Re: In Defense Of Cassie

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Over at the Village Voice blog, Status Ain’t Hood, writer Tom Breihan rises to the defense of model-turned-singer in a recent entry entitled, “In Defense Of Cassie.” In the piece, Breihan makes the argument that much of the recent online backlash Cassie has been hit with may be misguided, noting that there are far worse targets out there than the soon to be twenty year old.

Breihan makes a lot of good points, such as Cassie working in the medium of pop friendly R&B, where singing ability is superfluous. I agree with Breihan that Cassie’s airy first single, “Me & U,” is well executed by her producer, Ryan Leslie. The track is so catchy that there’s no need for a display of vocal theatrics. The song requires nothing more than a whisper and catchy lyrics to make it audiences cling to it. The charts don’t lie.

In an interview with the Associated Press, when asked about her goals, Cassie responded: “To make good music. I said it time and time again, I’m not Aretha Franklin. Because I am aware of that we made it versatile.” She goes on to add, “I am not somebody like a John Legend who has a gorgeous voice. It has to have some edge to make it more interesting. People applauded the fact that I realized that and that I addressed it by making the album versatile.”

One can argue that it her candor is admirable, and the decision to push herself even further to make up for areas where she lacks equally admirable. But at the same time, it speaks volumes when you have to explore so many different avenues to compensate for talent you should ideally naturally possess.

On her backlash, Breihan writes, “The whole thing is pretty weird, considering that Cassie comes from a long line of attractive and interchangeable R&B singers, some of whom went on to blossom into actual stars but most of whom were allowed to pass peacefully into obscurity. Every summer yields about five new singers like Cassie, and none of them has inspired anything like this internet-based outrage.”

True enough, there have been many R&B singers over the years that have scored major success without having much vocal prowess. But, the difference between many of them and Cassie is easy to pinpoint: Jennifer Lopez, Ciara, and Aaliyah made the wise decision to highlight their talent in dancing to compensate for the talent they lacked vocally. Brandy’s voice is unique, and her ability to try new sounds and concepts while tackling more mature subject matter in her work made her appear genuine – a quality lacking in many of today’s current crop of R&B chanteuses. Cassie has no redeemable quality to her other than an aesthetic one. The only other comparable artist to Cassie with a similar internet backlash horror story is Ashanti, and even she can tout her skill for penning catchy hit songs.

This is why I believe the small backlash Cassie is experiencing is easy to understand. Her voice is thin, and not always pleasant to hear. Her choreography is not challenging enough to where she can dub herself as an entertainer versus a singer. She’s since exposed millions of people to all of this on national television. Jennifer Lopez was smart enough to never highlight her flaws on stage. Cassie should have followed suit.

What I find interesting is that when criticizing Cassie’s online condemnation, Breihan neglects to mention that Cassie’s current success is mainly owed to the internet. It was her online popularity through myspace that Cassie found her fame, so the adage, “You live by the sword, you die by the sword” reigns true. Replace sword with keyboard or mouse if need be.

It’s also not too far fetched to say that had the Internet been as big then as it is now, that many other acts would be catching the same venom as Cassie is now. That’s just the way it is in today’s music climate. Blogs, messages boards, and other online outlets now provide music listeners new ways to vent their frustrations — faster than ever and to much larger audiences.

Even media darlings like Beyonce are susceptible to it.

Are some of these petitions silly? Yes. Are people a lot harsher than they used to be? Possibly, but is it justifiable?

For an industry suffering from staggering low sales, one should not be too quick to write off the frustrations of consumers. It’s also not wise to say, “Well there’s someone a lot worse.” Two wrongs don’t make a right. Two off key singers a songbird not make either.

The current state of music is not one to brag on, and the current batch of singers making waves on the charts now openly admit to not even possessing a great amount of talent in the profession they’re in. After awhile you start to wonder if articles like “In Defense Of Cassie” are defending Cassie or mediocrity?

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