When Musicians Act a Fool on TV
Editor’s note: IXiiV Records (9 to 5 Records) is a music consulting firm that provides custom marketing, branding, and performance solutions to help independent recording artists reach their professional goals. IXiiV is run by two smart and savvy women, the Boss Ladies aka Vicki and Suz. Check out their previous post for Contested, contact them for a full service list, and read the IXiiV blog for advice and insight on the music industry.
As the Boss Ladies of IXiiV Records, a music consulting firm for all genres, we work one-on-one with artists to define and develop their brands because it takes more than just musical talent to sell albums. Through our Performance/Interview Prep and Critique services, we teach artists how to improve their brand images and gain positive publicity.
While many independent artists may not be caught in front of media lenses on a daily basis, today’s vast world of social media allows for direct channels of communication between artists and their fans, allowing for constant voyeurism and scrutiny on the part of the viewer. It is crucial that artists realize what not to do when communicating through any media outlet. Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
We’ve compiled a list of our favorite television moments, showcasing well-established artists unnecessarily embarrassing themselves, in hopes that artists everywhere learn something from these travesties and remember to keep their image and brand in mind at all times.
If you feel certain moments have been left off, or if you have your own advice to share, be sure to tell us in the comments section below!
Bobby Brown: Kiss Ma A$$!
Vicki: This clip from Being Bobby Brown will never be unfunny. I understand why The Soup named it their Clip of the Year. I just wish she would have told Bobby Brown this years ago, you know before she traded in her vocal pipes for a crack pipe. This show was just one cringe-inducing and hilarious moment after another. The Hollywood Reporter said it was “undoubtedly the most disgusting and execrable series ever to ooze its way onto television”. Despite this rather accurate description, the show became a huge hit for Bravo. Interestingly, Bravo refused to air the show without Whitney agreeing to become part of the regular cast. Smart move for Bravo, not-so-smart move for Whitney. Even though it was Bobby’s show, she managed to grab enough screen time to completely embarrass herself and add to all the rumors swirling about her possible drug-use. At least she refused to do a second season.
Suz: Oh, Whitney. Whitney, Whitney, Whitney. Do I really need to point out what is so embarrassing about this? I didn’t think so. Instead, I’m just going to ask, “Who the hell allowed her to be on this show?” There HAD to be a publicist, a manager, a label head, SOMEONE who had an opportunity to keep her off this show. Clive, where were you on this one? Her career was already taking a (snorting) nose-dive by this point, but this just helped fuel the fire of stories published around her physical appearance, mood swings, and no-show appearances.
Artist Lesson: Be smart about what projects you sign on for, and surround yourself with a team that will help you make the right decisions. You may not always see all of the pro’s and con’s related to a project, so make sure you consult with your team first to find some clarity and determine if it will be a good move for your career.
Whitney Says, “Crack is Whack!”
Vicki: Ah ok that explains it. You don’t do crack because it’s cheap and you are rich, so you couldn’t possibly afford to buy a lot of crack…wait what? And yes, where are the receipts Diane Sawyer?! We all know drug dealers keep extensive paperwork on their transactions. Oy vey! Did anyone coach her for this interview? Her answers did absolutely nothing to clear up the drug rumors. What they did do, however, was provide the media with some amazing sound bites and catchphrases.
Suz: Vicki and I spent a long time trying to find the perfect Whitney clip for this post. After a long debate, we concluded, “Why choose?” There is enough whacky Whitney to go around, why not learn from the best? While she looks put together and polished on this 2003 sit-down with Diane Sawyer, everything out of her mouth screams unprepared and unhinged – again, Clive! It reminds me of politicians that get caught in a scandal and literally say whatever enters their head to make it go away. Receipts?! Seriously?!?! She knows enough about drugs to know how much they cost but will act like she doesn’t know how they’re purchased? What drug dealer is writing invoices for services purchased? Whitney’s drug habit: $730+K; this clip: priceless.
Artist Lesson: Always rehearse your answers before giving an interview, especially if you know the interview will be dealing with some controversial subjects. Sometimes saying less is more.
Mariah Breaks, Breaks Down on TRL
Vicki: Carson Daly really hit the nail on the head when he said, “Mariah Carey has lost her mind.” I remember watching this bizarre appearance (I can’t believe it was 10 years ago, I feel so old) and wondering why her team would let her go on the show in such an unstable state.
Just a few months prior to this public meltdown, Mariah was dropped from the record label that launched her career, Colombia Records, ending a strained relationship with label executives. In addition to this stress, she was also working non-stop on several projects, including her first leading role in the movie Glitter, as well as recording and producing the movie’s soundtrack. Both projects later bombed at the box office and on the charts. It was no surprise when several weeks later she was admitted to a hospital due to “extreme exhaustion”.
Suz: I am a huge fan of Mariah, but this is just painful to watch, and yet I can’t look away. While I love Mimi, I’ve often questioned her fashion sense, but this just has me questioning her sense period. Nothing says “I need sleep” like gold hot pants and an unsupported halter-top pushing a Popsicle cart to feed fans on live television. Mariah made a huge comeback in 2005 with the multi-platinum, multi-award-winning album, The Emancipation of Mimi, but it still required a 4-year climb to reach the top.
Artist Lesson: It’s OK to take some time off. So many artists push themselves to the point of exhaustion for the sake of promotion or publicity. Passion and a strong work ethic are necessities in this business, but you need to know when to slow down before your art and reputation suffer.
Britney Performing “Gimme More,” Isn’t That Ironic?
Vicki: Oh Britney, this was supposed to be your comeback performance where you proved to everyone that despite all your personal issues you were still the reigning queen of pop. What happened? The rehearsal footage showed promising glimpses of the old Britney who used to light up the VMA stage with her memorable performances. Unfortunately, this was memorable for all the wrong reasons. One critic even stated that this performance would “go down in the history books as being one of the worst to grace the MTV Awards”.
