“THE MUSICAL reconciliation of Rihanna and Chris Brown raises a welter of emotions: outrage, sadness bewilderment, revulsion.”
That’s Rolling Stone writer Jody Rosen, commenting on the new Rihanna/Chris Brown duet “Turn Up The Music.” Need I remind you that Rihanna and Chris were dating several years ago, when he brutally beat her? The relationship ended, publicly. But all along, those close to Rihanna have said she “forgave” Chris a long time ago. And it was only pressure from women’s groups and her fans that kept her from taking him back.
Now they are making music together again, and rumor has it that this is but the first step in an official personal resumption. Her friends and family worry, but she is an adult and will make her own choices.
Writer Rosen points out astutely that the reunion “is not merely … evidence of crippling codependency, nor is it a morally obtuse publicity stunt. It’s business as usual, consistent with the music that has made Rihanna a prolific hitmaker … her songs explore the violence of sex and yes, the sexiness of violence.”
On this song, it is Rihanna who is the dominant partner, but “The revenge is symbolic, of course. Unfortunately, symbolic victories are the only kind available to Rihanna — evidently, they’re the kind she cares most about.”
Those who care about Rihanna hope that the writing about the couple will remain reviews and not news stories, with hospital dashes and mug shots.
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THE SAME issue of Rolling Stone puts Whitney Houston on the cover. Titled “The Diva and Her Dark Side,” the story doesn’t tell us much we didn’t already know or assume. However, there was a quote from Aretha Franklin that put me in mind of others who traveled Whitney’s road. Speaking of Houston’s last calamitous tour, Aretha comments, “She had lost the top range of her voice and some of the audiences were not very kind. But night after night, she stood there like a champion and gave her very best.” When she hit a particularly strong note, Whitney would pause and say, “See, I’m not so bad!”
Shades of Judy Garland and Maria Callas, both of whom would, toward the end, acknowledge the rare soaring note with a nod, a gesture — and especially in Garland’s case — an outright proud remark. This is why audiences stayed faithful, hoping for that one blast of brilliance. And so it was with Whitney. Her core audience always rooted for her, supported her, and looked away (figuratively) on less-than-stellar performances.
The cover picture of Whitney is pretty but generic — the young hopeful girl. I wish Rolling Stone had used the dramatic, classic shot that appears inside the story. It is from 2009. Whitney, gorgeously dressed in white, is ascending a stage, backlit by a blazing spotlight. Her head is down, one hand grasps a microphone. It is a magnificent, dramatic moment, capturing the power of the diva and the vulnerability of the woman.
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P.S. Whitney Houston’s death will be officially declared an accident. I can’t imagine how anybody could have thought otherwise. Whatever her issues, she certainly had no reason to take her own life. The advance word on her appearance in “Sparkle” was good. (We will see this final acting from Whitney in August. Maybe even sooner.) And, if we are to believe the rumor mill, Houston had made up her mind to try rehab again. She had promised her mother, Cissy. Alas, Whitney added, “But I want to have a little bit of fun, first.”
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ARRGGG! Just when you thought her 15 minutes might be close to over, “Jersey Shore’s” pint-sized sex-pistol Snooki has announced she is pregnant. This means years of Snooki and Child on the covers of InTouch, UsWeekly, etc. Blessings on her motherhood and all, but … it makes me want to leave the country!
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SPEAKING OF the infamous “15 minutes of fame,” I spent a few moments last week wondering how the late Andy Warhol — who coined the phrase — would be faring in the 21st century. Andy died in 1987. He never lived to see the Internet, 24-hour cable news, the rise of reality TV and its spawn. Would he be horrified and feel somehow responsible? Would he have jumped right in and wallowed in the excess? Or would he stand aside, commenting, and more conservative in attitude. Many of us do become more conservative as we age. One pale eyebrow might be raised in surprise at what the 15 minutes had wrought.
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I HAVE not yet expressed my dismay over the news that Judi Dench is fighting to save her eyesight. She is afflicted with macular degeneration. My prayers are with this magnificent actress and rare human being. (However, contrary to news reports, Dame Judi now says she is not going blind.)
Miss Dench is currently filming “Skyfall,” the latest Bond film with Daniel Craig. (What a brilliant idea it was to cast her as 007’s boss, M., back when Pierce Brosnan was still in the saddle. Judi gives this previously pallid character bite and authority. In her outings with Daniel Craig, there is even a slight bit of sexual tension!) And soon fans of Judi — and Maggie Smith — will see them together in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
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MARILYN MONROE never visited France, but during her lifetime she was much admired by the French — indeed she was far better regarded in all of Europe than in her own country. (She won the Italian and French equivalent of America’s Oscar for “The Prince and the Showgirl.”)
So, this year, Monroe has been chosen as the official “icon” of the annual Cannes Film Festival. Posters of Monroe, representing Cannes, will blanket Paris and the South of France. Interestingly, it is not one of MM’s famous glamor shots. Rather it is a sweet candid picture of Marilyn seated in the backseat of a car, blowing out the candle of a birthday cake. Monroe had flown into Los Angeles from New York, and reporters and photographers presented her with the cake. She was thirty.
Candid newsreel footage of that night shows a radiant star, hugging “all the guys.” (Monroe preferred to deal with males in the press. “Women are always looking to see if you need a manicure!” she once said.)