They're Too Sexy For This Blog
I've said it once, I've said it twice. Something was terribly awry with American culture in the early 90s. As strange and dysfunctional as American pop culture in the year 2006 seems to me, nothing can compare to the unbelievably bizarre clothing, hair, and music that somehow managed to dominate this strange nether-period between the excess and greed of the cocaine-drenched 1980s and the dot.com/boy band boom period of the later Clinton years. Yet out of all the profound weirdness that epitomized the 90s, nothing seems stranger than the phenomenon of Right Said Fred.
Certain events in history are constantly analyzed to figure out how and why they occurred : George Bush becoming President of the United States, the Holocaust, the unbelievably unwarranted rise to success of the Black Eyed Peas, but no one has effectively scrutinized why the pop star wunderkinds known as Right Said Fred, became the biggest band in America during the summer of 1991. Oh, sure people made fun of Right Said Fred at the time. They still do. All the time. But making fun of Right Said Fred is very similar to making fun of Chris Martin, it's cheap, easy, and ultimately very satisfying. And yet, it's easy to figure out why people like Coldplay. The members of the band are vaguely talented and Chris Martin is a nice stand-in for people who find Thom Yorke too intellectually taxing (and for the record Thom Yorke is far from a Mensa candidate).
Ultimately, the question remains: how in God's name did Right Said Fred, perhaps the most flamboyantly homosexual act since the Culture Club, storm to the top of the charts with a song called "I'm Too Sexy," and no one even questioned how a song this terrible, this weird, and so incredibly stupid could become the most popular song in the entire nation (it did hit #1 on the American charts, not to mention #2 in Britain behind Bryan "Canada Has Repeatedly Apologized For Me," Adams). Are to believe that at any time, a song and a video like Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy," is just waiting to strike? Are we to believe that tomorrow, two young British men have the potential to wake up and draft a song and music video featuring them flexing in mesh see through-tees. This is too much for me to handle.
What people don't seem to realize about Right Said Fred's shocking rise to popularity is that people went out and actually bought their record and watched their video. Sometime in 1991, millions of normally thinking Americans heard "I'm Too Sexy," on the radio or MTV and said to themselves, "Hmm...this is a pretty good song. These Right Said Fred boys are okay. I think Ima' go to the Wherehouse and pick up their album. I hope there are some more gems like "I'm Too Sexy On It."
Americans are normally a very homophobic people yet somehow they side-stepped all their prejudices and rushed to purchase an album made by two brothers whose sole attempt to claim musical legitimacy seems to involve lines like "I'm too sexy for my cat." 15 years later we're viciously fighting over whether or not gay marriage should be legalized, but not too long ago, American culture had no problem embracing two men who brag about "shaking their little tush on the catwalk." Huh? (Side note: The usage of the word "tush" in a song automatically nullifies any chance it may have of being a decent song. See "Tush" by Ghostface Killah and Missy "Rosie O' Donnell of rap" Elliot. However, this rule does not apply to ZZ Top.)
But perhaps the most fascinating thing about Right Said Fred isn't the cultural tidal wave that they began (what tidal wave? I'm getting to it), but that the members of Right Said Fred, Limey brothers Fred and Richard Fairbrass were actually accomplished musicians before starting a band that gave off the appearance of being born in a Berlin S&M dungeon. Apparently, Fred Fairbrass, the singer in the group went on tour at one point with Bob Dylan (this really is true). I can just imagine the conversations that must've gone on between Freddy F. and Bobby D.
Right Said Fred: "Bobby, I've got this great idea. Me and my brother are going to start this group called Right Said Fred. Our first single is going to be called "I'm Too Sexy," and the lyrics will involve me telling millions of people how not only I am too sexy for New York but that I'm also too sexy for Japan. What do you think? Does this spell hit or what?"
Dylan: It's no "It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding," but it's close. It's definitely very close.
However Freddy wasn't the only brother with musical bona fides as his brother Richard (who I'll bet dollars to donuts went by the nickname Dick) played bass with David Bowie and Mick Jagger on tour. Potential screenwriters start your engines now!
And now for the cultural ramifications that you've all been waiting for. You see, at first, I didn't get how Right Said Fred had occured, thinking their success to be an outgrowth of the culture at large, rather than seeing them as bold new vanguards of a cultural shift. I was wrong. If anything, Right Said Fred were innovators. Studying the lyrics and the video of "I'm Too Sexy" reveals it to be a not-so-clever satire of models. Think of it as a poorly done prototype for Zoolander. To the lazy observer, one might think of Right Said Fred and models and think that there's nothing more to the equation. However, 1991 is widely held as the dawn of the Supermodel era , and while there were supermodels prior to 1991, nothing compared to the adulation and attention that supermodels received in the period between 1991 and 1997 (when it is assumed that the era ended). The reason for this trend is simple: Right Said Fred.
Take into account the success of "I'm Too Sexy," and then think of the waves that it sent through the music and fashion industries. Dare you think of a little 1992 knock-off hit called "Supermodel," by she-male Rupaul. Or how about the sudden rise to fame of Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Elle McPherson, and Claudia Schieffer. Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell and Cristy Turlington. How about the ill-fated and much hyped Fashion Cafe, that featured the financial support of Turlington, McPherson, Schieffer and Campbell. Or how about a little 1994 movie that esteemed director Robert Altman did about the supermodel phenomenon called Pret A Porter. One can ascribe a variety of reasons for the madness that ensued during these years, but the answer is simple: Right Said Fred.
Oh sure, today there are supermodels that exist today, but one can't claim that they occupy the same space in the American zeitgeist that they did in the mid-90s. Perhaps this is a good thing. After all, who really cares about super models? But for a shining moment in time, Right Said Fred certainly cared about supermodels. They cared about walking on the catwalk. They cared about cats. We are in a very volatile time in America. There is war, rising interest rates, creeping inflation, gas shortages, but most importantly, we are living on the brink. At any time, Right Said Fred could return, or even worse, a Right Said Fred imposter, waiting to unleash some sort of fashion extravaganza on the unsuspecting vigilance. The moral of the story is thus: we must be vigilant people. You never know when the next Pussycat Dolls song might start a revolution. At arms.
However, one might wonder what the lasting impact of Right Said Fred was on the American cultural landscape. It would seem that since the supermodel trend is long-since over, any impact that Right Said Fred might've been washed away in the tide with the rest of pop culture flotsam and jetsam. Again, this is wrong. One only needs to watch a little movie called "The Pacifier" to see the impact of Right Said Fred. Have the men of Right Said Fred ever been seen in the same room with Vin Diesel? I think not. It seems that almost every time we got to the multi-plex these days to see an amiable movie about a guy who doubles as a spy/babysitter (genius) we see Right Said Fred. Apparently, they weren't too sexy for the movies.