Diva-ed to Death

Somebody has to take a stand before it's too late, so I will. Please, in the name of all that is holy, stop with the divas.No more divas. Enough with the divas. Call off the divas. We're butt-deep in divas, for cripe's sake. It's like some kind of big-lunged, big-haired pestilence in shrink wrapped designer gowns. A plague of fabulousness. Celine and Whitney. Mariah and Shania. Brandy and that blonde jailbait, Britney Spears. Seventeen years old and rumored to have just gotten her first breast implants. Nice lesson for the youngsters.The craze started out as a cutesy gimmick a few years ago when some media hack noticed an upsurge in chick crooners on the pop scene and erroneously slid the word 'diva' in to juice up an article. Diva is Italian for goddess. Even by dictionary standards - "an operatic prima donna" - it is a stretch to apply it to every high maintenance, mid-level songstress playing the auditorium circuit.But the label stuck. And the movement grew, expanded to include any woman who ever blew out her pipes on a sappy mega-ballad about love overcoming an obstacle, which is straight from the Gospel according to Diva. And the singers began buying into the hype. They can't let go of the character, like the hypnotist's subject, who can't stop clucking even after he's home. They exist for outfits and attitude. Now divas infest every crevice of the entertainment world.They pout at us from magazine covers, bellow at us through the radio, haunt us on movie soundtracks and of course, you can't flip on the tube these days without seeing Celine Dion in full vein-popping, arm-flailing fury, emoting like a shrill banshee, spaz-dancing like a choreographed Joe Cocker. Especially if, like me, you have zilch for a life and spend your days eating cheese spray straight from the can, corresponding with women inmates and watching VH1.For awhile, VH1's daily lineup was classic and tangy exposes: Where Are They Now? and Behind the Music. Hour after hour of hunting down has-beens, savoring their paunchy pathos, picking at the scab of their former glam lifestyle. Ooh, ooh, ooh, Right Said Fred have fallen on hard times. Shocker.To see them now, these rock gods, playing county fairs or better yet, working at Foot Locker, and proclaiming contentment, saying they don't miss the adulation, the obscene wealth, the swarming groupies, the drugs, the booze - don't miss it one iota - that is too irresistible. Much more satisfying than those When Animals Attack Car Crash Victims reality shows that rule Fox. Where's the emotional payoff there? We don't know the animals or their human prey, so we don't care what happens to them, unlike say, our spiritual affinity with the bass player for Mott the Hoople, which was the only thing to get us through adolescence.Yet petty, snickering voyeurism somehow fell out of favor and VH1 has now morphed into the All Diva Network. The divas have their own tributes and specials, singly and in little faux fawning hand-clutching cliques; a dysfunctional sisterhood of shellacked and soul-less techno-trons, these pre-programmed songbots that confuse style with substance, tempestuousness with talent.Not to say they can't carry a tune. Problem is they only know the one: the diva anthem. You've heard it a gazillion times. First verse is sung all aching and whispery, but by the time the chorus rolls around it is pedal to the metal, ovaries to the wall, roof-rattling, note-wringing belting. It is not so much singing as sustained rhymed yelling. As if they're afraid we'll somehow miss their point. Yes, yes, yes, love is good. Got it. Now shut up already. Screw subtlety, restraint, phrasing, even a basic melody line, it's all about volume. Real divas crank it up till their eyeballs bleed and the audience cowers in whipped submission.VH1's Divas Live '99, broadcast earlier this month, garnered the network's highest ratings ever. With a lineup of Tina Turner, Cher, La Houston, Brandy, diva with a scrotum, Elton John, and a sequined assortment of mini-divas, or divalitos, viewers tuned in in droves hoping to peep a hair-pulling, nail-splintering catfight. And they almost got their wish since John and Turner reportedly had a heated exchange during rehearsals. If there's a rematch, I'm putting a double sawbuck on Tina. She's still got those kickboxer gams.Unfortunately, such unqualified ratings success guarantees the diva movement will continue on into the new millennium, spawning sequels, spin-offs, rip-offs, collaborations and... and...I'm sorry, I can't talk about it anymore. I have to go. VH1 is airing a Behind the Music special on Josie and the Pussycats. Josie... now there was a bonafide diva.

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