On Wednesday night I found myself surrounded by fake blond hair, fake (pink and glittery) stetsons and fake boobs. Yes, I was at a Dolly Parton concert and in spite of my initial reluctance, I thoroughly enjoyed it, swaying to the Queen of Country’s dulcet tones and even bopping along to 9-5. A wonderful evening was had by all but worthy of a blog post?
Well, it struck me that Dolly Parton exemplifies the inestimable and inherent worth of building an easily identifiable ‘brand’ on the premise “To thine own self be true”.
For many ‘stars’, perpetual reinvention seems to be key to capturing and maintaining the interest and loyalty of an audience whose attention span seems to get shorter by the MTV second. Just think of the innumerable changes of persona, musical style, belief system and hair colour that seem to typify the public personality of stars like Madonna, Prince or Kylie; never mind the column inches devoted to analysing each and every change.
Dolly Parton on the other hand is just the same now as she was decades ago when she started out in the business. She is a consistent and familiar brand. I’d bet anyone who attended her concert at the O2 this week, and indeed many of those who weren’t lucky enough to be there, would recognise Dolly’s trademarks – the wig, the spangles and rhinestones, the lip gloss and the long red talons. Yes I know there’s another trademark but it would be indelicate to mention it / them.
This country mega-star has been true to herself and her own vision for years. It’s not that she doesn’t adapt and change, at one point during the concert she performed a rap, but the changes in her musical style over the years are built on the solid foundation of her ‘brand’. And she has managed to combine both a very specific style with the enviable substance of outstanding musicality and a voice that soars.
And her popularity is soaring as evidenced by the fact that her concerts packed out the O2 and she had to put on an extra date to accommodate her fans in London. Is it her music? Partly. Is it the rhinestones and the spangles? Maybe. But I think it might also be that people respond to consistency. The merry-go-round of constant change typified by so many other performers may be exciting, but it can also leave you dizzy and disoriented. In an uncertain world perhaps we are more attracted to and comforted by the familiar?