Dirty Harry is being hyped as the next UK "femme fatale" to take America by storm. The question to be answered is whether she'll live up to the hype. Or, in this case, it may be best if, at least in some ways, she doesn't.
It is a publicist's job to help build buzz by comparing a new artist to established acts to give people a frame of favorable reference from which to view the new act. Even the most cynical of people can be persuaded to give a look or listen if told that so and so is the next big thing and they sound like [your favorite hip band]. I think that is an acceptable practice and do it myself all the time. However, one must be careful in deploying that strategy.
I recently received an email touting the musical stylings of a new British "siren." The next big sound that I had to hear was the "the jungle-cat growl of London-transplant Dirty Harry." Seriously, that was what they said. But, that type of cheesey line is normal. Publicists treat most of us like we're a bunch of ten year olds ready to jump on what they say is the latest craze simply because they tell us too. So, by now, I'm used to the "OMG! this is sooooo great" pitch style. No, the worst offense by this publicist was committed in the first line of the pitch by inviting us to compare Ms. Harry to both Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen, primarily because of their country of origins.
Last fall, or even very early this year, that probably would have been a "money" pitch. Both Winehouse and Allen were hot. Both of these "stars" were promoted hard in the British tabloids, and of course, because of the constant repetition of their names in the UK press, which is where much of the U.S. media gets the underlying nuggets of celebrity news from corporate aggregators located there, the U.S. celebrity sheets and sites began "reporting" on the pair as if they were as big as the Beatles before most in the States really had a chance to listen to their music and, more importantly, before the two ladies had a chance to establish themselves as performers ready to jump to the international stage. Now only months later, their stars have tarnished because despite both putting out decent records, neither have proved ready for prime time when it came to performing live - the hallmark of what makes a real musician earn Beatles-type hype.
I'm not saying they are incapable of performing well live. I just think both would have benefited from a slower rise to the top if they were allowed more time to hone their stage craft and become more comfortable performing live over time before increasingly larger crowds (see Grace Potter for how it's done). Now, the "buzz" on each is that they are notorious concert cancellers.
Winehouse had already began building a reputation for missing shows and is now the subject of tabloid reports placing the rehab singer in a real rehab while missing a string of U.S. tour dates. And, Lily Allen just cancelled a U.S. tour for reasons that might not be completely her fault. But, this isn't the first time she's cancelled dates either. Reports had her cancelling shows earlier this year because she was "tired" and not performing as well as she wanted too, or something like that. It seems to me that neither were ready for the grueling pace of the road when you are elevated to the status of a "big time performer." I believe that if these ladies were less hyped and allowed to progress at a more traditional pace they'd have fewer musical problems than they do now. All of which, brings us back to Dirty Harry. For her sake, I hope the comparisons to Allen and Winehouse don't bear out to be too similar - at least in the tabloid sense - and stop at their shared geographic history.
Mp3: Dirty Harry, "Frayed at the Edges"