Now that Michelle Obama is a rapper, will her famous wardrobe have to change?Mary Beth, by email
My God, last week was a veritable bumper crop of exciting cultural stories. Number one, of course, was the news that Cecilia Gimenez – who once helpfully painted over a fresco of Jesus and turned him into a hedgehog – is now holding an exhibition in Spain "of her work". It's only on until 24 August, so I'm afraid this column will be even more slapdash than usual because I have a plane to Spain to catch. Nothing can come between me and my culture, you know.
But second, certainly, was news that Michelle Obama is releasing a hip-hop album about healthy eating called Songs for a Healthier America, which is funny because that was Public Enemy's second choice for their album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Personally, I'm amazed that music journalists were even wasting a minute thinking about tedious Lady Gaga and dullsville Katy Perry last week, when clearly the music news of the year was breaking all around them. But that's the thing about music journalists, you know. They spend all their time shoegazing and fretting about which record label is coolest so they don't notice when actual works of genius are laid at their doorstep. I've seen Amadeus. I know how musical brilliance is always ignored in its own time.
Now, I adore Michelle Obama and I am utterly besotted with her style, which is, contrary to what certain downmarket tabloids in this country have claimed, just a million times more fun than anything Kate née Middleton has ever worn in her life. Unlike any president's wife in the history of presidents, Michelle looks as if she dresses not to look "appropriate", not to look "political", not to look "mature", but for her own damn self, and if that means wearing jewel-bright colours and pretty dresses and coats, then all the better.
"Dressing for pleasure" and "fun fashion" get a bad rap, especially for women in their middle age, as it is generally assumed that this is a euphemism for women dressing like clowns and not realising that, at their age (huff, huff), they should be wearing beige cashmere. Well, first of all, beige cashmere is dull – leave that to the ladies who lunch and shop at Michael Kors in uptown Manhattan. Second, there is no age limit to having fun in fashion and a woman shouldn't retire her pink clothes once she passes her 35th birthday. Of all the great things Michelle has done in her life, and there have been many, her greatest contribution to fashion has been to show that a nearly 50-year-old woman can have as much fun with fashion as she likes, and she will look damn fabulous to boot.
Having said all that, it is true that 50s-style dresses are not the usual wardrobe choice for a hip-hop mogul. But then, few would have once thought giant Elizabethan ballgowns and hot-pink hair were what a female hip-hop artist should wear, yet I have seen Nicki Minaj doing precisely that, so fashion codes are a flexible affair in the crazy hazy world of hip-hop.
But perhaps you noticed that I referred to Michelle as a hip-hop mogul, as opposed to an artist herself. This is because Michelle, tragically, doesn't actually rap on this album but instead chose – or, to use the modern word, "curated" – artists she would like to be on her album, such as Ashanti and – thrillingly – Run-DMC.
Some snarky internet types have, inevitably, thrown a little shade Michelle's way about this venture. "Michelle's Rap Album is Kind of Embarrassing," snarled the Daily Beast. What, more embarrassing than being edited by a woman who claimed that the Duchess of Cambridge did the "perfect" thing by giving birth to a boy and it proved she can "do no wrong"? More embarrassing than that, Daily Beast?
In any event, these snarkers are missing the point. As Michelle has repeatedly proven, she can take the most seemingly naff things and render them totally awesome. Evidence number one: mom dancing. Evidence number two: dancing on The Ellen Show. Evidence number three: um, that's it (everything else Michelle does is awesome).
Furthermore, some people seem to think that hip-hop is supposed to be a serious thing and treating it humorously is sacrilege. Well, maybe it's because my first rap album was the Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff's He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper, but I've never had any prejudice against comedy hip-hop. If people are really honest with themselves, The Lonely Island albums are a million times better than anything Jay Z's done in years, and everyone knows that the best song on Jay Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne is Niggas in Paris, mainly because it mixes in quotes from Blades of Glory.
So in short, what I'm saying is: comedy hip-hop is great, Michelle Obama, who shouldn't alter a thing, is total awesomeness, and if she is going to be the Suge Knight for the 2010s, then the world will only be richer for it. Michelle? Don't go changing.
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