Today’s Gimmick, Tomorrow’s Icon

While browsing You Tube over the weekend I came across the most amazing video of a 1971 Tina Turner performance with The Ikettes. I was not only struck by how amazing Ms. Tina and her all girl dance troop was, but judging from the some of the comments left, how controversial many of their performances were back then. Tina once spoke of how she and the Ikettes were banned from American television simply because they were sexy black women wearing mini-skirts. She also spoke of the slack she got for giving what was considered raunchy performances back at a time when women were still mostly conservative.

I could not help but juxtapose the negative attention Tina received 40 years ago with that many female artists get today. Both Beyonce and Rihanna have been criticized for their often crotch baring performances when in actually neither is doing anything new or unheard of. As a matter of fact, both admit to parodying artists who came before them. Rihanna has often cited Madonna as an influence on her, while Beyonce has cited Tina herself as her most major influence.

Likewise, long before Lil Kim, Foxy Brown and Nicki Minaj ever picked up a mic to spit their filthy lyrics, Okatown 357 were rapping about their juicy coochies driving men crazy.

Many of today’s most reviled and criticized female artists were influenced by women who came before them who were also reviled and criticized. Quite a few of those women went on to become respectable artists who are now seen as icons.

I say we should back off a little bit and let today’s divas do their thing and earn their stripes just as their predecessors did. Who knows, todays gimmick could very well be tomorrow’s legend.

FYI: Though I referred to The Ikettes as a dance troop, they were also performers in their own right who recorded albums and kept the crowd entertained while Tina was off stage.


  1. I might be inclined to agree with the author but I just cannot. Image has taken over everything and it has been this way since the 1980’s when videos became the main way in which people enjoyed music.

    Music is now about gimmicks and artists need to be visually appealing (Rihanna) or claim to represent some particular group or lifestyle (Lady Gaga) in order to be successful.

    Yes, a bunch of todays artists will become icons but many of them will be undeserving.

    Tina earned her stripes on the chitlin circuit. Todays artists have earned nothing. The media, stylists and PR people are the legend makers of today. They deserve the credit for creating treasure where nothing really exists except trash.

  2. I think some artists shake their behind to hide the fact that they can’t sing.

  3. Tina and The Ikettes were sick. The video is amazing. All of that was Ike’s idea. Too bad he was a nut.

    Anyway, I couldn’t agree more with the article. There is nothing new under the sun. Adina Howard’s antics 15 years ago would put Rihanna and Beyonce to shame. Millie Jackson 40 years ago would make even Lil Kim blush.

    If today’s artists are raunchy and over the top it is because they learned it from previous generations.

    The sixties brought about a whole new generation of artists that were heavily influenced by rock and roll and the sexual revolution. They single handedly set the tone for everything you see today.


    @NIKI-I sooooo agree with you, when you have no real talent you have to make up for it in other ways.

  5. I think this article is all about not passing judgement. NIKKI, I think a few people probably said the same thing about Tina but few would argue today that she is a bonafide legend.

    @STEPHANY- Get It Tina? Girl, her dancers were sho nuff putting it down too. The one at the end who drops it like its hot was killing it the whole time.

    Great video.

  6. I agree with @Nikki. I like rihanna, but her live performances are a mess. Her voice is good on her CD, but her voice live is another thing. I am glad though that she started dancing again and stopped with the walking back and forth.

  7. P.S. Tina was gettin it in that video. I can tell Beyonce was inspired by her. I love a performer who can dance and sing live at the same time.

  8. That video was awesome! Tina & the Ikettes could put on a show! I agree with the author. The only difference between now and then is sex sells more now than the music. People will make a song about anything these days and it goes to the top of the charts, rather than the real music. I love Beyonce as an entertainer, but her music sucks! She is a hard worker, but I hate her music after Dangerously In Love. No comment on Rihanna, that would take all day.

  9. The problem is that a lot of people (most of whom post here too) are hypocrites. They’ll call Beyonce and Rihanna all kinds of names for dressing sexual or whatever, but will defend Janet grabbing some guys crotch in front of children with some bs excuses. Check the post last year after her essence performance. How is Janet being on every cover pratically half naked during the 20y.o era any different from Rih or Bey? They feel the need to defend Janet b/c of her icon status.

    Like you said, nothing these artists do is new. Nothing Beyonce does on stage is even close to some of things Madonna pulled on stage, yet we consider her a legend. I don’t hear much about Gaga’s antics. It is often praised even though it is much more sexual than most. She goes out with her butt hanging out for crying out loud and the media eats it up!

