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May 07, 2003

Monica Schroeder

I've been listening to Monica Schroeder's Orbit album more or less non-stop since I got it a couple of days ago, primarily because I think she's got just about the most fabulous voice I've heard in a year or two -- rich, warm, velvety; like hot chocolate in musical form. Also, she's a fine songwriter, in the Natalie Merchant - Sarah McLachlan vein of things. Don't take my word for it, of course: This CD Baby page has sound sample (I suggest "Poison"), and you can order the album there, too. That's a hint. Basically, it's a good enough package that I wonder why Monica Schroeder isn't already with a major label. Other women are putting out music in the same genre that simply isn't as good.

Specifically, I wonder how much of Schroeder's indie status is due to the fact that, as you can see by the picture, she's not Britney Spears, or even Sarah McLachlan. Given the fact that outside one or two female rappers, I can't think of a single solo woman artist with a major record deal that could be described as more than a few ounces from a Maxim-defined definition of appropriate weight, I have to wonder if Schroeder sent in the demos only to have them chucked out unheard because some A&R person got a look at her picture and couldn't figure out how to sell a voice in the music business.

I'm not immune to a pretty girl with a pretty voice (for proof of this, see my most recent IndieCrit review, in which I make a stone cold ass of myself), but I'm also someone who is at point in his life where what I expect out of my female musicians is that they play and sing interesting music, period, end of sentence. When you can write and sing like Monica Schroeder, my basic feeling about it is, someone tell Jewel to get the hell off the stage.

Mind you, I could be way off base here -- Schroeder, who releases her own albums, might simply have decided to go the Ani DiFranco route of releasing her own albums in order to keep the money she makes and to determine the course of her own musical career. If that's the case, then obviously more power to her. But if she's an indie artist because no major music label wants to make an effort sell music before an image, well, that's just a shame. And, quite clearly, more reason to support indie music, which if nothing else, has the virture of putting music first.

Now stop reading and go buy this album. Do it. Don't make me come over there.

Posted by john at May 7, 2003 10:51 AM

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Comments

Guy Matthews | May 7, 2003 11:24 AM

*shrug* looks pretty much like a babe to me, but then again I'm weird :P.

Guy Matthews | May 7, 2003 11:25 AM

(afterthought disclaimer for the unnecessarily anal: term 'babe' not meant in a derogatory or belittling sense. :PPP)

Roger | May 7, 2003 01:12 PM

> I can't think of a single solo woman artist
> with a major record deal that could be
> described as more than a few ounces from a
> Maxim-defined definition of appropriate weight

Let's just take a peek over at
http://www.billboard.com/bb/charts/bb200.jsp


Kelly Clarkson probably has more than a few
extra ounces.

I'm not sure about Cher these days.

Norah Jones would seem to be outside the Maxim
limit.


And that's just in the top ten at the moment.

John Scalzi | May 7, 2003 01:19 PM

You're joking, right?

Roger | May 7, 2003 01:32 PM

No, sir, I'm not. But just out of clarity, are
you asking if I'm joking about these people
holding "major record deals" (which is, to be
honest, somewhat debatable) or if I'm joking
about these people being in the same weight-class
(within ounces) as the average Maxim cover model?

Kelly Clarkson's weight is even the cover story
for the latest issue of "Us" magazine.

John Scalzi | May 7, 2003 01:50 PM

"Kelly Clarkson's weight is even the cover story
for the latest issue of 'Us' magazine."

Rather ominous news for women, I'd have to say. If Kelly Clarkson's weight can be considered a legitimate issue, we've all gone way over the deep end.

The irony is that women who are model thin look sort of scary in real life. I used to interview movie actresses in person for my job and the one thing you notice about them all is that they seem almost frighteningly bony. The first time I met Cameron Diaz (while she was doing press for The Mask), I literally had to bite my tongue to keep from asking her if she wanted a bagel or something.

Rob | May 7, 2003 01:54 PM

I think that the fact that Kelly Clarkson is considered to have a weight issue speaks volumes about our image-obsessed society and in particular the image makers in the industry.

Rob | May 7, 2003 02:11 PM

Oo, I think we posted at the same time...

