We take a look at the rise in "crossover artists"... Since mass media caused films, music and television to expand massively in the twentieth century, these circles have been thrust together and merged like a 3D Venn diagram. Every day, news of a household name doing something fresh and exciting can be found in the press. Maybe Scarlett Johansson is releasing an album, or Arnold Schwarzenegger is standing for Governor of California. When we read these headlines, it's hard to know what to feel. Should we be open-minded about this person’s talent, or irritated that they are using their name to enter into another field, which they never would have broken into otherwise? Why is it so easy to skip from cloud to cloud in the stratospheric heights of fame? Are the stars of mainstream pop really good enough for writing, fashion designing and Shakespearean acting? Also, is there less at stake in crossing over for a star who is already a joke to the public? There are successful crossover artists of course, ones we can stomach, ones who enrich our lives. Writer, actor, comedian, presenter and all-round cultural icon Stephen Fry is an example: his books are best sellers, his TV programmes hugely popular, and his reputation as a hugely knowledgeable man pretty much launched the website Twitter. On a worldwide scale, some stars seem to have it all, like Beyoncé Knowles, who has become a household name in hundreds of countries for her music, while simultaneously being a dancer, an actress, launching a fashion line and creating an ‘alluring and sophisticated’ perfume named ‘Heat’. Of the older generation, Willie Nelson is another one of these all-rounders: as well as being a very successful singer-songwriter in the American folk world, he is a poet, writer, actor and political activist. picture
of a pumpkinThen, there are those who aren’t quite as respected for their exploits across the art world. The general feeling of ‘you shouldn’t have bothered’ towards these artists can turn them into a universal joke. I think everyone cringed a little inside (and outside) when David Hasselhoff, the television producer and ‘actor’, found himself at #3 in the UK singles charts with ‘Jump in my Car’ in 2006, a song which is painful in itself without seeing the tight jeans and old-man biceps of Hasselhoff strutting about in the video. It is artists like these that really get on our collective wick, and spark general irritation towards crossover artists, because not only do we have an array of bad television programmes to avoid because of them, we now have to turn off the radio more often too. Other than for Hasselhoff and a few other choice examples, the argument for sticking to one field of the arts world is based in integrity. But is it a sacrifice of credibility to jump from one creative field to another? Part of me thinks yes: when you move from field to field, you are showing a lack of commitment to your first project, as if you just wanted it as a gateway; you appear to be pursuing money, especially as the public’s perception of how much each project earns for you is probably highly inflated; you are creating resentment amongst those you have superseded using your known identity. For these reasons, I see crossing over from branch to branch of the artistic tree as a forfeit of integrity; however, I also see how good an opportunity it can be, for talented people to make use of their contacts and cash to try their hand at other lines of work. Nobody would go into a career, be it in nursing or law or the arts, if they thought they could never get out of it into something else of interest in the future. Then again, how many doctors would try their hand at dentistry and not mess up people’s teeth? The ‘actor’ Cliff Richards of medicine – we would resent them as well. The main problem with crossover artists that sets them apart from doctors, is that they are so much in the spotlight. One mistaken footstep in our culture of mass media haranguing and star-stalking can mean death to their career. It isn’t hard to slip into thinking that stars have it easy, and no matter what they do, they will always be rich and famous: this isn’t true, and I’m sure many 90s boyband members desperately trying to get into acting or presenting will attest to that. They might be very good at acting, but most people would dismiss them straight after hearing they were in some Westzone ten years ago, and that inherent negativity could ruin any chances of making a new career in acting. After considering it, my conclusions on the matter are that while stars in various fields are taking a risk by hopping projects, it is their right to try. We should judge them on how good they are at their newly chosen field, and if they’re bad, it is fine to mock them. However, a chance is a fine thing, so getting annoyed by creative people for trying is more than a little unfair. There are always a few people who will exceed all expectations, and if they don’t…well, we can laugh at them. What do you think about crossover artist'? Who's the best and who's the worst? Comment below!