--- Jill Scott
"Close your legs to married men."
[NOTE: I'm kinda late on this, but with Matthew Knowles taping his segment on Maury Povich today and Tina Knowles bringing Solange's 1992 Acura Integra to a real slow creep around Alexsandra Wright's neighborhood, I feel like this is an appropriate time to talk about whorish activities.]
Because Beyonce is busy touring and not getting pregnant, Alicia Keys knows that it is safe to come out of musical hibernation. She is scheduled to release her album on December 1, 2009. If she were any other R&B McChicken that album release date would be pushed back to July 17, 2027, but there's a very good chance that Alicia Keys' album will actually be released on time. That's because Alicia is different... or at least she was supposed to be.
In a month or two Alicia will hit the promo trail. She'll go to 106 and nem. She'll go on the Today Show, The Early Show, The 3:45 Show, Good Morning America, Git Yo' Black Ass Up, all the other morning shows and talk shows. And she will probably perform a couple of cuts off her new album. And she'll talk all about her new album. She'll talk all about the "artistic inspiration" behind her new music. She may talk about her work with Whtiney Houston, and maybe even mention all of her numerous philanthropic efforts . One thing she will NOT talk about is exactly how long she's been sucking married penis.
This will be the elephant in the room. But thankfully for her she's protected by Clive Davis and very aggressive publicists so she won't have to answer any awkward questions. But for the people on the nigganet and the people who bought into her image, Alicia still has a lot of explaining to do.
If you are a loyal reader then you would know that I like Alicia. In the past when people have accused Beyonce fans of hating on every other female artist we could say: "We're not haters. We like Alicia Keys." Alicia has generally been a friend to the Wig Compound. She and Beyonce toured together in 2004, she has publicly given glory to the name of Sasha Fierce, and she has never told Beyonce to go sit down and have babies. She has learned early in her career that fat meat is greasy, so she doesn't release albums in the middle of Hurricane Sasha season. Because she has been such a good friend to the Knowles Klan the Creole Gods have rewarded her and career, and she has been allowed to break bread and roll blunts with Beyonce, Celestine and the Gang.
I spent 4 of my very crisp $20 bills to see Alicia last year at the Verizon Center. I went with a hardcore Alicia stan. When the concert was over I was fairly entertained. On an entertainment scale of Brooke Hogan to Beyonce it was a Kylie Minogue.5. Not bad at all.
But my friend, the Alicia stan, was clearly disappointed. "It was good...but she sounded funny", she said. "Like she was singing from her face." "Something wasn't right."
I knew what she was trying to say. Although people accuse Beyonce of being over-packaged and over-marketed to compensate for certain deficiencies Alicia is just as packaged and marketed but in a different way. The truth is when you see past the packaging, the marketing, and the Aretha and Roberta Flack rehashings Alicia Keys = Beyonce + a piano, minus rhythm and vocal control. But we have long been programmed to believe that "real music" comes in certain packaging.
Which is not to say that she is not talented, because she is clearly very talented. She has been apart of some of the best songs written this decade (which may or may not be saying much), and she brought live instruments back to the Autotune generation. People had positioned Alicia to be something of a saviour of "real" R&B music. She was proof that you can be commercially successful and still sing about "deep" things.
Because of that positioning and packaging it may have come as a shock and disappointment to her followers and observers when it was uncovered that Alicia had been carrying on an illicit (yep, illicit) affair with a very married man.
Not Miss Karma!
She's not some tarted-up whore shaking her ass like the rest of the girls.
She was supposed to be different.
She had braids!
SAY IT AIN'T SO!
When the story broke I of course immediately thought of Beyonce. The Alicia Keys scandal hasn't really infiltrated to mainstream media outlets, but I knew that if it were Beyonce then it would get around-the-clock, September 11th-type coverage. The stans would probably try to defend Beyonce. Something like: "Beyonce didn't mean to sleep with a married man, she just tripped and fell on his dick. Stop hating! You're just mad because she has 10 Grammys!"
Me personally, I really didn't care. Alicia Keys' love life has no direct affect on me as a person. I have this funny little habit of stanning for talent a little more than personality. Which is not to say that Alicia's personality (or perceived personality) doesn't play a part in why I like her so much. Alicia appeared to be a cool ass chick, somebody that you not only wanted to hang out with but would probably let you hang out with her. But the truth is Alicia could be the rudest person in the world and fuck every hip-hop producer in the industry and it still won't change her skills as a musician and songwriter.
