April 20, 2006

The Comeback Kid

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Everyone likes a comeback. But I think that people revel in the loss of famous people’s fame just as much. Why not, when there’s an entire subset of popculture commentary that produces television shows like One Hit Wonder on vh1, eager to pounce on the fallen from grace and make light of lost stardom and the ever-fleeting fifteen minutes? With that kind of hostility waiting to announce a celebrity’s dreaded “has-been” status, it’s not surprising to see the lengths that people are willing to go through in order to hang on to the spotlight for dear life. I just think about the oddity that is William Shatner, the host of One Hit Wonder, who has miraculously achieved life after media death by fickle public opinion in building a subsequent career based solely on public self ridicule. Shatner has become the best living parody of his former self as Captain Kirk, but recharging an entertainment career doesn’t have to be a joke. Surely there’s no prototypical way of staging a comeback. There are the television actors who leap on the the big screen in the vain of George Clooney, and the child actors who break the mold to build reputable careers later in life like Drew Barrymore.

I think comebacks are more amazing when they occur after a career misstep that others might have floundered and never recovered from, like the amazing way Madonna has consistently been able to appear unphased by bad reviews of her equally bad movies roles. Of course reinvention or a return to the spotlight is not always an effective move. Sharon Stone’s over hyped and anticipated return to her breakthrough role in Basic Instinct 2 didn’t amount to much of anything, but a prolonged sequel more than worked for Ah-nuld and T:2 in the Terminator franchise, released nearly a decade after the original. Here are a few people that have successfully gone through a transformation or a slight reworking of their traditional terrain in my eyes.

LL Cool J and J. Lo in Lose Control

This track sounds like it should be blasting on an old school boom box circa 1987. It’s the latest single from LL’s forthcoming Todd Smith album, and was impeccably produced by Jermaine Dupri. LL’s slowed down flow reminds me of the sound of the glory days of hip hop a la Sugar Hill Gang when it was fresh and new but with a modern twist. Everyone is in awe of LL Cool J’s career longevity, and how he’s still a hot emcee at 37 years old. But I’m more surprised at Jennifer Lopez’s involvement with this hit than anything else. I simply cannot think of the last time she’s done something cool and forward-moving that broke away from the usual pop music mold. It’s the formulaic rapper / singer duet, but makes you do a refreshing double take. I guess Ms. Lopez is capable of a lot more musically than I ever gave her credit for.

Will Smith in Hitch

This is more about Will Smith’s redemption in my eyes. I mean Will Smith has never left the scene, and remains one of the biggest names in the business. But when this movie first came out, I refused to see it. Over the years Smith has acquired a cheesiness factor that downright annoys me. I don’t know if it was Wild Wild West or because he insists on recording more horrible rap albums, I can’t pinpoint it to be sure. However lame he seems at times, Hitch is a throwback to a time when Smith was a cool kid, back when he didn’t diss rappers who use profanity and when he chilled with Jazzy Jeff and wrote songs about the Summer time. The movie affirms Smith’s ability to carry a starring vehicle that shies away from the buddy comedies in which he first began his movie career.

Dave Chappelle in Block Party

America’s former favorite funny man (for a quick minute) decided to have all of his friends and favorite artists perform a concert in Brooklyn. The event was free for all, including residents from his Ohio town who came along for the ride. The result has been heralded as Chappelle’s return to form, and an enjoyable social remark and festival documentary. I don’t think we will see Dave Chappelle back in the spotlight quite to the extent of his height in fame, but a return to a former element always helps ease the transition.

Archived article by Sophia Asare
Sun Staff Writer