Whitney,Madonna, and the Media
As someone who has, without a doubt, played and commented on classic Whitney Houston songs on the radio thousands of times over a span of two decades, I feel compelled to weigh in on the media's reaction to this talented woman's devastating end to her sad life story.
I have to admit it. I am irked by the response of the death of Whitney Houston. Not because I think she doesn't deserve the outpouring of accolades. Not at all. But rather, I was annoyed by wall to wall Whitney Houston songs on every New York radio station the day after her passing. Where were the accolades and spins of her latest songs before she expired? Record sales go through the roof whenever a recording artist dies. Funny, when in the recent past she had trouble selling tickets and CD's.
You can bet, though, that the song she recorded in LA, just a few days before her death, will be played like crazy when it's released, and the radio and record promotion frenzy will be insane.
See, here's the issue. We live in a disposable world. Cars last for a few years before being traded in. Cell phones go for two years, tops. And computers and laptops are whisked in and out of our lives as briskly as fashions that change with the season.
What is it about our society that we dispose of things, and people that have value? And yet, how could it be possible, that upon the moment of the announcement of Whitney Houston's death, the outpouring of love and admiration was out of control?
As I heard all the Whitney songs, back to back to back, the lyrics were especially poignant. She often sang about self love, spiritual inspiration and motivation. Yet, Ms. Houston had a difficult time finding the love herself.
She struggled mightily with drugs, alcohol and self destructive behaviour. It is hard to argue with her talent, her voice, and her expression. But somewhere along the way, her star tarnished and people liked to poke fun at someone so clearly down. Maybe, she was too fragile to find that love within, and was searching for love outside of herself. But people love to pounce when an icon is down on her luck.
Eerily enough, the very morning of her death, I was doing something I never do. I happened to be watching a program called Fashion Police on E! at the gym.
Joan Rivers was, well Joan Rivers, making fun of Whitney's dated clothing and style. Joan, after all, is an equal opportunity insulter. But it was especially ironic to hear the cattiness that morning, and hours later,discover the news about the diva's demise. Being the subject of ridicule is painful. Feeling washed up, out of touch, old hat for a star of that magnitude must be horrendous.
And so, now, the singer has been removed from the internal torture she had been enduring. But this new tragic episode does bring up questions for all of us.
Think about the societal norm of building up and idolizing, just to tear down, and then when tragedy strikes, creating a shrine to their legacy.The news media made mention of Whitney's passing at "such a young age." 48. Yet, the week before, some in the media were making fun of Madonna for being over the hill, as she performed at the Superbowl.
There was even a newspaper cartoon with an illustration noting that it would be distasteful, should Madonna have a Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction while performing.
What? This toned, sculpted and even surgically modified woman would not be attractive to view naked, simply because she is in her 50's?
So, let me get this straight: the healthy, active, yoga enthusiast Madonna is considered old and unattractive because she is 53, but the troubled, addicted and self abused Whitney is viewed as young at 48, a mere five years behind the Material Girl?
Please. Let's end all of these judgments. Let's stop the cycle of elevating stars to perch on an impossible pedestal, only to delight at their downfall, as they tumble off.
Let's not only cherish these treasures upon their death, but hold them dear, even during their very human struggles and challenges, while they are alive too.
a 5 time Billboard Magazine Award winner, is perhaps best known for her unprecedented success holding the #1 position in the New York radio market as the midday host of New York’s 106.7 FM. She was also the co-creator, writer, producer and host of 'Spotlight On,' a nationally syndicated program that featured in-depth interviews with top recording artists such as Paul McCartney, Elton John, Sting and Celine Dion, to name a few.
Presently, Valerie can be heard on her new daily radio show, Valerie’s New York on WOR.710.com. She is also the voice of numerous commercials and television promos. She has been the “Voice of God” for many prestigious live events including: The Clinton Global Initiative, The New York Emmy Awards, The Tony Preview Concert on CBS, and many more. She writes a weekly nightlife column for TheThreeTomatoes.com and writes a theater column for Examiner.com.
As adjunct professor at the School of Visual Arts, Valerie teaches a course on Internet Radio and Voice-over, coaches talent privately, and produces promo reels and demo tapes for various clients.
An actress and writer, she has appeared in numerous off -Broadway productions and co-wrote a play with music entitled, "Spit it Out!"