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[whitespace] Victoria Beckham
Is Victoria Beckham better than Kylie Minogue?

Old Spice

What becomes a semicelebrity most?

By Gina Arnold

YOU KNOW that Andy Warhol quote about how everyone will be famous for 15 minutes? He forgot to mention that there would be a few people who are famous forever. David Beckham, the captain of England's soccer team, is one of them. First he was famous for marrying Posh Spice; then he was famous for letting down the English team in the 1998 World Cup. Now he's famous for being himself--the buffed-out, hair-obsessed superstar whose every move is watched with awe by the British nation. His game-winning goal against Argentina in World Cup play last week had all of England dancing rabid jigs of joy.

The guy is revered in a way that no American superstar can even come close to. Before leaving England a week ago, I polled three 40-year-old women, including a radical lesbian, a conservative soccer mom and a cynical reporter. All three agreed that "Becks" was tops and a fabulous role model for kids.

Beckham, however, is an object lesson in the relativity of fame. In Europe and--now that the World Cup has started--in Asia, you simply cannot imagine anyone more famous or beloved. Only in America is he an unknown, so much so that even his wife's notoriety is beginning to fade. But because I used to be a fan of hers, I bought her solo record, which is simply titled Victoria Beckham, and I actually like it.

Victoria Beckham sounds exactly as you'd expect, with track after track of bouncy, layered, electronically processed dance-pop, much like that produced by Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue or Janet Jackson. Victoria's voice is sweet but unremarkable. Although she thanks no fewer than 11 songwriters for their co-writing help, Victoria has absolutely nothing to say beyond "I'm not made of China, I'm not made of glass / Would it shatter your illusions if this angel had a past?" And "You take me as I am, / not who I'm dressed up to be / Looking at you tells me that / the best things in life are free."

Her record is no different from those of the many, many similar beautiful girl artists with thin legs and tons of makeup. In fact, the record's banality is its greatest strength. It is, like the Beckhams themselves, quite unpretentious, a perfectly listenable piece of fluff--tuneful, sweet and utterly unprepossessing. The only reason to buy the CD would be interest in Victoria as a has-been celebrity and as the wife of a famous soccer star--reason enough for me, and why not? Every dance-pop record ever made is a triumph of PR and marketing, the star-making machinery that somehow creates an interesting backstory around whomever the industry chooses to elevate to star status.

I could have picked Minogue's Fever instead, but Kylie, an Australian soap-opera star, doesn't interest me. The bottom line is that Victoria Beckham's backstory--two years spent in one of the most famous bands in the world, then life as the wife of the most famous man in the soccer world--is more interesting to me than Britney's or Kylie's backstory. There's nothing to Beckham in the talent department, but I enjoy hearing about her way of life.

One thing that every English person mentions about the Beckhams is that, despite their extreme wealth, they don't employ a nanny for their child, Brooklyn, relying instead on their parents for baby-sitting. That impresses me as well. On her liner notes, Victoria thanks the grandmas, even before she thanks her husband, for spending hours in recording studios looking after her son while she recorded. "Even though you didn't understand when I had to go to work," she writes to Brooklyn, "hopefully, when you're a big boy, this album will be something to make you proud of me and show you that once upon a time, Mummy was famous."

There's something kind of self-effacing about that statement--an acknowledgment that she has happily abdicated her place as superstar and doesn't care. There's also a sense that she thinks that even rich women should have careers. Compared to the blissed-out idiocy of most pop stars, those are pretty solid values to advocate. So, strange to say, I guess I agree with the British: as role models, you could do worse than either David or Victoria Beckham.

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From the June 20-26, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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