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Bill Barol

Bill Barol

Posted: January 24, 2006 06:10 PM

...And Kelly Clarkson Is a Sort of Earthbound Demi-God


My sometime employer, the advice columnist Mr. Irresponsible, sends this note along:

I promised myself I was going to lay off the celebrities. I took a big swing at this Lindsay Lohan person a couple of weeks ago and it felt good, like I got the fat part of the bat on it, and that was going to hold me. I mean, there's so much bad behavior in the world, and celebrities aren't its only exemplars. (Just its biggest ones.) So there I was, determined to fish in other waters for a while.

Then I saw Sharon Stone's celebrity playlist in the iTunes store.

You remember the guy in college who always left a copy of "The Prophet" lying around? He didn't read it. (Nobody read it.) But in the right light, after the correct number of beers, it had its intended effect -- it conferred on the guy an illusory impression of depth. This is the phenomenon I later identified as "Apparent Complexity," which is functionally the same as real complexity, but a lot easier to carry off.

The iTunes celebrity playlist is the digital equivalent of that worn paperback copy of "The Prophet." It's the latest gimmick by celebrities and their handlers to confer on the celebs a patina of emotional sophistication, without all that tiresome growth and maturity. So when a poodle like Sharon Stone wants to appropriate the appearance of complexity, she simply cites Etta James' scorching "I'd Rather Go Blind" as a fave, adding for good measure (as she gazes moodily out from under her expensive bangs): "This is how I feel the blues." To which a reasonable person can only respond: Honey, pul-leez.

Stone isn't the only show pony to go this route in recent months. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer posted his playlist last week, listing The Eagles' "Desperado" as a favorite and asking rhetorically "Is there anything better than the lyrics to this song? Moving and emotional." (Try as I might, I can't help thinking of the scene from "Anchorman" in which Will Ferrell's Ron Burgundy tags a chuckle-headed report on the pregnancy of a panda by intoning: "Great story. Compelling and rich.") William Shatner got into the act last month, letting readers know that "I find Mozart to be entrancing" and listing Ben Folds as "My personal genius." (I looked extra hard to make sure those two hadn't been reversed.) But no one yet has touched Stone for sheer, incandescent pretension. Forced to pick between her verdicts on Aretha Franklin's "Spirit in the Dark" ("...she came from the church, so she learned how to sing from her soul for real," which must come as a tremendous relief to Aretha) and Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman" ("From the time I was a young girl this song made me feel in touch with my woman-ness") -- I'm telling you, it's a brutal choice.

I know using celebrities as pinatas is shooting fish in a barrel. I know that as well as I know a mixed metaphor when I see one. And I want to stop, I really do. But they keep serving themselves up in this unceasing orgy of self-congratulatory awfulness, and I just can't look away. Maybe someday. But not today. In the meantime, there's always the comfort of music. Like, say, Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On." It's the most healing song Sharon Stone knows.

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