Fri | Jan 22, 2021

Outstanding conformity

Published:Friday | July 7, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke

There is a way in which performers of the popular art are taken to be 'different' because they express in words or images extremes of what is already seen as normal.

So they are somehow deemed 'revolutionary' because they take what is already generally accepted by the society in which they operate and multiply it, then are admired for their daring.

It is a very safe space for the performers of popular art who choose this route. They are guaranteed acceptance, and, with it, a level of income that will at least make them comfortable and may even make them wealthy. However, they stand the risk of being passing flames, burning brightly, but briefly, as the society turns to the next performer of popular art who satisfies their craving for mistaking the common as uncommon and conformity as different from the pack.

In the end, this adds up to something I cannot quite understand, a terminology called 'shock value'. For while there is something to be said for expressing the normal to a safe extreme in order to make an initial impression, it wears very quickly and hence has very little or no lasting value.

And what is supposed value if it is not sustainable?

In the Jamaican context, we have seen so much come and go over the past few years, from the little lasses who put on peep shows on stages and attempt to do some vocals at the same time, to young men who tattoo their faces or put on masks - literally or figuratively.


Society admires light complexion


With all the fascination with Vybz Kartel, as much as I have regard for his extraordinary lyrical ability, I have long accepted that much of what is taken as 'different' in him is a regurgitation of the same old things, pushed to extremes. It shows that skin bleaching is just a pale reflection of the society's admiration of a lighter complexion and a public example of a practice that already widespread in the society.

Ishawna's proposal of sucking and licking the crotch has had its very brief moment in the sun and has, predictably, dimmed. The novelty of a woman saying that she deserves as much as she gets has worn off and was not very different in the first place. The extreme has come in suggestions of being sucked dry like popular drinks and have earned her a couple minor shows in Jamaica. That is it.

Much of what is being proposed as having value because it is shocking finds an outlet on social media, and I wonder how much of it is driven by a need to be seen and heard rather then considerations for a music career. It seems to me that the objective is likes and shares rather than a sustainable income stream. As we consider the extreme expressions of the normal, we should ask ourselves, are those who do it serious about a career, or are they simple social media addicts who cover it up with a song or two?