Affairs of the heart and affairs of state. The two have been intertwined in music—sometimes harmoniously , sometimes cacophonously—since around the time Bob Dylan declared that the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
In the ’80s, pop stars added a humanitarian angle, which spawned Band-Aid, USA for Africa and, since 9/11, the occasional celebrity-studded telethon during which stoic actors and reverent musicians seek monetary relief for victims of international catastrophes. Pop stars pose with world leaders; political hopefuls adopt rock classics as campaign themes; Lady Gaga and Madonna stand up for gay rights; Sonny Bono even ran for Congress and won.
In recent years, the politics of dancing—of music, in general—have been less about policy and more about moving and feeling good. That hasn’t stopped top stars from making political stands onstage and off. But if you’re going to try to save the world in five minutes of song—as U2 has been doing for the better part of three decades—or publicly put your faith in a specific candidate on the eve of a Presidential election year, you’d better do it well.
Which is exactly what Kelly Clarkson didn’t do on December 29. The woman best known for being the first American Idol winner and scoring frothy hits like “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “My Life Would Suck Without You,” publicly endorsed US Presidential candidate Ron Paul for the Republican Party nomination on Twitter—of all places—and, unfortunately, with all the insight and depth of a high school student discussing student-council elections.
I love Ron Paul,” she tweeted via her WhoSay page. “I liked him a lot during the last republican nomination and no one gave him a chance. If he wins the nomination for the Republican party in 2012 he’s got my vote. Too bad he probably won’t.”
Newspapers, fellow politicians and even Hollywood stars endorse and support candidates every election cycle, and pop stars show up every four years to perform at Presidential inaugurations, regardless of their political affiliation. But when they enter the political ring with their ringing endorsements in 140 characters or less on Twitter, it can be dangerous for both parties—and not just the political ones.
The stars risk not only alienating fans who support the opposite side but sounding uninformed as well. (It’s hard to get coherent points across in Twitter’s tiny comment box.) The candidates risk guilt (and plummeting poll numbers) by association with shallow pop stars.
It’s hard to tell whether Paul’s subsequent placings in the Republican primaries—No. 3 in Iowa on January 3, No. 2 in New Hampshire on January 10—had anything to do with Clarkson, and his effect on her album sales are equally unclear. Her fifth album, Stronger, has racked up ho-hum sales since its release October, and while the first single , “Mr. Know It All,” reached No. 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100, overall, response to it has been tepid. For Katy Perry, it might be considered a flop.
Depending on how you interpret the numbers, Clarkson either flourished or faltered in the week following her Twitter alliance with Paul. According to Billboard.com, “Mr. Know It All” sold 123,000 downloads (it’s highest weekly tally in seventeen weeks of chart action), and jumped from No. 32 to No. 20 on the Hot 100, but Billboard credits the normal holiday sales surge for active singles. Though its 55 percent digital sales increase was the second largest in the Top 50, all but three titles in the Top 75 enjoyed a boost in sales.
Meanwhile, overall sales of the album actually dropped 40 percent for the week ending January 1 (41,000 to 25,000), while digital sales increased 232 percent (to 14,000). As Billboard sees it, however, that boost probably has more to do with iTunes’ heavy promotion and $7.99 sales-pricing of Stronger (which also may have influenced digital sales of the single) rather than the artist’s political stance, which, in the end, might damage her reputation among her more liberal Democratic-leaning fans.
She’s a formerly apolitical singer with a substantial gay fan base backing a candidate from a party that doesn’t support gay marriage. Does that mean she feels the same way? In the hours after her tweet, Clarkson engaged in a war of words with some of her “followers,” many of whom dubbed Paul racist and homophobic. (Incidentally, Clarkson’s fellow pop singer Michelle Branch, sided with Team Kelly, tweeting “I wholeheartedly agree” to her Paul endorsement. Luckily for Branch—in this context, at least—she’s not exactly tops of the pops anymore, so few seemed to notice.) Eventually, Clarkson took to WhoSay in her own defense.
“I am really sorry if I have offended anyone. Obviously that was not my intent. I do not support racism. I support gay rights, straight rights, women’s rights, men’s rights, white/black/purple/orange rights. I like Ron Paul because he believes in less government and letting the people (all of us) make the decisions and mold our country. That is all. Out of all of the Republican nominees, he’s my favorite.”
