I swear, after this I’m done with the Akon thing. It’s become a far bigger news story than I expected, and gone on for far too long.
Since it’s finally been picked up by the television news, I knew something had to give. And it was Verizon. After they pulled the financial plug on the Gwen Stefani Sweet Escape tour, I was waiting for the next shoe to drop.
This has been such a controversial issue, I want to state my final opinion with utmost care. Please don’t come at me with that tired what-was-she-doing-there-and-wearing-that-outfit-too argument. I’ve heard it before. And I agree with you – she certainly didn’t look or act like a fourteen/fifteen year old. The club should have been checking ID, she should have never been allowed in. I am in complete agreement with that. She must be the champion wool puller to have fooled her preacher daddy so well for so long. But Danah Alleyne isn’t the only teenager to act this way, she just happened to get caught on tape with an up-and-coming celebrity. In fact, behavior like hers seems to be a trend, teenagers who dress and act like adults, and then have to face adult consequences.
It seems to me that this upcoming generation is growing up at the speed of light. I go to the mall on a Saturday and there they are, large groups of teens who seem to be very involved in elaborate displays of adult role playing. Pouting and preening girls, and swaggering, macho guys. I thought it might be a Miami thing, we live in a sexy city, so perhaps some kids here grow up quicker than they do elsewhere. Either way, I can’t relate to them. But it isn’t just here in Miami. Kids are acting grown all over the world. There have been shocking news stories about kids having sex in classrooms all over the country. Jacksonville, Florida. Fort Worth, Texas. Fifth graders in Louisiana. It’s also happening in Trinidad and ironically, the Virgin Islands. And I thought kids when I was growing up were “bad girls,” but I never heard of anyone having actual sex when I was fourteen, much less in a classroom. And then filming it and putting it up on YouTube? That’s just crazy. But it seems like a real indication that the next generation is becoming sexualized far earlier than my generation was.
“When I was fourteen, I didn’t know how to wine like that!”
“I remember when I was fourteen, I was still playing with dolls.”
“When I was that age, I was scared of boys.”
“I remember when I was fourteen, I was wearing Cross Colors, not dressing like I was being put out on the stroll by Bishop Don Magic Juan.”
Well alright, then. We can sit around and remember our own, relatively innocent youth till the cows come home. But like Tony Soprano said, “Remember when is the lowest form of conversation.” Comparing what you or I were like when we were teenagers doesn’t address the real issues underneath this incident. And accusing a minor of bringing this on herself by acting like a grown woman doesn’t acknowledge the face that Akon’s performance was simulated, graphic sex.
I just watched the video with a Jamaican friend of mine last night. Shockingly, she hadn’t seen or even heard about it before. “What Akon video?” she asked. And she’s a young woman who has been to many a party, and seen the length and breadth of dancehall behavior. So I clicked on WestIndianTube.com, a site that features myriad versions of the Akon video. And we’re watching the first few seconds and she’s like “So what, that’s what we do at Caribbean parties.” Then he drags her across the floor, and her eyes widened and she said, “Whoa!” Then at the end, when he leaves her used, on the ground, she said “how he gon’ jus leave her pon de floor dey so?” My point exactly. It just went way too far, and was not a good look for Akon regardless of age.
I think Akon’s trying to do the same thing that R. Kelly does, somehow balance an image of sexy thug with uplifting songwriter. I don’t understand how it’s working for R. Kelly (I side with Novaslim on that issue), and it’s not gonna work for Akon. Big, impossibly wealthy mega corporations like Verizon don’t throw their money behind liabilities. It’s a simple business decision. And the only reason Snoop Dogg still is doing commercials on TV and representing products is because all he does is rap about it, there hasn’t been a scandalous video of him actually acting out his lyrics.
If Akon wants to bring the action to the stage, it seems to me that he could learn a thing or two from Uncle Luke. Yes, Miami’s own Uncle Luke. He’s been putting on sexually explicit shows for years, and instead of flirting with danger by choosing random audience participants, he’s savvy enough to hire a staff of professional, age appropriate dancers to get freaky during his show.
Akon has done these hypersexed performances all around the world, and his screaming audiences certainly seem to have no problem with that. But it doesn’t fit into the image that his corporate sponsors are supporting. The Akon on stage, giving female audience members an on-stage ride doesn’t jibe with the Akon who croons “Don’t Matter,” or who goes on tour with Gwen Stefani, and sings along to “Sweet Escape.”
I can’t help but wonder if he could have quashed this story himself. If Akon had taken ownership of the incident early, and come forth and said he was sorry back in April when it happened, perhaps the story wouldn’t be dragging on a month later. But his apology only came after money was being taken out of his pocket. It makes me wonder if he’s actually learned anything as a result of all of this.
Six months, a year down the road when Danah Alleyne has been long forgotten, will Akon continue to be cognizant of his on-stage behavior? Will he do a 180 and begin to present himself as an upstanding performer and role model? He really is a talented songwriter, will he use his abilities to uplift and deliver a positive message? As long as the records keep selling, and audiences keep cheering for his raunchy antics, probably not. And so we all move on to the next scandal.