turn their shoddily manicured claws on one another. Over the past few months, rarely has one given an interview where she doesn't trash the other. And both singer's MySpace pages are filled with more bile than a pancreatic storage facility.
Frankly, we haven't seen such feverish public bickering since the epic Lohan vs. Duff, Paris vs. Nicole and Rosie vs. Donald feuds. (OK, so none of those tête-à-têtes took place all that long ago, but in this world -- measured not by days, weeks, or months, but instead by the space between postings on Perezhilton.com -- time moves at warp speed.) But then, as now, is it all real? Or is it Hollywood schtick? Commercialism via controversy?
To this longtime fashion guru, it's interesting that these two ladies, who are not the happiest campers or the most well-mannered or hygienically appealing singers, are both front and center of the fashion scene. Allen was a constant presence at the recent Paris couture shows, and Vogue just photographed Winehouse for an upcoming issue. The look? Part Gaultier model, a lot of "yo wassup," a touch of skanky trailer trash, and a smidge of genius.
Still, at a recent New York performance, Winehouse -- who was singing like a bird, scatting like Ella Fitzgerald, and slurring like Anna Nicole Smith at an awards show -- complained about being "put in a dress" by her "people," and for an encore, returned in a wife beater and jeans.
But I ask you, the good folks of Cyberland, what is the final encore for these media darlings and disasters? And by caring, are we enabling? As a public are we tabloid readers the modern version of Romans at the Coliseum? It seems to me like we have become so anesthetized to real pain and suffering that we are collectively becoming numb, cold and callous -- addicted -- to watching the downfall of our false idols.
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