Too bad she didn’t say that in the first place. Pop singers are entitled to their political opinions like everybody else, but when they begin publicly endorsing controversial candidates like Paul, who has been targeted for racist newsletters sent out under his name in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s (which he’s disavowed), they should proceed with great caution.
In the Twitter age, when stars can interact directly with fans, it’s more important to be mindful of what you say and how you say it, which makes entering the political fray an even more slippery slope, especially for stars like Clarkson, Katy Perry, Rihanna and Adele, who are among the most influential people on the planet. Young people want to dress like them, act like them, be them, even many who are over the voting age of eighteen.
When fans start wanting to vote like them, too… Well, if they don’t have something insightful and enlightening to add to the political discussion, it’s probably best to stay out of it and just shut up and sing.
Mark Wahlberg already knows a thing or three about reinvention. When he first burst onto the entertainment scene in 1991 as the leader of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunk—a two-hit wonder from whom nobody expected any kind of longevity, and afterwards as a Calvin Klein underwear model—few probably thought he’d be likely to succeed past the mid-decade mark.
Yet two decades later, he’s still here. He’s a movie star and a respected actor, a successful producer (of the TV series Entourage and Boardwalk Empire, and of last year’s Best Picture Oscar contender, The Fighter) and an Academy Award acting nominee (Best Supporting Actor for 2006′s The Departed).
His next project: making Justin Bieber a film star. “I see the guy and spent time with him, and you see what he does and how he does it,” Wahlberg told MTV News last year, “and then you actually have a conversation with him, and it’s there.”
Picture this (because Wahlberg already has): Bieber in a The Color of Money-type film, which Wahlberg is developing for Paramount Pictures, with basketball replacing pool. Bieber would take the Tom Cruise role, and Wahlberg would cast a formidable screen legend like Robert DeNiro, Robert Duvall or Jack Nicholson as the grizzled vet, the Color of Money archetype that finally won Paul Newman an Oscar in 1987.
It sounds like a dream job—for someone else. If Will Smith, Queen Latifah, Justin Timberlake, Tim McGraw and Wahlberg himself have taught us anything, when making the transition from music to movies, it’s best to start small. Both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera tried to fulfill their film-star fantasy by starring above the title the first time out (in Crossroads and Burlesque, respectively), and thus far, neither one’s Hollywood dream has come true.
Enimen has yet to find a follow-up worthy of his debut starring role in 2002′s 8 Mile; the Hollywood heat surrounding The Bodyguard star Whitney Houston, set to test the acting waters again in a 2012 remake of Sparkle, quickly cooled after three films; Beyoncé has gotten plenty of acting work, but her Hollywood career has yet to generate any kind of major excitement; and Evita aside, Madonna has been most successful onscreen in supporting roles (Desperately Seeking Susan, Dick Tracy, A League of Their Own). Former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar her first time out for Dreamgirls, but what has she done for us lately?
That Bieber’s 2011 documentary/concert film, Never Say Never, was a major box-office success ($73 million in North America) indicates that movie-ticket buyers will shell out bucks to see him on the big screen. And he’s already had a guest-starring role in C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation. But pop stars are always booking cameos and story arcs in hit TV shows, and in Never Say Never, Bieber was literally playing himself. If Wahlberg is going to guide him through the Hollywood jungle, he’d be wise to pull out the map that he himself used.
For now, let somebody else drive. Don’t even let him ride shotgun just yet. Bieber would be better off in the backseat, cast in an ensemble movie where he doesn’t have to do all of the heavy lifting (see Taylor Swift in Valentine’s Day—on second thought, don’t).
When Wahlberg landed his first major starring role, in 1997′s Boogie Nights, he was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) and surrounded by highly esteemed talents like Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly and a soon-to-be-briefly resurgent (and Oscar-nominated for the first time) Burt Reynolds.
Even after Boogie Nights, Wahlberg’s most notable films—I Heart Huckabees, The Departed, The Fighter—have featured plenty of Oscar-caliber talent. And in The Departed, it was Wahlberg, not costars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon or Jack Nicholson who walked away with the Oscar nod.
Good luck to them both. They’ll need it. Wahlberg may have proven that he’s a miracle worker by going from rapper to underwear hunk to Oscar nominee, but Bieber holding his own with a DeNiro or a Duvall or a Nicholson sounds like an almost-impossible dream.