In reality, an attractive personality and/or image can go a long way especially if there's not a talented person attached to it. If you were to make a list of your 5 favorite artists there are probably better singers and/or entertainers than everybody on your list (if you think objectively) but most people don't think objectively. We like to project ourselves onto our celebrity idols, and in turn we want to see part of ourselves in them. In the minds of most fans when they buy albums and concert tickets they are also buying a share of a celebrity's personal life. So, as a celebrity it's important to do all the things your fans would do if they were in your shoes. So you can understand somebody's disappointment when it is uncovered that Alicia had been having an affair, or that maybe Beyonce didn't call Jennifer Hudson after her family tragedy, or maybe Ciara is really a Bird In The Chicken House. That is why we make statements: like "I lost respect for (INSERT ARTIST) when she (INSERT SHADY ASS ACTIVITY).
In reality all these artists owe us is entertainment, and none of what they do off-stage is really any of our business. But as much as we say we want "real artists" doing "real music" what we really want is friends and pleasant personalities. It's just another form another form of celebrity worship. So that list you made of your 5 favorite entertainers is really the list of the 5 celebrities you want to hang out with.
If you are personally upset by the Alicia Keys scandal that would be proof that you have invested feelings in her which transcend entertainment.
The reaction I've seen from some of her stans is almost as if you caught your pastor coming out of a whorehouse with crack crumbs on his mouth. People who had bought into the Alicia Keys packaging may have felt betrayed, but in reality she was just an entertainer who did something that ordinary people do every day. So why are we making a big deal?
The truth is as much people accuse Beyonce stans of worshipping her, celebrity worship exists with "deeper" artists as well. It is not spoken because much in the same way that these artists are packaged to be above and greater than worldly things their fans position themselves in the same way. This Alicia Keys+ Married Penis Scandal has brought to light the fact that that the line between "real artist" and "packaged personality" is not has wide as we thought it was. Whether or not they wear blond extensions or beaded braids if you are trying to sell albums or concert tickets you are packaged and marketed to appease a certain audience.
To better understand this allow me to go back in time.
Picture it. 1998.
Every girl I knew who didn't aspire to live the rest of their lives in Chittlinwash, North Carolina working at Bojangles bought the "Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" album. It was and still is a masterpiece. Lyrically and musically it was textured in a way that was not permissible in late-90's R&B/Hip-Hop. If you were a girl lost in the world, or trying to find your way, Miss Hill pretty much laid down the law. It was seen by many as a manual on the right and wrong way for a black woman to conduct herself.
DVD skip ahead a couple of years. It turns out it was all a lie. That's not who she was. It had been an illusion. She realized that the "Miseduaction" Lauyrn Hill was not who she was or wanted to sell to the public so she rejected that image. That may have been all well and good for her, but what about the girls I had grown up with? The ones that patterned their lives after the lyrics of that album. The ones that had stopped buying boxes of "Gentle Treatment" relaxer and started rocking dreads, twists, and Florida Evans afros. What about the ones who were unsure of how they could change a world they didn't fit into? Because of this album things made a little more sense to them. They latched on to Lauryn's perceived sense of self and made it their own.
But Lauryn said it was all a lie.
Were they wrong too?
I don't think so.
Another option for those girls that I grew up with would have been to stop letting entertainers define their morals, self-worth, and self-esteem. Let who you are be defined by your live experiences instead of a CD booklet. There's nothing wrong with turning to music to reinforce your strength or self-worth, but in order to reinforce it that means a sense of self-worth already has to be there. And when you depend on packaged personalities to give you standards to live up to you set yourself up for disappointment, especially when they can't even live up to those standards.
The best thing for us to do as fans of music is to get to the place where we support artists for their art as opposed to their personalities, hairstyles, or personal lives. That way we won't be disappointed when we find out that who they are off-stage is a sharp contradiction to what they appear to be onstage.
That's part of what I was trying to explain to my disappointed friend last year as we walked out of the Alicia Keys concert. She was disappointed by Alicia's vocal shortcomings that night. I tried to explain to her that for a live vocalist it is difficult to deliver the same amount emotion and conviction every night, so try to forgive her for not sounding exactly like her albums. In much of the same way it may be also difficult to live up to the demands and expectations of fans who see you as a saviour rather as an entertainer. When you present an image or a way of life that you don't live up to, you might not only disappoint yourself, but the people who follow you. I'm not defending her right to be a whore, I'm just defending her right to be human.
LISTEN : Jill Scott - My Love (live)