Its the tragically (and aged-ly) hip
November 3, 2007
As they released their 28th album this summer, 70s funk band Kool & the Gang declared there is no age limit to being cool. However based on the less than stellar sales of Still Kool, and since the band last reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1981 it appears as if the groups waning number of fans eager to cough up enough dough to keep them celebrating good times beg to differ.Some aging superstars pull off cool with few problems. U2s Bono wisely wears shades day and night, indoors and out successfully masking his AIDS-fighting, world peace-seeking, still kick-ass music-making distinguished 47-year-old crows feet, while simultaneously demonstrating his penchant for designer sunglasses. (Included on the highlight reel of Bonos coolness will undoubtedly be the recent photos of him walking on a beach and managing to keep cool while also keeping his shirt on, instead of revealing his pasty white Irish beer belly.)Liza Minnelli would do well by herself if she were to take a page from Bonos cool book and don a pair of sunglasses. However, since the aged, er, ageless Grammy winner regularly looks as if she passed cool about as smoothly as others pass kidney stones, shed be fooling no one into believing that it wasnt due to 30 years of around-the-clock bloody marys, and not the glare of the moon, if she were to wear sunglasses at night.Last month, the almost 50-year-old Madonna left her longtime record label and signed a cool $120 million deal with a concert promoter. While many pointed to the move as proof of her continued coolness, others whispered it was actually evidence that the record industry has cooled to her. Some insiders speculate that the Material Girl has lost just enough of her cool that this deal in which shell get paid $17 million in advance of each new album and $50 million to promote her tours is necessary if she wants to keep making as much money on her records and selling as many concert tickets as she has in the past.Madonnas not the only maturing rock star eschewing traditional contracts. Paul McCartney is among the artists who have shunned the major labels (in his case, signing with the music arm of the Lord of the Lattes, Starbucks), perhaps anticipating that a mainstream deal might not have been be as brag-worthy as in the days of yore.Also seeking an alternative, and arguably less cool route these days are the fermenting Eagles. The band chose Wal-Mart as the sole distributor of their first album of original material in 27 years. In doing so, the 70s super stars also opted (to the delight of the Rainforest Alliance) to package their album with Domtar EarthChoice papers in lieu of a more useful Geritol coupon (for the benefit of their equally graying fans) in each CD jewel case.To be fair, theres no minimum age requirement on losing ones coolness, as its possible that the new Eagles album could outsell Britney Spears latest release this week.Speaking of Britney Spears and losing coolness. Besides the fact that the highly-manufactured pop star qualifies as a rocker only because she bought one for late night feedings in her infant sons nursery (and because shes clearly off hers), the recently court-anointed habitual, frequent and continuous user of alcohol and drugs appeared on Wednesday at a Halloween bash in Hollywood in a pink and black tiger-striped leotard with feathers, fishnet stocking and red platform heels.The 25-year-old can no more pull off animal prints than the senescent yet still stunning supermodel Cindy Crawford (who increasingly seems to gravitate towards the same leopard print ensembles as the ladies of the Islands Long and Staten).And of course, no discussion of age limits and cool would be complete without Puerto Rican boy band phenomenon Menudo. The group that sold millions of records around the world managed to stay cool throughout the much of the 70s and 80s by kicking out member once they turned 16, making way for younger, cooler boys.MTV is currently trying to tap back into that cool niche market again by recreating the band in a new reality show, Making Menudo. MTV is rolling the dice, however, by upping the age limit for band members. Only time and subsequent ratings and album sales will tell if allowing older members in the groups allows them to be (and stay) cool. Ricky Martin must certainly have his fingers crossed. Meredith Carrolls column appears Saturdays. Contact her via e-mail at email@example.com.
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