    At the end of the day, some artists do use the sexual thing as a crutch. However, why do people talk about Beyonce like that’s all she does? The woman has received standing ovations fully dressed, standing and just singing a ballad. I didn’t see her flashing her crotch when she performed for the Obama’s and other notable world leaders. She knows when to turn if off and on. Why people continue to associate her with one image is baffling!

    I hate how these women get all this flack from other women, but some of these same women will go crazy over a man doing the same thing or worse. How many women on here who criticize Beyonce and Rihanna turn around and go crazy over trey songz, chris brown and all the other male artists who are just as sexualized, if not more on stage?

    Yes, some people do use it too much, but so did some of our legends (Madonna anyone?). I choose to not be a fan of those who solely rely on a sexual image. For example, I am not a fan of Rihanna because I don’t think she’s that talented and her off stage antics leave much to be desired. I used to have a problem with her lack of talent and to some extent, I still do. I just choose not to support her financially. However, she’s better than some of the White girls who continue to sell with no talent at all. If some of these white artists can get over with average looks, average voices and oversexualized images, then so can a Black woman.

  10. i agree with the notion of this article however its hard to respect artists like rihanna inparticualar who will always be critizised for her poor performances which she always seems to cover up with her promiscousn outfits.
    while its true to say tina turner was also ridiculed about her style its also fact that her true amazing talent always spoke louder volumes which why she is an icon! Fair enough to add that Beyonce is one definately worthy of this title 🙂

  11. I see Janet was mentioned by somebody and I DO understand why her name was brought up, but in her defense, Janet came into the business BUTTONED UP from head to toe. She didnt really rely on SEX to sell during the CONTROL era and the Rhythm Nation wasnt until the janet. era that she started to get her freak on. Iv like that Janet always gave a variety of images back in the 90’s…it wasnt always about SEX, SEX, SEX. I have no problems with artist being sexual, I DO have a problem with these so called “artist” only being one dimensional when it comes to the images and videos that they portray or put in the universe. But who am I to judge these individuals when we are all a part of a more corrupted corporation known as the USofA. *ya’ll meditate on that*

  12. This is a great article- really does make you think.

    I am a fan of Beyonce (as a live entertainer) and also Rihanna who we all can agree needs to be better at live shows.

    Rihanna can def sing, its just that her voice is so unique/weird whatever you want to call it. I think she has to find her niche when it comes to live stuff. Dare I say she prolly needs to practice more rather than shopping all the time ?! (i say that as a fan)
    She reminds me of shakira (shakira also gets mocked for sounding like a ‘goat’)

  13. Even if Tina and the Ikettes wear short skirts, they look classy. Today’s artists just look like trash. Tina Turner wearing a short skirt is very different from Rihanna wearing a short skirt. Plus Tina doesn’t boast about how big her butt is in her songs or how good she is in bed etc. You have to be blind and deaf no to see/hear that today’s music is worse than from the past.

  14. @Wizay..I am aware of the point of the article..I can read. My point was that “some” artists only have shaking their goods as a way of selling cd’s. Yes, there are artists who can sing and still shake it..I don’t think shaking your body should be the main selling point..I was not referring to Ms. Tina Turner who can obviously sing..I said “some”..not all

  15. Whom ever brought up Adina Howard… I thank you. “Freak like Me” is has to be one of my favorite damn songs ever and I love the fact that the woman sang about what she wanted and how she wanted it with no damn shame. Love her.

    Anyways, Sista you was right on point. At the end of the day today’s artists aint no damn different (style wise,performance wise) from yesterday’s artists. All I require from today’s artist that if you gonna be an entertainer, when your ass get on that damn stage, you better freakin’ own that ish. Go hard or go the hell home. Aint no time for the half steppin’. Tina murked that damn stage, gave me chills and ish.

    I always love the fact that Beyonce was sexy and she still is. Im glad she doesnt pay attention to the conservative critics (basically 90% of brownsista commenters) who are always offended by her performances regardless if she is fully dressed or not. I love black women who are sexy and bold with theirs. If you dont like it, go watch some quasi-soul performance by India.Arie or Jasmine Sullivan(ZZzzz).

