DON'T DIE: Pink and the other female pop stars who risk their lives while Justin Bieber sits on a stool
Remember when you went to a concert and someone famous sang to you? That doesn't happen much anymore, at least if your seeing a female pop star perform. Yesterday, singer Pink was rushed to the hospital when she fell from her harness during a concert in Germany. The artist was performing a song in mid-air when she dropped 8 feet, landing on a steel barricade. Escaping major injuries, the artist tweeted that the fall was a result of not getting clipped into the harness properly. Sure but why were you flying in the first place?
Maybe it's because she's female. "Like everything else, there's a double standard with female artists. How they look is going to matter more than men. It's pored over in magazines and on TV and drives their career," says Caryn Ganz, deputy editor of RollingStone.com. "That translates to their live performances," she explains. Whether it's to flaunt their body or test their strength, female pop stars are expected to visually blow people's minds. For most chart-topping women, their physical appearance is just as important--if not more important-- than their music. "With so many more female pop stars than male pop stars they really have to differentiate themselves to stand out, and that sometimes means taking physical risks," adds Ganz.
These days, those risks are crucial when it comes to ticket sales. Pollstar, the concert trade publication, reports that North American tour revenue has dropped by $200 million in 2010. The top-selling headliners are both old school all-male bands (Bon Jovi in the US, A/C worldwide), with a loyal, multi-decade fan-base. Newer acts may be expected to up the ante just to stay on tour. Already, Christina Aguilera-- a rare pop star known more for her set of pipes than anything else-- had to cancel her tour due to sluggish sales. It's no wonder Pink is doing back-flips.
Meanwhile, Justin Bieber, outfitted in high-tops (high-tops!), only has to point at the first row to hold his own on tour this year. "In terms of male pop stars who take extreme physical risks on stage-- it starts and stops with Michael Jackson," says Ganz. "Even Justin Timberlake's tour a few years ago was more about proving he's a serious musician than doing crazy stunts. If you watch "This is It," you'll see Jackson set the standard for men, and no one's done it since." That may be why Lady Gaga, was asked to open for Michael's last tour. Only a female pop star could match his showmanship.
And not necessarily someone like Jessica Simpson. Pop stars without cookie-cutter looks seem to take greater risks on stage. Taylor Swift, with her prom queen beauty, can strum her guitar and be gazed at enviously by teenagers. But someone like Pink or Lady Gaga who challenge female beauty conventions, have to provide more of a spectacle. "Pink is an artist who defined herself with an edge, but then when live ticket sales began plummeting industry-wide, she was probably persuaded into high-wire theatrics," suggests Kenny Herzog, managing editor of the music site Mog.com.
While Pink is a trained dancer, its not enough for her to do a few flips on the dance floor. She has to fly. Similarly, Lady Gaga must prove she can withstand a fire-breathing piano--or worse, a dance routine in 6 inch heels. (See just how hard that is here). Madonna, the original dare-devil pop queen, has had to prove she's ageless. "On her Confessions Tour she roller skated and on her Drowned World tour she hung from a silk rope like someone out of 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'" says Ganz. "She could have gotten pretty hurt." It's unlikely Richie Sambora had to pull those moves on stage. And yes, she also played guitar.
UPDATE: A commenter correctly pointed out that Justin Bieber did in fact fly over the crowd in concert in order to spray paint a fake building. Just a guess, but it probably wasn't in heels, by his ankles or at the ripe age of 50. Anyway, I stand corrected. You be careful too Beebs.