Teat for Tat: The Minor Discord Over Alicia Keys’ Baby Bump
I’m being totally rad in keeping today’s post brief. For this blogger, that means under 1,500 words. This time, I’m pissed off about the public dissection of, and dissension over, Alicia Keys as if she were a biology project and an ethics subject. People often forget that the quintuple-threat talent — singer, pianist, songwriter, producer and actor — is also a prominent humanitarian. So why the repeated pregnant pause in Internet discussions over the latest developments in this complex, cappuccino-complected lady’s life?
Instead of picking apart the superstar like a hyena going frantically at a gazelle (hey, I watch “Nature” on PBS, too), I’d rather build her up in a public space. Yes, all celebrities — but especially the women — tend to get ridiculed at some point in their career because of not-so-mainstream personal choices they’ve made. However, when it’s a public figure of color that has gone against the grain in his or her private life, he or she really gets tarred and feathered. And the latest celebrity of color to be metaphorically stripped to the waist is Alicia Keys. To quote “blue-eyed soul” duo Hall & Oates, “I can’t go for that. No, no, no, no.”
First, let’s go back down memory lane. I’ve followed, but not stalked, Alicia Keys from the start of her career. I recall the day I received a vivid-colored, cleverly packaged CD from a publicist when I was reviewing music for a New York City publication. I was puzzled by the obscure record label and the absence of a photo of the unknown pianist-singer. Then again, I was new to the business and figured the CD was some kind of advance disc. It wasn’t until several years later, when the video for “Fallin'” was released, that I finally had a visual. I was tempted as some to say that Alicia would go far on a pretty face, but within a short amount of time I didn’t need to be an A&R exec to discern that her talent and centeredness would always outshine any glamour points and related popular-magazine ratings. For those who disagree with me on my “glamour point,” you can — to borrow from one of my fave TV series, “True Blood” — bite me.
Gradually, I watched and listened as her voice matured from a screechy kind of emergency siren that announced to the world she had arrived, to a smoky burn narrating stories about urgencies of the heart and mind. I fell under her spell again and again, with her faithful — except for the title variation — rendition of Prince’s “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” (“How Come You Don’t Call Me,” from her debut album, 2001’s Songs in A Minor); her impassioned piano sutures on “If I Ain’t Got You” and her “virtual” crooning with The Main Ingredient via sampling on “You Don’t Know My Name” (both cuts from 2003’s The Diary of Alicia Keys); and her unifying, internationally chart-topping anthem, “No One” (from 2007’s As I Am).
Alicia Augello Cook (her birth name) is as devoted to saving children on the continent of Africa as she is authentic in singing cathartically for the broken-hearted — even when or if that heart has been beating in her own chest cavity. Alicia isn’t solely a musician; she’s a soul poet and globetrotting humanitarian. As of this writing, she still plans on continuing her tour while pregnant, and she’s doing so with her head held high. Her art, and heart, are her armor as she walks through pelted stones like a warrior princess. She was born in NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen, after all. It’s not a far stretch to imagine her propelling her voluptuous body many stories above the hailstorm of negative criticism like her purple-Spandex-wearing alter-ego heroine in “Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart.”
To quote Marlon Brando’s “Paul” in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris: “Oh, my hemorrhoids.” That’s what I get for sitting through one idiotic comment after another about Alicia Keys. Brando, portraying a demented, debauched and yet sympathetic man, utters that remark while seated beside Maria Schneider’s disillusioned, naive yet slutty “Jeanne” in a seedy tango parlor. Now, before you ask me (not that I can hear you), What the hell does Last Tango in Paris have to do with Alicia Keys [insert expletive of choice]? … hold on a damned second and give me a chance to explain.
Just as the meaning of Bertolucci’s existential masterpiece had nothing to do with the city of Paris (although there was a subtheme or subliminal point about French nationalism and colonialism — not that you care, anyway), the entire fracas about Alicia Keys’ expecting a bambino with Swizz Beatz is as much a diversion. All this nonsense I’ve been (wasting my time) reading in the past 24 hours about the true meaning of voluminous couture dresses, blousy black tops and — to add insult to injury — Alicia’s acne, is shallow. Or horseshit, in keeping with my allusion to the geographical location of Bertolucci’s 1972 cult film. Merde!
I’ll say this to all the folks with the jokes about Alicia requiring Proactiv®: Why don’t you imagine experiencing your hormones getting tossed around like they’re on the spin cycle while your nipples get sore and while cells divide a million times (I exaggerate) in your uterus before an embryo forms. Oh, and then try keeping your breakfast or lunch down, all the while you pray your embryo reaches development as a fetus, not to mention survives the treacherous route through the birth canal. Now sit back and think about your vacuous comments ridiculing a expectant mother for having facial zits.
OK, I’m not saying that you so ridiculed Alicia, but many have … publicly … cowardly … behind their asinine usernames across the Internet. And for those folks, who also have been saying nasty things about Alicia’s and fiancé Swizz Beatz’s nether regions, here are two of many words to affix to their cowardice: pussies and dicks. As in acting like …
Alicia’s having a baby — and her very first — for chrissakes! Let’s wish her well and stop worrying about when the un-immaculate conception occurred. And while we’re at it, let’s please stop the “stuperstition” — for example, threatening that her “Karma” will come back to harm her. To those who’ve written scathing comments about Alicia, I ask: Is not your house made of glass? Or, if Blondie would beg my pardon, could it be your heart is not?
No matter what happens between Alicia and her man, with her recent pregnancy announcement I find even more meaning now in the following songs from her spiritual, emotive 2009 CD, The Element of Freedom: “That’s How Strong My Love Is” (track 06), “Un-Thinkable (I’m Ready)” (track #07), “Wait Til You See My Smile” (track 05), the aforementioned “Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart” (track 04) and — yes, yes, y’all — her inspirational survivalist song that every native “New Yawker” such as she knows to be true: “Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down” (track 14).
Alicia, I don’t know if you or your publicist will ever read this. And, by the way, I haven’t been a journalist for a long, long time, so I’ve actually purchased your last few CDs. But, gurrrl, know this: Through the fire and the shifting seas of controversy, we — your unwavering fans — gotcho back.