  16. Tina Turner was and is a class act. I really don’t think her dancing crotch-shots are intended for the promiscuous proposals offered by artists today. Back then and before, musicians offered us SEX APPEAL, not actual sex, which makes a performer like Tina Turner much different from performers like Keri, Rhianna (however you spell it), Madonna, Janet, Beyonce, Lady “I do heavy drugs” Gaga, and so forth.

    During the 80’s and 90’s, artist started pushing and blurring the lines of what was sensual creativity and straight up lascivious bird calls. They pushed until they gave us too much, and too much is now enough. Nothing is left to suggestion and metaphor is no longer optional. Male artists should be condemned as well. We’ve migrated from Marvin Gaye singing “You sure love to ball” to Tre Songs chirps of “You gone think I invented sex”, Lil Wayne wishing he could bleep every girl in the world, etc, etc.

    We may caper in the blame game as long as we care to, but one reality will be admitted: the times we live in aren’t the same as then. There is no shame, respect or dignity left in this business of music. Most artist of current are spooning us pure cow shit and calling it chocolate pudding, and we eat away, cleaning the spoon with our minds’ tongue. Sure we can turn away, listen to other music, turn of the radio, but when the music business spends so much to make sure we and our children are exposed to their mania, who can truly avoid it? Artist must take responsibility for their personas just as I am responsible for what I choose to listen to. These people market to KIDS, not us. There is money to be made off the next generation, so they need them to be a absorbed into the bull as much as possible. Visual & audible sexual exploitation is equal to literal sexual exploitation, it damages, and both are emphatically, universally wrong.

    -That’s that piece.

  17. @ WooHoo

    Just because somebody white does it doesn’t mean we should. My aunt would ask me during my youth “If your friends jump off the MTV building, should you do it?” I didn’t know why she cited that place until now, but even then my answer was I definitely would not!

  18. Nothing Tina and the Ikettes did or sang was controversial. we have to go further than Tina’s generation, and look at the Blues Era. With Ma Rainey, Betsy Smith, Josephine Baker. And the black female dancers from that era. Those women were the original trailblazers. It’s true that everything is copied. but the reality of it is that before white audiences accepted it, and it became worldwide, this form of sexualized entertainment was already a big thing in the black neighborhoods, and the white folks copied it, sold, stole it. and now is a water down version of what was long since passed. the difference between the old and new is that the old had the real talent. Oh and if we want to go further than that, the African slave woman who was forced to dance sexually for the entertainment of white men and women.

    And as far as making mistakes, remember what Prince said, when he received his BET award, that he hoped the new generation wouldn’t make the same mistakes he did. Think about it, MJ and Prince came out the same time, but Prince never received the same attention MJ did. Why? not because he wasn’t equally talented, it was because MJ was more condusive to the general market.

  19. @ Bohwe

    Micheal (God rest his soul) was CLEANER as well.

  20. Ike was beating Tina and she didn’t have a choice of if she was going to dance like that or not…todays stars want everyone to lust after them..thus showing us their “goodies”…i mean we have beyodel performing in some lingire and rhiforhead tell us how she likes the smell of sex in the air..come on!! then they say..oh its just for the stage..ummm..ok..on In living color..tommy asked homey the clown what dignity was.homey put tommys icecream cone on tommys head and then bopped him with his sock..He said..”dignity is the opposite of the”…Homey don’t play that!!

  21. The difference with Tina and the others is that Tina has raw, unspeakable talent that no one could deny. Also she had soul even though some of her performances were sexy her vocals made feel everything.

    Even though I like Beyonce, she lack the uniqueness Tina had. I love rihanna even though she can’t really sing or perform because she has the realness that others are missing.

    Anyway, Tina was a BAD mother…. back in the day!

  22. Tina was and is amazing! Beyonce’s name gets thrown around a lot, but that’s because it’s obvious that she is very heavily influenced by her. That is Beyonce right now all the way! To me the difference with artists then and now, is the lyrics and content of the music. Bey doesn’t sing about anything important, but back then artists spoke of the sign of the times they lived in. Tina was revolutionary and had a strong story to back her up. Beyonce is a packaged artist who was trained from early on to be a performer and that’s it. Rihanna is just plain old nasty, while back then, it was about sex appeal and daring to be different.

  23. Please! Tina had something to sing about she has soul in her voice and her dance movement it was all releases to her. she went through hell and music was her refuge
    thats why she became an icon , on top of her ragingly good voice and serious dance move. she was unarguably talented she didnt need stans to jump online and defend her everyone could agree that she was the shit even people who didnt particularly listen to her!