John Scalzi | May 7, 2003 02:13 PM

Yes, the decrying of Kelly Clarkson's utterly mythical weight problem, in stereo.

Burns! | May 7, 2003 04:37 PM

I'd love to continue the weight discussion, but...
This sounds like a great record. I dug the samples on the CDBaby site, and ordered immediately. My copy should arrive within a couple of days.

Thanks, John.

Henry | May 7, 2003 06:39 PM

http://www.etonline.com/celebrity/a15640.htm

This article has some quotes from the "Us" article. When I searched for her on the internet to see who you guys were talking about, I thought I had the wrong person. Are the entertainment execs just making this stuff up, or do people actually statistically buy more records from someone who weighs 95 pounds than from someone who weighs 105 pounds?

Tripp | May 8, 2003 10:15 AM

I have to shrug about the whole thing. The 'industry' promotes what sells. They might have some influence over public taste, but for the most part they pander to existing preferences.

If you really want to help the situation then invent a camera lense that distorts things so fat people look good and thin people look skeletal.
Tripp

John Scalzi | May 8, 2003 10:21 AM

"If you really want to help the situation then invent a camera lense that distorts things so fat people look good and thin people look skeletal."

Thus trading in one unhealthy and irrelevant body ideal for another. Probably NOT the best idea there, Tripp.

Tripp | May 9, 2003 10:28 AM

Huh?

The 'ideal' is inherrent in us, it is not thrust upon us by industry. Industry simply presents us with what we consider 'ideal', over and over, in endless trivial variations.

So a camera lens that made fat people look ideal would simply open up the pool of potential actors.

mark | May 9, 2003 10:46 AM

No, Tripp, the ideal was once inherent to us, but over the decades of progressively thinner models of "the ideal", our expectations have changed. Consider Kelly Clarkson. Consider Cameron Diaz. Which one is the ideal weight?

Okay, now consider which one is marketed as being the "ideal weight", and which one is dangerously "overweight"?

John Scalzi | May 9, 2003 11:22 AM

Agreement with Mark. By today's beauty standards, Marilyn Monroe is hopelessly pudgy. And of course if you look at Italian renaissance paintings, you'll note that all the nude women in them have little pot bellies. Nor is supermodel-thin a standard of beauty worldwide even today.

If you assume that what's being marketed at you today is as things ever were, Tripp, you're merely signaling that the marketing's worked its wiles on you.

Also, it's worth noting that one of the reason super-models are so scary-thin in real life is that photography (thanks to its inherent two dimensionality, which flattens out features) makes people appear "wider" than they are. This is the root of the saying "the camera adds 15 pounds." The models end up taking that 15 pound off their own bodies in real life to look good on paper. Sad.

Tripp | May 9, 2003 12:28 PM

What is considered 'ideal', as far as men are concerned, has changed very little over time.

It comes down to 'fertility', and that is signaled by youth and good genes.

Youth manifests itself as 'large breasts, light hair, nice figure (waist to hips ratio).'

Good genes manifest themselves as 'average' facial features (where 'average' does not mean 'common' or 'ordinary', but rather 'average size, shape, and location'.)

Yes, I know there have been times when certain societies have emphasized certain aspects. In Rubens time, plumpness indicated youth. Today, thinness does. Rather than wasting away to death like horses, people today gain weight throughout their lives.

Certain industries try to push their particular potions - Jeans emphasize the ass, cosmetics hide wrinkles, hair colors hide grey and lighten hair.

It is all just to make women into what men (innately, as a group) desire.

Of course, the women buy it because they want to be wanted.

So, we've got the situation when men want what they want shaped by millions of years of evolution, women want to be wanted (shaped by the same million years), and industry sells them that.

And you blame industry?

I know that lenses add weight, and in person models will look different than they do on film. That's not the point. The point is how they look on film.

As for models losing wieght to look good on paper - that is their job. Do you have the same pity for professional football lineman who bulk up to be good at their jobs?

I suppose it is sad, in the same way that liking sweets and salty foods is sad. Evolution hasn't had time to adapt to current conditions.

But I really don't get off on blaming industry.

