This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
- Crying and cringing my way through the Olympics.
- The pornographic glory of celebrity fragrance ads.
- DaBaby is dumb, and that’s important.
- Justice for Queen Deborah Cox!
- A lil’ thank you.
It’s a big week for haunted horses. First, there was the viral story about a horse in France who travels through the halls of a hospital, choosing which terminally ill patients deserve his visit. I need to be as clear as possible on this, so listen closely: If I am ever in a hospital that employs a therapy horse, you keep that galloping angel of death far from me. Unless, of course, he is mounted by a shirtless Adam Driver, in which case this very specific manifestation from a romance novel my aunt probably read in 1992 will surely bring me back to life.
Driver joins the hallowed ranks of celebrities who star in over-the-top, gorgeously produced, and intensely pornographic fragrance ads for luxury companies. This is a microgenre of entertainment that I am fascinated by. Not even some of the Oscar-winning films that these actors star in boast such sumptuous cinematography and adrenaline-spiking storylines. That the storylines are utter nonsense and typically offer no indication that what you are watching is meant to sell a scent in a bottle is besides the point, or maybe exactly the point.
Is it the product that matters, or the taunting temptation of hotness and wealth that’s being peddled to us garbage humans as we watch Natalie Portman act out a torrid romance in Paris 17 times during commercial breaks of Dancing With the Stars?
A list of things it would be fair to assume this was an ad for if you didn’t know it was for Burberry Hero: fancy tight jeans, a nice beach somewhere, the CrossFit studio where Adam Driver sculpted those abs, an Olympics’ open water swimming event, or maybe a PSA warning against drowning horses. Oh, it’s for a cologne? Clearly we’re meant to assume that, while challenging horses to a foot race and then testing their buoyancy in the ocean, Adam Driver always smells good.
I’m not kidding. These ads occupy far too much of my precious brainspace. I have studied Julia Robert’s Lancome ad as if it was the center of a thesis in an attempt to determine if, in fact, she ever looked so beautiful. It got to the point in the last year that the piano twinkles at the top of Lady Gaga’s Valentino Beauty spot cued me to start belting “When I was young, I prayed for lightning…” along with her. If I knew how, I would have made Charlize Theron saying, “J’adore Dior” my ringtone long ago.
Look, I don’t necessarily like to admit how pathetically susceptible I am to celebrity ads. But I did recently watch an Instagram video of J. Lo doing her morning skincare routine while trying to fall asleep and woke up the next morning with $300 worth of J. Lo Beauty items in a shopping cart. The celebrity endorsement is mysteriously effective.
Even so, I remain mystified by the through-the-looking-glass lunacy of these fragrance ads. I’d also like to send a bouquet of flowers to the agency executive who, during a Burberry brainstorming session, dramatically silenced the room and said, “Friends, colleagues, fragrance wearers, I got it. Hear me out: Adam Driver swimming with a horse.” Drops the mic, leaves the room.
No grown-ass person who has long given up on understanding today’s popular music actually wants to take the time to learn who the hell someone called DaBaby is. But this little homophobic attention-seeker has rendered that impossible this week, and for that alone I resent him.
The truth is that I was semi-familiar with the rapper, only because he guests on the remix of Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” and his verse contains this virtuoso bit of writing in which he introduces the world’s most boring dance move, recaps the title of the song, and then simply states his name: “Left foot, right foot, levitatin’ / Pop stars, Dua Lipa with DaBaby.” A wordsmith.
I’ll try to abbreviate this week’s controversy because this person barely deserves these paragraphs of your headspace.
The short of it is that he performed at the Rolling Loud music festival in Miami and during his set apparently took a time machine to the 1990s to bring back the lamest, most antiquated homophobic joke of the time and also espouse genuinely dangerous and factually incorrect views about HIV and AIDS. Why would he say these things, apropos of nothing, at a music festival? That’s between God and...DaBaby.
Rightfully, he was taken to task. In his defensive apology, he said people who have been “effected” [sic] by AIDS or HIV have the right to be upset but anyone in the LGBT community is, basically, overreacting.
Then, should you actually suspect genuine remorse, he released a video capitalizing on the controversy in which he held up a sign with the word “AIDS” on it and at the end posted a message saying “Don’t Fight Hate With Hate” written in rainbow letters, followed by the self-absolving statement: “My apologies for being me the same way you have the freedom to be you.”
That’s not trolling for attention. It’s juvenile, and it’s despicable. There’s a difference between cancel culture and accountability. Imagine if people in his position ever considered the latter instead of crying wolf about the former.
One of my favorite Pride month memes happens at the end of June, when gays on social media joke about the glorious, oh-so brief resurgence of Deborah Cox’s catalog of dance-floor bops.
You can’t walk into a party populated by gay men in tank tops on any of those 30 days without hearing them scream “how...did...you...get...here…” at the top of their lungs in euphoria, as if they have just seen God on the dance floor, as Cox’s pristine vocals escalate on the bridge to the “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” remix. But it’s funny how contained the superfandom seems to be to Pride. It’s the gay equivalent of Christmas music during holiday season.
As a person who famously will listen to Kelly Clarkson’s “Underneath the Tree” at all times of year, I was ecstatic that Cox was performing this past weekend at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City.
She came out Saturday night to a packed house (remember those?) at the HQ2 club and performed a set that included “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here,” “Absolutely Not,” and, in a moment when my champagne-drunk soul left my body and white-boy danced straight to heaven, a cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
Deborah Cox said happy Pride, even though it’s late July. And, honestly, it was nice that Ocean, which also hosted a Pride happy hour that night, said that the month didn’t matter, too.
In any case, let’s normalize Deborah Cox music at all times of the year. Is it Halloween? “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here,” slutty costumes edition. Arbor Day? Let’s all say “Absolutely Not” to fossil fuels and fracking. Is it my funeral? If you don’t all lose your minds to her cover of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” while my spirit shoulder dances in the coffin, you’re doing a disservice to my memory.
You all have officially been reading me rant, rave, whine, bitch, joke, celebrate, grieve, cry, and otherwise obsess in this newsletter for two and a half years now. In the now-legendary words of Emma Roberts on the occasion of going viral with a meme in her thirties, “Thank you gays and whoever else.”
Obama: In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union: Hey, remember that guy? (Tues. on HBO)
Pray Away: A documentary about gay conversion therapy and its survivors. Not, like, a “yay!” watch, but an important one. (Tues. on Netflix)
Cooking With Paris: It’s incredibly dumb, but that’s also precisely why it’s great. (Wed. on Netflix)
Hart to Heart: Kevin, America’s foremost whiner about being canceled, is back with his 10th or so project in the last two years. (Thu. on Peacock)
Jungle Cruise: “Ingeniously re-creates all the fun of waiting in line for a ride.” -Vanity Fair (Fri. in theaters and on Disney+)