    Beyonce now is uninteresting to me, she was cool for 5 min (Dangerously in love was a fierce effort) but i never went through an entire album of her after that, it’s nothing but sex and no depth with her that why people compare her to rihanna both empty execpt beyonce has a decent singing voice
    btw any fan trying to come at me save your breath i wont read it and i wont buy beyonce’s or rihanna album so you lose either way

  24. Oh and also if beyonce becomes and icon so will rihanna, sorry both are underserving of the title for they are products not real!

  25. @ Rene
    you hit it right on the head. I’m totally with you.

  26. I could give two chicken about bey once or rihanna being naked. I like to live and let live. I have a problem with you bey once fans trying to make me believe that under all lion hair, make up and prostitute attire is not bey once, But some other person that snatch her body and go on stage and act like a hot cooched jezabel.

    Rihanna knows her place, but beyonce and her people are trying to pass her off for a virtuoso, You can’t convince me or the other million of people in this country that don’t buy this crap.

    But if that’s what you’re into, it’s fine 🙂 I’ve seen the kind of people that listen to her anyway and trust me, you are more than welcome to ride for her all day long, but don’t try and feed me any crap.

  27. Original potty mouth tell it like it is girrrrrl MILLIE JACKSON. pulled out her old songs. LOVE HER!!!

  28. Wow……just wow Tina & The Ikettes were no joke they put a lot of these newer artists to shame. Those women have more talent in their one pinky finger than some of the new artists have in their entire bodies.

  29. Well, Tina is a legend. Most people who love entertainment and understand the history of the industry won’t argue with you.

    Sista, you can Josephine Baker to that as well. But the problem with topics like this is gives people the excuse to attack today’s artists. First of all, every entertainer has a “gimmick” or niche. They usually use “stagenames”, it’s very rare when they use their real name.

    Rihanna said something that was really interesting to me, she said that she wasn’t going to act in movies in which she had to sing because she said that that all they are going to see is her and that she “plays Rihanna” everyday(her real name is Robyn as some know).

    So everything about the entertainment industry is “gimmicky”, the whole thing is whether people respond to it or whatever. But it shouldn’t be reflective of their overall character, because we don’t know them and no person is only two dimensional. In fact, when we see a person prostitute or strip, there are many factors behind it and some of the most sexual are people who hide behind conservative clothes because that’s not all they are either.

    What about actors? We don’t judge their character off the roles we play.

    In fact, if we did, we would think of Dorothy Dandridge as oversexual if judge by her role as Carmen Jones. But we know through auto-biographies of her that she was nothing like that and it was a stretch for her to do those roles.

    It’s people making excuses for why they don’t like them. If you don’t like their music or performing, then just say it. Don’t hide behind the oversexualized argument, be a man or woman about it.

  30. @Shontelle

    Well it is Beyoncè AS A PERFORMER, but that’s not all she is. That’s a very important point. Like Wohoo said, there are different layers to her as a performer and that’s why she has fans.

    In fact, that’s where we can see that Tina is an influence on her in that way because see how all Tina needed was her band and her. Bey is the same way, but she sometimes pushes the envelope. That’s the difference.

  31. Back then entertainers had something to work with. I watched a video of Josephine Baker (from 1921)dance…OMG!! She was a beast!!! The soul was in her heart, her gestures, it was her life. She lived in breathed it!!!
    A lot of celebrities (including actors) sell sex to get more airplay/recognition. Eva Mendes showed her cootch & titties in Training Day and that was her first big break. She played in Hitch and was completely amazing! She was sexier in that movie than Training Day. It’s nothing new…SEX Sells — it’s surival of the fittest. You don’t sell sex you go behind the shelf.
    I love a lot of the neo-soul artist like Jill Scott, Goapele, Angie Stone, Ledisi, etc. They don’t show skin but have amazing voices!!!

  32. I saw Beyonce perform in Germany and she was amazing. She did some booty shaking stuff but most of her performances were very graceful.
    But I have to wonder, celebrities can show off their body parts, spread their legs, inhale bananas (S&M video**), but when young girls & women see that and try it, we don’t get the same respect they get. We get called 3-5 letter words and have our tail tucked behind us.
    I mean is this really female empowerment or just artist making money and keeping us in a fantasy world by telling us what we want to hear? I followed a lot of that crap as a young adult and it’s a joke. Parents have to teach their children, especially girls how to be classy, young women. You can’t be showing off your panties coz’ Rihanna or Lady Gaga do it…ya dig!

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