“Vibe” Gives You A Sweet, Sweet Fantasy Of Access

May 15th, 2008 // Comment

mccc.jpgOnce again, we present Rock-Critically Correct, a feature in which the most recent issues of Rolling Stone, Blender, Vibe, and Spin are given a once-over by a writer who’s contributed to many of those magazines, as well as a few others! In this installment, he looks at the new issue of Vibe:

Anono-Prick passed on assessing the March and April issues of Vibe. He recalls glancing at the former and thinking that it didn’t look very interesting; as for the latter, he thought that it was kinda lame that the mag went with a Lil Wayne cover story less than six months after the guy led their November issue. AP wanted to be generous to Vibe this time around.

So the June 2008 Vibe, which is intended to herald the summer, appears with none other than the patron saint of all outerborough broads on the cover. Mariah Carey, make no mistake, still sells records–at a time in which expectations for sales of tangible recorded product dwindle down further and further, she commands something like a consensus. Fortyish hausfraus remember “Vision of Love” fondly, their younger, cougar-ish sisters and cousins still dance to “Fantasy” at the club, and their daughters either prize her influence on American Idol contestants or contemplate twisting around the pole to the strains of “Touch My Body.” And all manner of dudes would not, shall we say, turn that shit down. (AP digs most of her singles a ton; “One Sweet Day” with Boyz II Men is his fave.)

Vibe can’t go wrong, right? You’d think that the mag would send a scribe to follow Carey around for a bit and perhaps extract some clues that she was very serious about Nick Cannon, the actor/rapper described in the story as a “recent acquaintance” and whom she married a month after the events described in this issue took place?

No dice. There is no evidence in “Body Language,” the piece accompanying the cover, that Ms. Carey consented to anything vaguely resembling an interview with the piece’s writer, associate editor Shanel Odum. In her editor’s letter, EIC Danyel Smith describes a delegation including herself, Odum, fashion editor Memsor Kamarake, and photo editor Robyn Forest traipsing off to Antigua, where Carey celebrated her birthday and where the reporting and the photo shoot for this story transpired.

Odum employs mucho purple prose in depicting the firestorm that ensues amongst Carey’s handlers in the run-up to a photo shoot, how Carey comports herself during the shoot itself, and how much she, her nephew, Cannon and bunch of other folks enjoyed themselves during her lavish birthday celebration that evening. Odum records one solitary quote from Carey, during the shoot, in which she requests different lighting.

And that’s it: the mag’s readers are supposed to be satisfied with a few words regarding Odum’s five hours in Carey’s general, but very fabulous, vicinity.

It’s hard to understand how Smith, an editor whose first time at the rodeo was many years ago (she alludes to her own audience with a more forthcoming Carey for a Vibe story a decade ago in her editor’s letter), could possibly stand for her writer being denied significant access to the subject of her magazine’s cover story. She had to have known this would be a dog of a story, notwithstanding what might have been a pleasant trip for her and her staffers.

If a celebrity is awarded the cover of a entertainment magazine, then that celebrity will consent to at least fifteen minutes of innocuous conversation with a reporter for the magazine. Perhaps the reporter will try to solicit an interesting quote, which a celebrity of Carey’s caliber will do their level best to bat away. At least that’s been the prevailing modus operandi for entertainment journalism for the past twenty years, but maybe Smith and her peers are adjusting to the following, emerging facts:

1. superstars will grant the access they feel like at a particular time;
2. vague access is better than no access;
3. superstars are not afraid of alienating particular music magazines, a double-fucked species of cultural commerce; and
4. editorial muckety-mucks can go jump in the lake if they don’t like any of the above.

Indeed, it could be that Carey’s surrogates dicked Smith and her retinue around, or it could be that Smith agreed to the Carey camp’s contention that she would not speak directly to a Vibe writer–although this seems inconceivable to AP. It could also be that Smith knows that her group left Antigua with something much, much more important than a record of Carey’s current state of mind. Namely, they left with photographs of Carey arching her back and frolicking in three expensive swimsuits while on the beach. This, more than evidence of a fleeting conversation, was Smith’s primary quarry in Antigua, and the consequences would have been far more grave should she have returned without it.

Otherwise, the June issue includes a list of the top “summer bangers” (and runners-ups) of the past decade, of which AP can only say that from May to September 2006 he heard Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’ Dirty” a helluva lot more than he heard T.I.’s “What You Know” on the radio. And “It’s Murder,” an oral history regarding Irv Gotti’s Murder Inc., the gangsta pop idiom Gotti proffered in the early ’00s, and feuds with both federal government and with 50 Cent, is mildly interesting, if premised on the shaky notion that Gotti’s hitmaking acumen is undimmed.

In Ms. Smith’s editor’s letter, she paraphrases ODB’s fabled verse on Carey’s “Fantasy”: “Vibe and Mariah do go back like babies and pacifiers.” AP supposes that’s not far back enough to ensure that the writer of the cover story for her magazine was granted at least a brief conversation upon which a semi-credible profile could be constructed. Smith’s editor’s letters have alluded to at best the opacity and at worst the uncooperative attitudes of the people on her magazine’s covers. Perhaps it would have been impolitic to candidly discuss what seems like a gratuitous insult from Camp Carey, but AP would have appreciated a bit of transparency from Smith on this matter.

But, like AP said above, Smith got the most important things she needed in Antigua: several photographs of Mariah Carey in a number of bathing suits.

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