It wasn’t as steep a decline as Amy Winehouse’s, but the video that made the rounds a couple of years back of Whitney Houston on her UK tour massacring greatest hit I Will Always Love You pointed to a star still on a downward spiral, despite the performance being a particular low point of a supposed “comeback” tour.
As with Winehouse, the music business seemed as inclined as ever to suck whatever residual worth was left right out of her and into their coffers, via maintaining a wholly unrealistic touring and recording schedule for somebody who was allegedly hooked on one of the most addictive illegal hard drugs out there.
In doing so they acted with just as much grace as they with regards to the meltdown of Britney Spears, though at least she survived intact – even if that spark she had appears to have been snuffed out. Oh, and as for Jacko...
But news of this latest casualty reassuringly didn’t stop the record label profiting from her – quite the opposite. Indeed, Sony yesterday apologised after admitting “accidentally” hiking up the online prices for her greatest hits albums by a few dollars on Sunday, wasting no time just as the showbiz world was reeling in shock at Whitney’s premature passing the previous day.
Rather than rats leaving a sinking ship, when it comes to the major record labels it feels more as though the rats have instead accomplished some sort of impressive mutiny of the vessel – probably all hiding within the uniform of the deserted first mate, unsteadily waddling up to the controls of the deck as a collective whole then squeakily demanding that they take over.
Mind you, it’s not as though those in control of greatest artists’ record releases have acted particularly honourably in the past. Most of the supposedly greatest performers of the 20th century – such as Elvis, Johnny Cash, the Rat Pack singers, etc – were forced to cheapen their legacy in the latter part of their careers by pushing out dodgy albums, in thrall as they were to a watertight contract which never allowed them the chance to kick back and relax. (Though other parts of the machinery – such as the management, promoters, etc – should also assume responsibility for putting their acts they’re acting in the “interests” of in some sort of invisible straightjacket.)
Those artists at the top who appear the happiest seem to be those most in control over their destiny, and who have abandoned the need to fulfil deals that can stretch to decades and aren’t slanted in their favour. Whether or not you’re a fan of Madonna, that supposed obsessive control-freakery of hers at least allows her to do whatever the hell she wants to do – even if it be release duff movies such as W.E. – whenever the hell she wants to do it.
For years the major record labels have been exhorting us to stop piracy, as according to them it damages their industry. (Seemingly ignoring any evidence to the contrary.) Though, that not being enough, there’s also the allegation that it helps fund terrorism, meaning that a teenager can assure themselves with the knowledge that they’ve simultaneously opened their ears up to the back catalogue of Dire Straits just as they’ve helped push forward the prospects of a nuclear Armageddon. Well done young chap!
But isn’t there also a moral responsibility to bear with supporting an industry that see the careers of innocents – and young girls in particular – as something that’s expendable, as long as the figures work out on their balance sheets? The way in which they’ve acted doesn’t seem to have been affected in any way by the numerous amount of star musicians who have crashed and burned, and who continue to do so. (There’s quite a few who could be next.) As long as we continue to fund such brazenly amoral companies they shall have no quandaries over maintaining industry practises which flagrantly damage the health of those unwittingly stuck at its coal face (however much they might be getting paid).
So let’s put the innocents first, and put these bogus “talent factories” to death – the only thing that will really is a few executives’ sense of self-importance. When somebody needlessly passes away such as Whitney, boycott those who ought to assume some amount of responsibility, and get her music by those other means possible that won’t benefit the paymasters probably looking forward to a sales boost thanks to her death. The music industry can carry on with smaller, more accountable and more reassuringly human indie labels. Let the blood-suckers will move on to whatever other morally dubious enterprise might be the most readily profitable.
Right now those genuinely talent stars of yesteryear can easily subsist off of their own back, and bright up-and-comers are better off retaining creative control, and when they cede control doing so in more reversible and less ominous fashion to those with proper names and faces rather than suited automatons trying to work their way up the greasy company ladder. The music landscape would be far better for it.
Let’s take a stand: the worst perpetrators of this current subjugation are no better than those slave drivers who would whip their subjects into near-irrelevance in a modern age. Isn’t piracy preferable to this out-and-out cruelty? Whitney was aware of that for years but too weak to resist – now we have a chance to rectify that and pay tribute to her in the best possible way, by taking the moral high ground out from under those who use it only for their own financial sustenance. The major labels can slowly (or hopefully more quickly) wither away: there’s no better time to exorcise their risible memory from our history, and instead of worrying about their survival remember Whitney who – despite her faults – deserved far better.
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