Friday, June 26, 2009

Boys in peril in the Penny Press!

In one of those macabre coincidences that sometimes crops up in the world of deadline-publishing, the current issue of Rolling Stone features a hard-eyed article by Fred Goodman on whether or not Michael Jackson will cover the spread and actually make good on his promised string of sold out summer concerts. As Goodman writes:

The stakes are huge for Jackson: his finances have been pushed to the limit by the upkeep for his lavish former home Neverland Ranch; his penchant for wild spending (Jackson has been described as "a millionaire who spends like a billionaire"); and the $25 million out-of-court settlement he paid over child abuse allegations from 1993.

Goodman goes on quite a bit after this about the rest of Jackson's outstanding debts, all of which might have been settled by one successful string of mega-concerts such as those promoters - and fans - envisioned for the upcoming months. As one source puts it, "You are talking about a guy who could make $500 million a year if he put his mind to it."

Of course, in between Goodman's deadline and right now the ultimate schedule change intervened, and fans will be left wondering about those concerts for the rest of their lives (I wonder how many of those bought-and-paid-for tickets across the world will be kept as sad souvenirs rather than turned in for a refund?). Certainly all the people with legal judgements against Jackson are out a payoff, since their money was entirely dependant on him earning it, but those of us who weren't ever fans have to wonder if there weren't at least some beneficiaries of this turn of events.

Goodman writes that some of the shows' preparations were stalled a bit by Jackson's 'perfectionism,' including one bit of perfectionism that just plain infuriates: "For one," Goodman says, "he has put out a casting call for children's choirs proficient in sign language and 'exactly equal' in racial diversity." What somebody who felt compelled to pay $25 million as an out-of-court settlement (one of many) on child molestation charges is doing planning to travel with multiple choirs of hand-picked children, Goodman doesn't explain. Probably if you gave mega-celebrity and the power that comes with it to every persistent pedophile on Earth, they'd all act much the same way - in any case, it's now permissible to breathe a sigh of relief for those prospective choirboys (even if just hearing such a thing makes you want to throttle their parents).

Sighs of relief don't come quite so easily over the issue's other boys, the Jonas Brothers. Jenny Eliscu writes of their Holy Grail:

Everyone in the Jonas Brothers operation - the boys themselves, their management and label - seems unsure exactly how to position the band so it can hold on to the loyal kiddie fans and at the same time move closer to achieving what it craves the most: musical credibility.

At the heart of this repositioning are the key three: Kevin (the goofy one of mediocre talent), Joe (the pretty, gay one of mediocre talent), and youngest brother Nick (the ambitious, squinty-eyed one of mediocre talent). These three give roughly 10,000 interviews a year, so a certain lack of candor on their part is to be expected. But that's not the only peril a reader must navigate when reading an alleged 'profile' of this group, because Disney is involved (it owns Hollywood Records, the brothers' label)(and it grew all three brothers in its Disco biotech facility on the salt flats outside Bakersfield), and Disney leaves nothing whatsoever to chance.

So when you read a piece on the Jonas Brothers, you have to tap around regularly for the steel corporate framework just under the surface. Some pointers:

Is much made of the fact that Nick, though the youngest, is the band's leader and a 'genius'?


Is Kevin's general uselessness obscured by trivia? Check - he tinkers with their state design!

Is the faintest hint that ANY of the brothers might be gay rigorously avoided? Check - the subject never comes up, and the obviously stage-managed text-breakup between Joe and Taylor Swift (they wrote competing breakup songs!) is trotted out as factual one more time.

Is no allusion whatsoever made to the fact that when Nick isn't actually asleep, he's smoking? Check - the subject's never approached.

Are all the photos either work-related or oh-so-adorable? Check - the brothers onstage, Nick sweating backstage, Nick (in three-piece suit, no less) checking playlist, Nick and his adorable little puppy dog.

Unfortunately for the brothers, their Holy Grail has never been reached by any teeny-bopper group in the history of the world - and only very, very seldom even by the standout single member of any group. Most such groups struggle through various stages of being ridiculous, pathetic, and overreaching, without ever achieving anything even remotely resembling credibility. The waiting list for I'm a Celebrity - Get Me Out of Here! is three-dozen deep with boy-band members who aren't Justin Timberlake, after all, and even the tiny number of Timberlake-style success stories out there are haunted by the ultimate cautionary tale of such unlikely success.

That cautionary tale is gone from the world now - if there were any justice in the multiverse, he'd spend the rest of eternity being drugged and coerced into bed by a creepy, hideous higher power who'd then fondle him and make him swear not to tell, no matter how suicidally horrible it made him feel. Lacking that, we could always raze Neverland Ranch and salt the earth where it once stood. Just a suggestion.


elmo said...

They're all pretty squinty-eyed and gay on that cover. And brozed!

steve said...

Squinty-eyed, gay, bronzed - and Photoshopped! Let's not forget that last one! Despite the fact that all three of them were at the same photo shoot at the same time (there's footage on the RS website), apparently no finished product looked quite fake enough....