Monday, February 11, 2008

Random musing inspired by the Grammys

So, Amy Winehouse won five well-deserved Grammy awards last night, despite being denied a US visa to attend the ceremony.

She did, however, perform live at the event via satellite link-up. The songs, You Know I'm No Good and Rehab, were presumably chosen as a knowing reference to the singer's recent troubles. But, against the odds, the set was an absolute show-stopper.

Winehouse attacks the songs as though she's performing them for the very last time, spitting out her lyrics with ferocious passion. When she sings "I cheated myself like I knew I would," you can literally taste the bitterness. And, while her voice is husky with experience, it's all the better for it.

Amy Winehouse - Grammy performance

The set is a complete contrast to poor old Britney's MTV "comeback" last year. Winehouse looks as healthy as she has done for months, and she's completely in control of her audience. It's a mesmerising performance, and something of a turnaround.

I believe one of the reasons for this is that, since Winehouse went entered rehab a fortnight ago, the British press have pretty much let her be. Okay, we heard when she was rushed to hospital, and later when she visited the US embassy, but there were no blurred pictures from inside the clinic, and no "friends" spilling the beans. Even her father, Mitch, managed to keep his trap shut for a couple of days.

Britney, on the other hand, is granted no such grace. The paparazzi even impeded the progress of her ambulance so they could get the all-important shot of her on a gurney (worth around $100,000, I'm told).

One British paparazzo, Nick Stern, has even quit in protest at the way Britney's meltdown is being milked by the media. "Directly or indirectly, Britney is going to come to some horrific end, or a member of the public will," he told the Guardian.

"It's not what's being done, it's the way it's being done. As she continues to deteriorate psychologically, I just can't see a positive way out."

So, what's the difference between the two "troubled" stars? Partly, I suspect, Britney is bigger business. A global superstar with a squeaky-clean image, her downfall is the ultimate example of celebrity hubris. Winehouse, on the other hand, was known to be an oddball with a penchant for weed, booze and ridiculous hair before her very public breakdown.

But, perhaps, there's also a moral code in British journalism that has allowed Amy the room to recover? As Alistair Campbell pointed out in a recent lecture, Hugh Cudlipp - former chairman of the Daily Mirror - warned in the 1960s that he would sack any reporter who intruded on private grief.

The tabloid press pretty much make their money from intruding on private grief these days (poor old Cheryl Cole), but nonetheless, it's interesting to think there might be an element of self-restraint still being practised by the media in this country.

What do you think?

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