John Scalzi | May 9, 2003 12:52 PM

"As for models losing wieght to look good on paper - that is their job. Do you have the same pity for professional football lineman who bulk up to be good at their jobs?"

Sure I do. It's ridiculous that a man is required to carry so much weight on his frame that the end result is arthritis at the age of 40, especially for a goal of playing a game. Likewise, women should not be induced to exist at a point of chronic near-starvation to satisfy an ideal of beauty that is designed NOT by a general culture, but by an industry trying to sell a narrow definition of beauty.

What men find instinctually attractive is not thinness but health -- which is why in the real world attractive women come in a range of sizes and shapes, with the common denominator being obvious physical well-being. The current fetish with thin is indeed a change from previous standards of beauty; put Cameron Diaz next to Rosalind Russell and tell me you don't see a difference.

Incidentally, thinness is not typically a sign of fertility. Female bodies that lack a certain amount of body fat don't ovulate on a regular basis; indeed, a girl with less than a certain amount of body fat will not experience puberty until substantially later than the women around her. Ballet dancers and other women with extremely low body fat percentages are susceptible to delayed menstruation and other physical ailments that signify less fertility, not more.

So by your own argument, a standard of beauty that emphasized thinness is explictly unnatural, since it interferes with the fertility signals that men instinctually pick up. If it's unnatural, then it's probably reinforced by an outside concern. Possibly industries concerned with promoting a perticular, idealized version of what beauty is so that they can sell products to cater to them.

Bulked-up linebackers don't necessarily make for a better game of football. Starved-out models don't necessarily make for a better image of beauty.

And, to get back to the particular case of Ms. Schroeder, being rail-thin is neither here nor there as regards the quality of her voice and songwriting skills.

Tripp | May 9, 2003 03:27 PM

Okay, I'll take the bait.

"Sure I do. It's ridiculous that a man is required to carry so much weight on his frame that the end result is arthritis at the age of 40, especially for a goal of playing a game."

Are you putting me on? Professional football is a job with specialized requirements, for which the workers are, presumably, well compensated.

"Likewise, women should not be induced to exist at a point of chronic near-starvation to satisfy an ideal of beauty that is designed NOT by a general culture, but by an industry trying to sell a narrow definition of beauty."

Wow. I agree completely. Except I certainly don't think the movie industry is trying to design an ideal of beauty. And I don't think women are coerced to follow it. But, if the industry WAS doing that, and women WERE induced, then I agree that should not happen.

"What men find instinctually attractive is not thinness but health -- which is why in the real world attractive women come in a range of sizes and shapes, with the common denominator being obvious physical well-being."

What about perfectly healthy OLD women? I don't mean the kinds that look young. I mean a healthy 80-year old. Men in general find her more attractive than, say, a mildly overweight 20 year old? I don't think so.

As for attractiveness health comes after youth, as one of the signs of youth and fertility. I agree that health is important, but it is not more important than youth.

"The current fetish with thin is indeed a change from previous standards of beauty; put Cameron Diaz next to Rosalind Russell and tell me you don't see a difference."

I see a difference, but you are picking specific examples. Watch some old movies, from the 30's and 40's, and see how thin all the women are. I mean simply tiny waists. Wasn't there a line like that in 'Gone With the Wind'? Putting the question back to you; put Brittney Spears next to Katherine Hepburn and tell me you don't see a difference.

Regarding thinness and fertility: I know that some gymnasts and female athletes can stop their periods. I doubt if any of the commonly identified 'beauties' are not having a menstrual cycle.

Regarding Ms. Schroeder, I empathize. I'm not sure if she wants to be a singer, songwriter, pop star, or entertainer, but I'm sure she knows the requirements for all of them. If she REALLY wants to be all 4, she can do it. It would take time, money, and probably surgery, but it could be done.

A personal example - coming out of high school I had the grades and athletic ability to get a football scholarship to the Air Force academy. At the time, I REALLY wanted to be a pilot. Alas, at the time, to be a pilot in the Air Force you had to have perfect vision, something which I did NOT have, and could not get.

So I didn't go. I can still get a private pilot's license, if I want. And, today, I can surgically correct my eyes. Neither of these are important to me, though.