Musical chameleons fail to blend in

In Arts & Life, Editorial /

Opinion by Stephanie Bomba

Reinventing one’s image seems to be a requirement for longevity in the record industry these days.

Take Madonna, for example. This pop culture icon has changed the way she looks more times than I’ve changed the oil in my car. She started out as the idol of every teenage girl in the ‘80s with her bangles and her teased hair, complete with a big bow on top. From there, she went on to become the material girl. Years later, her obsession with Latin America changed her image once again. Since then, we’ve seen her change her hair colour, clothes and style dozens of times.

Madonna’s image is based on the fact that it’s always changing. This sort of thing is to be expected from her.

But it’s not expected from people like Vanilla Ice, Everlast or Alanis Morrisette. These artists all have one thing in common (and no, the answer isn’t bad hair — even though I can understand why you would think that). They’ve all sold out to mainstream styles.

When alternative music became synonymous with what is now mainstream music, Alanis changed her image: she grew out her perm, wrote some nasty lyrics and signed on to Madonna’s Maverick label. All this in the name of making money, er, I mean, maturing. Long gone are the days of a pop-singing Alanis. But to those of us who knew of Alanis before she became the poster girl for teenaged angst, her new image is laughable. We remember the days of her Gina-style perm, her ridiculous wardrobe and her pop-music videos.. Now, Ms. Morrisette leaves her hair long and grungy, to go with mainstream alterna-rock-pop.

However, Alanis is not alone. Back in his heyday, nobody would ever have guessed that Everalst, the rapper from House of Pain, would jump on the mainstream bandwagon by becoming more cynical. He has switched to depressing lyrics — lucky for him, this is ideal for alternative music. Are we really supposed to take this poser seriously?

Speaking of posers, just this year Vanilla Ice turned “alternative” with his latest release, Hard to Swallow. And rumour has it he’s done something about that laughable hairstyle of his. I don’t know what’s harder to swallow, his new image or his crappy album. It’s a toss-up. His new album sounds like he’s trying too hard — which he is. On this album, Ice attempts (pathetically, if you ask me) to sound like Nine Inch Nails, the Beastie Boys and Rob Zombie all rolled into one. And hey, why not? These three groups have had a great deal of commercial success — which, presumably, is exactly what Ice is looking for.

Ice, and others like him, haven’t thought this through. This bid for commercial success will eventually fail for one reason: everyone remembers what they were before. Changing an image is futile. The true fan is not fooled by these poorly disguised money-making shenanigans.

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