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5 comments | Monday, January 14, 2008

I often wondered if there was any truth to the Aaliyah song Age Ain't Nuthin But A Number", and over the past few weeks I've begun to notice how important age is to some people. This idea that age determines what you can and cannot accomplish in your personal life and career drives me up the wall. Allow me to vent by providing two examples(and I'm sure you know where this post is heading by looking at the three pictures above), one example that is indicative of pop culture and another that hits close to home.

I've been following Janet Jackson's career since I was a child. I cannot name another artist that has had such a positive impact on my life and my early decision to pursue a career in the performing arts. She has achieved goals and broken records that today's artists couldn't reach with a ten foot pole and 21 years later we still anxiously await new releases.

Despite the infamous wardrobe malfunction and lackluster sales of her last two studio albums(that still went platinum) Janet has shown impressive resilience, strength and longevity in a business where artists are here today and gone tomorrow.

Yet everywhere I go or every message board I log onto there's tons of people who are quick to discredit Janet's talent and legacy based upon her age. At 41 years old she's somehow too old to be making music and executing choreography? There is an obvious double standard in play here that truly pisses me off for lack of a better word.

Madonna is nearly 50 and Cher is in her 60's and they continue to release new material and tour the world and they're not subjected to the same cruel standards. And their music hasn't always received the warmest reception. Madonna's American Life CD was considered a failure in the U.S. and abroad as well as her Remixed and Revisited CD that failed to make the Billboard Hot 100, yet they're still deemed relevant. Can someone please explain this to me?

We obviously live in a youth obsessed culture where thin is in, blonde is best, and under 35 is considered to be more appealing to the masses. Don't we see this exact same thing happening in the gay community? Some of us wouldn't look twice at a man who doesn't fit the age and description of a City Gym Boys model or an Abercrombie&Fitch type. I know somebody is going to e-mail me and say it all comes down to personal preference, which I don't doubt. But all of this really made me stop and think about what life is like for a single gay man over 40, and even for Janet who still believes she has something to offer the music industry at 41 only to have her age become a deciding factor in her success.

If life is supposed to be over after 40 with no chance of continuing to live as you did before, then I'm glad I've accomplished many of my childhood dreams, found the man I want to spend the rest of my life with and 12 years to spare before the inevitable 40 happens to me.

By the way, the new album 'Discipline' from the 41 year old icon drops February 26th.


<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

The only people stupid enough to think life is over after 40 are the ones under 40!

Put another way, youth is so over-rated.

January 14, 2008 2:15 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Life is certainly not over after 40.

But it is a youth oriented world, and most of us do turn our heads toward the City Gym Boy types, knowing that looks and body mean nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Still, we do it, and not just gay people. And I think that one of the reasons men strive for success and fortune is that when they are older no longer turn heads, they can still get their trophy wife (or husband) no matter how empty that acheivement may turn out to be.

Anna Nicole's ol' coot died a very happy senior citizen. Without the money, he would have just been another dirty old man.

January 14, 2008 3:49 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I think you merged two different topics in this post. Our society is definitely youth-obsessed and the gay community, even more so. But you don't have to buy into that trap; I don't.

Now, you're gonna hate me for the rest of this comment but you asked...

The reason *I* give Janet such a hard time, despite liking much of her music, is that her influences are generally so evident to me. My favorite artists are more innovative and creative about their inspirations.

You compare her to Madonna and Cher. But both of them have won awards in multiple art forms and changed their music with the times (Cher can do just about *anything*). Janet, on the other hand, is still whispering over hyper-produced dance/hip hop beats. Not innovative, in my eyes.

There is certainly nothing wrong with appealing to a young crowd or sticking with what you know (look at old-ass Kylie Minogue for reference). But when you grow older, especially as a recording artist, people (expressly music critics), expect some sort of measurable *growth* in ability, content, lyrics, genre, insight.

For me, Janet has not taken enough creative chances to put her on a level with Madonna or Cher. Somewhere around The Velvet Rope, she seemed to start going backwards. I'm not particularly interested in the late-blooming, sexual awakening of a 40-year old woman. But if I were, it would sound more like Jill Scott on The Real Thing.

If Janet is going to dance and sing over tracks that sound just like the ones used by Britney, Rhianna, or anyone else half her age; comparisons will be made. That's just how it is.

January 14, 2008 3:56 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

As a single gay man over 40 (42), I have noticed that life does change but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Like you, I have grown up with Janet and have noticed that there seems to be a particular kind of disdain for doing pop music at our age. I like the fact that her music is sometimes like cotton candy. I don't need introspection or depth as there are plenty of other artists to provide that. I'd rather her depth come through in her interviews (which she still has to work on).

My biggest issue is with what seems to be a significant lack of respect for her decades in show business that is coming from black folk...

January 14, 2008 9:46 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

i once had a 29 year old gay man tell me that he never dated anyone over 30...... tick tick tick.... this was the funniest thing i think anyone ever said to me.. i was wondering if he had the suicide planned...

January 20, 2008 2:27 PM


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