10 Music Stars Who Deserve a Hollywood Big-Screen Test
1. Lady Gaga
Best Performance in a Video: “Paparazzi”
2. John Mayer
Best Performance in a Video: “Who Says”
Best Performance in a Video: “Blow”
4. Mary J. Blige
Best Performance in a Video: “Be Without You”
Best Performance in a Video: “Glitter in the Air” (live at the 2010 GRAMMY Awards)
Best Performance in a Video: “Warwick Avenue”
7. Fiona Apple
Best Performance in a Video: “Fast As You Can”
8. Richard Ashcroft
Best Performance in a Video: “Break the Night with Colour”
9. Roisin Murphy
Best Performance in a Video: “Overpowered”
10. Brandon Flowers
Best Performance in a Video: The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done”
With the new year comes new talent, new music and new must-see shows from some of our favorite artists. While more hot ticket tours are sure to be announced as the months go by, here’s a few we’re already gearing up for in 2012.
Rick Ross: Although he’s been relatively quiet since last year’s numerous health scares, it seems Ross is ready to get back on the scene with a year full of features, releases and live gigs. On January 13, he will be at LA’s Nokia Theatre with Busta Rhymes, Y.G. and Eric B; following up with a show two weeks later at Webster Bank Arena in Connecticut. In February, he’ll hit the stage for “The Maybach Massacre” featuring Waka Flocka Flame at Uno Lakefront Arena in New Orleans. This year is looking good for Mr. Ross, who began production last week on the video for his single, “Rich Forever” from his upcoming mixtape of the same title. The video reportedly features Meek Mills, Drake, DJ Khaled and French Montana.
Bow Wow: The Young Money artist took to Twitter to confirm that he would be embarking on a world tour in 2012 in to promote his album, Underrated. He’s planning to hit North America, Europe, Africa, Australia, Japan and South America, but no official confirmation has surfaced. Only time will tell if Bow Wows global bounce back comes to fruition, or is just wishful thinking.
Lil Wayne & Eminem: Though no dates have been confirmed, Eminem and Lil Wayne are rumored to be coordinating an international tour together for 2012. Weezy first announced the news in November on his Facebook account, posting “Headed to Fiji, Australia, then S. Africa…on tour with Slim Shady…a blessing…thx to those who supported C4! 2x platinum! Love y’all” With his album, The Carter 4 going double platinum, and Eminem being the show-stopping performer he is, there’s no doubt this tour will be the hottest ticket in town. The two already have numerous successful singles under their belts, including “ No Love”, “Drop The World” and ‘Forever”.
No discussion of the last twelve months in music would be complete without a proper shout out to Adele, the blue-eyed, soulful Brit who ruled 2011 with one album (the multiply GRAMMY-nominated 21) and two No. 1 singles (“Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You”), so here we go.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s what was hot and not about the rest.
1. Drake: Last year, he called his debut album Thank Me Later, so now feels like the right time to express our genuine appreciation for the Canadian rapper who balances tough and tender so perfectly. With his second album, Take Care, and two of its key cuts, in particular—the fantastic first single “Headlines” and the title track (featuring Rihanna)—he brought sexy back to rap for the first time since ladies loved (LL) Cool J.
2. Girls on film: From Britney Spears’ “Till the World Ends” to Lady Gaga’s “Judas” to Jennifer Lopez’s “I’m Into You” to Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” it was an excellent year for women in pop videos. But it was Ke$ha in “Blow,” Kelly Rowland in “Motivation” and Rihanna in “We Found Love” that injected new energy into a decades-old art form and elevated it above and beyond promotional tool to indispensable companion piece.
3. Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams “Moanin’” on American Idol: I didn’t love the bulk of their solo performances during the 10th season of Idol, but when Reinhart and Abrams came together on the Top 8 results show for the vocalese version of Charles Mingus’ “Moanin’,” the unexpected result was the best musical moment I saw all season.
4. Diana DeGarmo on The Young and the Restless: Speaking of Idol losers, season three’s runner-up’s stint as Angelina on daytime’s No. 1 soap hasn’t been so well-received by critics or fans, but I dissent. There’s both artistry and comedic gold in DeGarmo’s portrayal of a tone-deaf “singer” and daughter of a New Jersey mob boss, and I’m looking forward to being as wowed by her Pygmalion-style makeover as I was by her Idol rendition of “Don’t Cry Out Loud” all those years ago.