Ah the 80's. Even in Jamaica we were enjoying Boy George. Do you remember the androgyny of the musical icons back then? Annie Lennox of Eurythymics. Michael Jackson. Grace Jones. Prince. Ready For The World. Duran Duran. And glam rock was all about men with long permed hair, tights and makeup. I remember being a teen in the 80's, and brothers were rockin neon clothes with cut off midriff shirts, a dangling cross ear-ring and a jheri curl. And that was ok!! What happened? Now black men can only be 50 Cent look-alikes?
I mean, at least before, there was more of a spectrum. Public Enemy was showcasing an aggressive, butch masculinity that was channeled towards spreading black consciousness. And there were many femme acts like Bananarama and Jody Watley (been seeing some of that fashion around...). But now? Especially with black folks, the only acceptable portrayals of us are mostly as thugs or "video vixens", to use the popular G rated term.
I look at foundational soul groups like Earth, Wind and Fire, and wonder if they could make it today, if they were to just drop right now. Talented and soulful Black men displaying vulnerability, gentleness... and a flair for sequined jumpsuits. Not quite 50 Cent.
I think I can unofficially chart the shift with the rise of TLC. When they dropped "Ain't Too Proud To Beg", in 1992 they were carrying over some of that 80's neon.. and were basically some fun havin' tomboys/bois, with T-Boz coming in with that sexy, deep gravelly voice... in case you don't remember...
and then, an album or two later, they looked more like this:
-don't get me wrong, i ain't hatin on TLC! Never. And for real, they are looking fierce in this picture. I just wonder if there could have been any room for them to have continued in their original vein, and now be rockin' men's suits and fedoras.
Where are the Ya Kid K's (from Technotronic)? Where are the Jermaine Stewarts with vats of cherry wine, singing about non-penetrative intimacy? House divas like Adeva demanding respect? Bring 'em on, we need ya!!
"You're a shining star, no matter who you are.
Shining bright to see what you could truly be."
- Earth, Wind & Fire