Last night, singer/songwriter/rapper Missy Elliott performed with Katy Perry during the Super Bowl halftime show. Dare I say that Missy stole the show from Katy? Yes. I dare. From my Facebook feed, I encouraged Missy to “turn up” as she performed a medley of her hits including Lose Control. While I briefly wondered where was Ciara, I bounced around on my couch and sang- “I got a cute face, chubby waist, thick legs, in shape, rump shakin, both ways, make you do a double take!”
Not long after my post, a friend said that she’d never heard of Missy Elliott. Later, Buzzfeed revealed that my friend was not alone. I looked in disbelief at a post that shared the tweets of a bunch of folks who questioned Missy’s existence and suggested that Katy Perry was going to blow up the career of Missy just like Paul McCartney. Whaaat??!!! Who are these people? Is there a music rock that people hid under during the early 2000s and beyond? Today I found out that if said rock exists, my CEO and CFO were under it also. Have they also never heard of Aaliyah, Timbaland and Ginuwine? I mean, I know boy bands were all the rage then, but this is tew much.
All this brings to mind a current music trend that has been bothering me a great deal. When I was growing up in the 80’s and 90s, my entire family could enjoy local radio stations. Deejays played artists enjoyed by my parents as well as those enjoyed by us youngsters. This means that adult artists like (to name a few) Natalie Cole, Chaka Khan, Barry White, Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Hall & Oates, Phil Collins, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and James Ingram would get just as much radio play as artists enjoyed by those of us in the youth category, i.e. New Edition, Madonna, Hi-Five, Bell Biv Devoe, Tevin Campbell, Whodini and LL Cool J. As one of those youth, I learned to love them all. There was diversity in music long before diversity became a subject in the workplace and in schools. It was a lifestyle. Hence, my confusion. Why did Missy’s appearance occur as a stumbling block for some viewers during the Super Bowl? There is no reason why any of the popular artists from the last 15-20 years should appear on a show and have a multitude of persons express oblivion to their very existence. It’s not like she’s even retirement age. Herein is one of my complaints. Music doesn’t have an age, nor retirement date and neither should those who make the music. Yet that assumed expiration date is revealed when musicians like Missy reappear after even a brief hiatus.
One of my friends posted that Missy should return to the 2000s. I was further confused. This frame of thought around music is exactly what is killing the industry. It is part of what forces us to listen on radio to the same artists and their songs on repeat. As an adult, I should still be able to expect that my favorite artists are getting radio play. I am speaking of their new music, not those songs deemed good enough to be on the oldies but goodies stations. My generation loves music, has tremendous buying power and yet the music powers-that-be largely ignore us. We just KNOW there are some deranged 60-year old men (and women likely) determining what is cool enough to make radio. Like a dream killing Wizard of music, they pull the strings, tell US what is cool and what isn’t by simply paying the stations with the most access to repeat a handful of artists. They force us to like even the worst songs of Beyonce, Katy Perry (she’s cool), Rihana, Trey Songz, Chris Brown (whom I actually love) and a plethora of artists under 30. Meanwhile amazing artists like Tank, Goapele, Amel Larrieux , Raheem Devaughn, Slakah the Beatchild, Eric Roberson, Kindred and a host of other artists go ignored. So, heaven forbid an artist like Missy comes out of retirement so that the soup du jour can “make her career”. No people. Aaliyah sang it best- Age ain’t nothing but a number. Give all artists an opportunity to be heard beyond the pay-to-play schemes so that people can see there is more to music than top 40 and under 30! Additionally, mix up these radio stations. It’s nothing to hear Sam Smith on an urban station, but Top 40 stations will never play say… Mary J. Blige. Yet another reason, why artists aren’t know across genres. But I digress… It’s time for us (the consumers) to stop drinking the kool-aid. There is plenty of room in the pitcher but the big industry folks only wants us to stir in one flavor. We’ll call it cherry, but it tastes like a travesty. Now go- get your freak on!
P.S. If you dare follow her on Twitter, then you will see that Missy too was baffled and amused:
the new kids think I’m a new artist &I’m bout 2blow up like Paul McCartney Lord ha mercy chile I love me sum y’all
We’ll save the numerous other problems with radio and the music for another post.