But Kim – unlike McKnight who at the end of the day is a gifted singer/songwriter – is only as good as whoever is supporting her. At the height of her fame she had the Notorious B.I.G. penning her lyrics, and Sean (nee Puffy) Combs as a hype man/producer. With each year of Biggie’s passing, Kim’s musical quality has changed and now she’s reduced to a playing a cartoon version of her former glory.
This is why folks who keep saying Beyoncé or Rihanna or whomever needs to “take a break” or “go away so we can miss you” fall on deaf pop singer ears. Are you crazy? The minute they kick off their Louboutins and pop out some babies and get some much deserved sleep, there will be some other slinky 20-something gyrating her way up the charts who will suck away all the attention. Then four or five years will pass and they’ll try to put on their sparkly onesies and start booty popping to their biggest hits and you’ll be all: “Ew. No one rocks onesies anymore. And who produced this track? It’s garbage. It sounds like something that would have come out four years ago. That’s not hot. Boo, girl. Boo.”
This is why Justin Timberlake, if he’s not careful, might not have an R&B career to return to if the acting gigs dry up. He’s been replaced by Justin Bieber, who put out a “Timberlake-lite” new album for those tired of waiting for him to get back to singing. This is why Usher Raymond is singing over the same Euro-synth beats, following a trend rather than leading it as he tries to stave off Chris Brown, while not openly challenging Dancey McAngry Pants.
This is why Jay-Z and Madonna never really retire. They know (and believe) the old adage that you’re only as good as your last hit. And as the Fairy Shademother, vlogger Patti LaHelle says, you may be “flopulous,” aka “fabulous for a flop,” but that pesky word “flop” is still in there.
Think of Jennifer Lopez, the once tabloid staple who just a few years ago was a punch line with no hits who’d been dropped by her record label. Look how hard she had to rehab her reputation with American Idol, find new producers, and divorce her way back to relevancy.
She knew that for every Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez who managed to fall off and climb back onto the celebrity train, there are so many others who can’t even be found on the backs of milk cartons. I’m sure she put up a picture of Toni Braxton for motivation above her treadmill and screamed “NOT ME” over and over.
Not that there’s anything wrong with Braxton. But she has a reality TV show she wants to quit with her sisters on WeTV. We all know she’d rather be headlining a major concert tour, selling records and banking millions, instead of listening to her sister Tamar bellow out her hatred of singing “doo-wop-bop-bop” in the background.
And that’s where you go when you take a break in this “youth is king” celebrity culture. To the background. And as Tamar (and her new spin-off show) will tell you, the background sucks dot com.
Kim has already gone the Dancing With the Stars route, so at this point in her career it would just make sense to ease into her “Lady of Hip Hop” stateswoman status, write (or have ghost-written) a tell-all memoir, occasionally tour for the cash, then settle into a nice life giving pithy comments about her peers on Vh-1 Behind the Music specials.
As for McKnight, he can still write and produce songs and there are still artists out there who need to “pretend” that they wrote a song. It seems odd to say this, but he should really look to Kandi Burruss as an example. Go write some soulful country songs. They still value a really good ballad or two in that genre. Brian: You can still write hits — they’ll just have to be for someone other than you.
But as for your days of duking it out with the young folks on the top 40, that moment might be gone.
I’d never say never (J. Lo!), but maybe these older stars should get themselves accustomed to the softer side of fame.