The "Dimple" Factor

 

B. K. Hart

President DSR Records/Hart Music Co. and Columnist Forest Pro News

Before I start this month's article, I want to keep my promise and tell you the answer to last month's query. The  name of the group who, in the 70's, scored as a one shot wonder with the hit, "Come And Get Your Love" was Redbone, and the trait was that they were Native Americans. That's it. No dark, gloomy secrets here. Which brings me to the meat of this month's article.

The "Dimple" Factor is the amount of gimmickery used or needed to sell an artist. The way it is scored is simple; the higher the number, the more gimmickery is needed. For instance, Britney Spears is not, by proper definition or strict scrutiny, a really great singer. She has a really great stage act, and she can sing her material well, but she is not a great singer at all. Even the way she uses her voice is a gimmick. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give her an 8. Just like Mariah Carey. Now tell the truth, if either of those two ladies were plain looking, and had to go strictly on their talent, neither one would really be where they are today. And once they reached diva-dom, their luster sorta faded a bit, because their attitudes changed from hungry little groupies with all the humility of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm to over-protected, over-pampered, over-indulgent kids in a candy store. The world doesn't like opulence any more, ladies and gentlemen, time to get back to fundamentals.

Women aren't the only ones who rely on the effects of the "Dimple" factor. The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince went from extreme to extreme, and look at the megastar it made out of him. I gotta say, the guy is strange, but he knows how to make a star shine bright. Definitely a 3. Another star with a working gimmick is, of course, The Gloved One. The guy has been through more re-vamps and overhauls than a 57 Chevy, but look at him, untouchable. And it doesn't hurt that his siblings can bring it to the table as well. Him I will give a 4.

But the burning question seems to be, how much is too much? How much boob is the public going to let Mariah Carey or J-Lo show before it becomes just plain nasty? Hey, don't get me wrong, I like a nice rack and stack just like the next guy, but PLEASE! Ease up a bit, leave some for the imagination. That is, unless we are seeing first hand the ploy of showing so much cheesecake, the lack of talent doesn't show, hmmmmm?

Let me get off that for a minute. I was talking about gimmicks, right? Let's explore other avenues of classic gimmickery.

There's the face paint thing with KISS, remember that? EVERYBODY knew that gimmick, and the band used that to achieve superstardom. Parliament-Funkadelic and the whole space theme with the Mothership. ZZ Top and the beards. Oh, and let us not forget, the technique used by Jimi Hendrix to get those wailing tones out of his guitar. Those gimmicks were legendary because at the time no one had ever done them before, but when they did, the resulting effects were eyeball-popping to say the least.

Playing styles were invented as gimmicks as well. Such as the technique used by Eddie Van Halen, the Right Touch. That technique, believe it or not was being used on a smaller level by blues musicians throughout history to get certain tones out of their axes. More recently, a young Black guitarist evolved it into a shimmering jazz technique. That guitarist was Stanley Jordan, and if you can find any of his material anywhere, get it. He played his guitar like a keyboard, laying it flat on his lap, and tapping the fretboard in intricate chord progressions.

Other instruments were used in unusual ways by sometimes unusual artists, like way back in the day with pianos. We had Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, I could go on for days. They paved the way for folks like Billy Joel, Elton John, Patrice Rushen (remember Forget-Me-Nots?).

But why must we have gimmicks? I'm not challenging the concept, believe me. I just want to point out what the hoopla is all about. First of all, let's differentiate the kinds of gimmickery involved. There are two major types, visible (the kind you can see) and audible (the kind you can hear). Let's look first at the visible.

When Liberace took the stage, he always had his candelabra and his grand piano, and maybe some flambouyant wardrobe as well. But no matter what, when he came out, you knew he was Liberace. No question. But in all honesty, even as dynamic as his playing style was, there was nothing really different about it. He was just an excellent musician with a masterful technique, and if you closed your eyes, all of the glam really made no difference at all. He gets a 1.

OK, let's look at Michael Jackson. His stage show is considered to be one of the most vibrant productions in history. His patented Moonwalk is emulated and revered worldwide, and his penchant for eccentric dress is legendary. But when you close your eyes and listen to him sing, you realize that even if he didn't have all those trappings, he still has a voice to be reckoned with. However, the voice in and of itself is not the sell. Remember, Eddie Murphy can do a pretty good Michael Jackson vocal himself. But Mike can't do an Eddie Murphy laugh. See what I mean? That's an example of an audible gimmick. Remember when Mike did a background vocal on Rockwell's hit, Somebody's Watching Me"? Oh, you don't? But you DO remember when Eddie Van Halen did a stinging guitar solo on Mike's "Beat It".

There was a time when entire music styles were gimmicks. I am going to risk hurling and make mention of one such detriment to musical development, the dreaded "D" word, dare I say it?.........disco. Just saying that word gives me a boil. When I think of all the time and money wasted being poured into that drivel, I wanna blow chunks. Oh, you young people don't know what disco is? Don't worry, you know exactly what it is, only these days you call it house. Same B. S., different intensity level. Entire paychecks were blown on the twins. You do know the twins? Polly and Esther? All that big hair, big pants and even bigger shoes? You could actually get a bunch of garbage cans together and beat them to get disco. But when you think about it, every aspect of that era was a gimmick. Even some of the rockers were selling out. Rod Stewart (do you guys know he used to be a gravedigger?), Mick Jagger,  The Bee Gees (damn!).

Some artists have trouble getting ahead. They have loads of talent, and bags of smarts, but they fall short on that hook. Some people, though, can be successful without a visible or audible gimmick. They have enough strength in their talent alone to boost them. One such artist is Celine Dion. She is not tremendously active on stage. She is pretty, yes, but her biggest edge is that she can SING! Another artist like that is Patti Labelle. She's pretty, she's creative and all that. But beyond all that, she can SING!

Thankfully, we are now a society of cross-trainers. We borrow from each other's gimmicks and create new ones. We tap into the wealth of music created by those who came before us and communicate in ways the founding fathers and mothers would never have thought possible. We fuse history with technology and invent new and exciting ways of taking people's minds off of whatever stress eats them up by day, and whisking them away to parts unknown, where they can frolic in the splendor of whatever music gets their juices flowing. And if a particular gimmick appeals to them, it is their freedom to put out whatever money it takes to get that musical nirvana when the mood strikes. Let's face it, if you need a gimmick, you need it. No crime in that.

You know, through it all, I never truly explained what is meant by The Dimple Factor. Well, you see, dimples throughout history have always been connected with happiness to some degree. It seems the deeper the dimples, the happier you were thought to be, because you always want to smile to show them off. . So in terms of music, if you possess deeper dimples, or more gimmicks, you are perceived as being able to foster happiness in an audience by using that gimmick, much like a big smile. You don't believe me? Well, think of your smile as a gimmick. You don't even have to be a musician or singer for this. The next time you are out among your brothers and sisters, give them the biggest gimmick you've got. I can guarantee you will make a positive difference in someone's life. And that's not something you even want to put a number on. You just do it.

Peace!

B. K.

Write to me at my new e-mail address (thanx, Gary!)

bkhart@forestpro.net

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