Shake body …not!
“Look, talent comes everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it so that people listen to it, that’s a whole other bag. And unless you get out and you try to do it, you’ll never know. That’s just the truth. And there’s one reason we’re supposed to be here is to say something so people want to hear. So you got to grab it, and you don’t apologize, and you don’t worry about why they’re listening, or how long they’re going to be listening for, you just tell them what you want to say. Don’t you understand what I’m trying to tell you?”
These words are from A Star is Born – the 2018 remake of the 1937 film of the same name – uttered midway through the movie by the seasoned country star Jackson Maine, superbly brought to life by Bradley Cooper.
“Yeah, I do. I don’t like it, but I understand it,” says Ally (played credibly by Lady Gaga in her first lead role), the ingenue he discovered makes her Saturday Night Live debut. An ordinary girl on the cusp of stardom, commercialised beyond imagination at the hands of music producers.
What struck a chord with me beyond Ally’s rags-to-riches road to stardom, Jackson’s battle with his demons and their whirlwind romance were these words.
How many stars were made in the ‘90s on the same conveyor belt, shaped with the same cookie cutter? Britney, Christina, Jessica… Until they reached a stage in their career to exert some freedom and control over their material, could you even tell the difference between who was who? I don’t know about you, but I didn’t actually even know Christina Aguilera could sing until she belted out “Beautiful” which we had to wait for until her fourth album.
Watching the fictional Ally on the SNL stage writhing around with a choreography that would make Britney of ‘…Baby One More Time’ era blush, I felt Jackson’s heartbreak at the sight of his rough diamond hewn into a pop princess.
These days we are a little luckier when it comes to our pop stars, Beyoncé has inimitable talent, Rihanna boundless sass, Adele her British blend of softness and edge. Even the new kids on the block from Dua Lippa, Rina Sawayama, Jorja Smith are not manufactured, pre-packaged bubblegum pop princesses. Even X Factor finalists these days boast more personality in their little finger than pop stars of yesteryears, with more opinions than you can shake a mic at, on anything from global warming to unrealistic beauty standards perpetrated by the media to the rise of crypto currencies.
The stars of today, whether made by their talent or their social media following, know that they have gained the much coveted “influencer” status. They also know that, with great influence comes great responsibility – except for Youtube vlogger DJ So Cool perhaps, whose channel was suspended last summer amidst accusations of child abuse after he laced his kids’ ice creams with laxatives and filmed them crying in pain. When you have a platform and you have the spotlight on you, albeit for a short while, most celebrities or influencers know that “you got to grab it, and you don’t apologize, and you don’t worry about why they’re listening, or how long they’re going to be listening for, you just tell them what you want to say” as per Jackson’s advice.
Then, naturally, I think of Nigerian stars and influencers, and it dawns on me just how we can count those who use their platform to say something beyond, “Oya shake body” on the fingers of two hands – at a push. You can rely on Banky W to speak his truth, whether it is political views or social critique, Lami Phillips always serves pepper soup for the soul, RMD shines as a man of virtue and wisdom for our young boys to look up to, Betty Irabor and Joke Silva are forever inspiring and empowering women, by speaking their truth and laying their souls bare for us to learn from. There are a few more.
Except for a respectable few beacons of light that shine through a vast land of nonchalant ignorance, what else do we have but a bunch of so-called celebrities – most of us would be hard pushed to figure out what they owe their fame to – who go around flaunting Gucci, Versace, Porsche, Lamborghini, making countless appearance on the red carpet and chatting absolute rubbish until their season is over and the next movers and shakers of the fame game come along… come to shake body and not much else.