Besides the unflattering outfit, Britney seemed completely lost on stage dancing with as much energy as a sloth. The best parts of this “performance” were the reactions (aka blank stares) from a very underwhelmed crowd (50 Cent looked particularly thrilled). You can tell her mind was everywhere but where it needed to be – on stage.
Suz: Like I’ve said in our previous post, I’m not a fan of the majority of her music, but like anyone else, I have come to expect a certain level of showmanship from Brit Brit. I always felt for her personal plight, as it was splattered across blogs and magazines for the entire world to judge, but after seeing this performance I felt (as I’m sure most did) as if I finally realized just how serious her issues were.
However, life in the spotlight frequently produces performers that can “turn it on” no matter what is going on around them, as the show must go on. When something as second nature to them as breathing fails to happen, it is a cause for concern. This performance had me saying, “gimme more.” And, like Whitney, WHO ALLOWED THIS TO HAPPEN? If I were on her team, I’d be the first one pulling the fire alarm or cutting the power until she was in a proper state of mind to perform. The pop icon has clearly found her way back to her throne, but she will probably never live this moment down.
Artist Lesson: As Mary J. Blige would say, “Leave your situations at the door, so when you step inside jump on the floor.” While it can be difficult to do that, a good way to handle tough situations is to use the drama to fuel the emotion behind your performances instead of letting it hinder you.
Good Morning, Chris Brown
Vicki: I’ve found that the best way to convince people that you are not a violent and immature person is to respond to interview questions about said qualities in a violent and immature manner. Great job, Chris Brown! You have once again proved that you are a douchebag, a talented one, but still a douchebag nonetheless. OK, I get that you don’t want to keep responding to the Rihanna incident for the rest of your life, but have you ever heard of self-control? Oh wait, obviously not. If he had just kept his cool and not lost his temper, he may have actually been able to keep the focus of the interview on his music but instead he just added fuel to the public opinion fire.
Suz: I’m so sick of Chris Brown. It’s a testament to his talent, one may say, that his music has been doing so well lately, however he will never shed himself of his prior acts if he doesn’t honestly take responsibility and give the media something else to focus on. He is constantly beefing with someone on Twitter (from the media, Raz B, Bow Wow, Tyler the Creator, etc.), and, as the aftermath of this particular incident revealed, his anger continues to get him in hot water. If you want people to focus on your music, than stop playing an immature victim and talk through your actions.
Artist Lesson: To be taken seriously in any business, your actions must support your words and vice versa. Artists, like all human beings, are not perfect and thus make mistakes. It’s how they choose to handle the aftermath of these mistakes, however, that will determine whether or not their reputations will be irreparably damaged.
Kanye’s Gonna Let Her Finish
Vicki: The mic grab heard around the world. The Internet went nuts after this happened with some claiming it was staged and others even going as far to say it was actually an Illuminati initiation ritual….yeah. Jokes and conspiracy theories aside, the backlash Kanye received from this went on for months. Even President Obama weighed in on the controversy calling Kanye a jackass (bonus cool points for the Prez!).
What’s interesting about this situation is that it actually turned Taylor Swift into a household name. Even though it made Kanye look like a bully, unlike Chris Brown, he actually took responsibility for his actions, apologizing to Taylor several times. For the sake of my personal amusement, I hope Kanye never censors himself.
Suz: What can be said that hasn’t been said already? Kanye is an artistic genius, and as we can all see, this has not by any means derailed his career. However, he spent a lot of time fielding backlash from Team Taylor, the media, his own fans, fellow artists, and more. He certainly knows how to stay in the headlines, but it seems even he wasn’t ready for the response his actions got, taking some time off almost immediately after the incident. The saying, “No press is bad press,” can ring true very often, however it must be added that you should make sure you’re ready for what may come next.
Artist Lesson: Pick your battles wisely and be prepared for the consequences. If you are going to bet on bad or ugly press to further your career, it better be worth the gamble.
Ashlee Simpson Lip Syncs & Jigs
Vicki: LMAO what is she doing? That is the whitest dance I’ve ever seen. So awkward, I get second-hand embarrassment from watching this. Look, things are bound to happen during a live performance, but this is not the way to recover. Did Beyoncè run off the stage when she fell down the stairs during her concert in Orlando? No, she picked her fierce self up and kept going like nothing happened. I think this just all boiled down to inexperience.
Ashlee could have saved this performance, but instead she let it become one of the most ridiculed and defining moments of her career. It also didn’t help that she immediately blamed the band after the show and then two days later blamed acid reflux. Which is it, Ashlee? A few months later she was booed after performing at the 2005 Orange Bowl halftime, which then sparked Internet petition to stop her from making music. I believe that if she had reacted better to the SNL situation, fans wouldn’t have turned on her so quickly.
Suz: I remember cringing when this song first came out (much like I did watching this video), and hating myself when I eventually found myself singing along to it when it came on the radio. I applauded Ashlee’s team for the marketing campaign that went behind this album – turning viewer engagement of her reality show into chart-topping album sales – however, where was her performance coach on this one? Who was put in charge of preparing her for a live audience?
I understand she was young and new to the scene and panicked, but she wasn’t new to the entertainment business. She was a back-up dancer and an actress before her debut album came out. Many artists lip sync, many encounter sound issues at a live show, and many keep going. She threw in the towel and didn’t even try to pick up the “pieces” and keep moving.
Artist Lesson: Expect the worst and hope for the best. Preparedness is essential when performing live. Think about everything that could go wrong, and have an evacuation plan in place, hopefully one that doesn’t involve jigging of any kind.