I cannot recount the last time any female musician in Ghana generated so much talk and instigated so much controversy for both her artistry and branding. In fact, no female act has enjoyed such dominance with the music, the stagecraft and all other stuff that comes with it – but Ebony is altering the status quo.
The 20-year old is having such a blistering year, releasing chart-topping songs, commandeering stellar performances and of course, eliciting so much banter for her brand positioning. The Ebony brand has become so popular to the extent that any song she releases makes the headline; every appearance she makes and every comment she passes make the news; that’s high-level stardom!
In the last 18 years of the biggest music awards in Ghana, the VGMAS; no female act has had the loudest shout for the ‘Artiste of the Year’ nod than Ebony Reigns in next year’s edition of the Awards.
Unfortunately, some music loving Ghanaians and others who have no proper understanding of the trade, have been chiding the brand and artistry of the young, hardworking lady.
One of the hallmarks of a good artist is his/her ability to generate attention and for Ebony to generate such fixation for everything she does, is testament of how good she is. Show business is an attention-driven business where one needs to draw attention to the product and the brand.
Brand Positioning & Sex Appeal
You are lost as an artist or a brand if you are unable to define your positioning in a very competitive industry. Knowing your niche, target audience and positioning your brand to suit that target is crucial, and for Ebony, there’s definition of her niche with such awareness of her target and clearly, her positioning in terms of branding is right on cue. Those who do not seem to comprehend this, are the ones with a problem.
Sex sells. This fact is ingrained in the show business culture and exemplified by the music industry. With people’s tolerance for sexual innuendo and suggestion growing, artists are finding more ways to put their sex appeal on display. Whether it is in their music videos, album covers, onstage or on their appearances at events, celebrities will find any way to show off their assets. It is permissible!
Sex has been used to sell everything. In music, starting way back with Elvis gyrating his hips, and The Beatles, Madonna and Tina Turner attracting fans because of their sex appeal. Moving to more recent times, artists like Rihanna, Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears, Katy Perry and quite recently, Taylor Swift and others are garnering success with their raunchy shows and music videos. The point is; sexy images shift records.
Sex Appeal is an essential tool in showbusiness and as an artist, once you detect you can use that to your advantage in selling records and the brand, you go all out and execute.
If you are a certain Adele or Lorde and you figure that sex appeal would not be needed in selling the music, you go ahead and capitalize on your strong point and go for it. However, if you are a Beyoncé, Nicki Mianj,or Rihanna and you figure that sex appeal can compliment the vocal delivery and everything else, you go for it too.
Ebony has sex appeal and she is not committing and crime or any felony in the world of showbusiness in selling that appeal. She is indeed, in good business.
A Standout In The Competition
In a competitive industry that is male dominated, with other female acts jostling for attention, mention and space, Ebony needs commendation for her ability to not only compete for a position on the charts, a slot on all the high-profile shows, and space on the front pages of the dailies – but for her aptitude of beating almost everybody in the game to it at this moment.
It is interesting to note that almost all the female acts in the secular fold utilize the element of sex appeal in the projection of their respective brands – Efya, Becca, Sister Afia, Kaakie, Feli Nuna, AK Songstress, Sorakiss, etc. but only Ebony seems to take the biggest castigation. She is not doing anything bad, she is only beating the competition in all departments of the business. Clap for her!
Every artist needs a shtick to differentiate him or her from the competition and Ebony is doing everything right in the books to stay above the pack.
We have an industry that shuts its eyes and mouths to other male artists like E.L. Samini, Shatta Wale, Joey B and the others who go shirtless and half-naked in their music videos, album covers and appearances on stage but are quick to judge and condemn Ebony when she employs the same legal tactics to sell. Shun the hypocrisy!
She is not only using her sex appeal to win; she is also scoring high with her amazing talent, which has seen her release hit after hit and making her a household name in Ghanaian music, all within a spate of 1 year.
Ebony Is Not Mzbel – Deal With It!
The naysayers are quick to strike a comparison to Mzbel and that is quite lousy, flippant and gibberish. Thumbs up to Mzbel for her hustle over the years and her quest to continue to remain relevant, albeit changing her style, but that’s all her – Mzbel.
Ebony is Ebony; she defines her brand and positions herself as Ebony. She is not acting Mzbel, because, Mzbel, in all honesty, is not the first female act in the world of showbusiness and even in Ghana to champion the use of sex appeal in the projection of the brand. In Ghana, before Mzbel, the likes of Lady Talata were heavy on sex appeal and they used it to sell their brands.
If Mzbel claims she regrets the use of sex appeal in her career, that is her problem. We respect her for her claim but that should not be put on Ebony. It is only wise that, for female acts, as they grow in the business, they alter their brand positioning because, no investor or consumer is interested in a 60-something Tina Turner or 50-something Madonna in a swim costume on stage or on a magazine cover.
The sex appeal of Stephanie Benson is exemplary but unfortunately, she is not getting the needed traction to her brand because there’s a seeming disconnect between the brand and the target audience. That’s her problem and she’s dealing with it!
10 years from now, Beyoncé or Rihanna would not be seen in any booty-shaking, hip thrusting choreography in next to nothing stage costumes. They would have reshaped their brands to suit the market, so, if Mzbel is not engaging in the element of sex appeal, it is not a big deal.
Mzbel’s prime is gone, this is the time for Ebony – let her breathe and shine. Just like any other star, her time would also pass and the relevance would dim, but until then, let’s accord her the respect for her achievement in the industry thus far.
Not A Porn Star, Not a Stripper.
We can forgive the dimwits, but it is quite confounding to note how the well-learned commentators cannot figure out the true meaning of porn star and a stripper and it is even sickening how people also utilize the word ‘naked’ – all in their warped description of Ebony.
Let’s help the ignoramuses with some English lessons;
Stripper: a performer who takes his or her clothes off in a sexually exciting way in front of an audience (Oxford Advanced Learned Dictionary).
Porn Star: an actor/actress who is famous for acting in pornographic films (www.yourdictionary.com).
Naked: not wearing any clothes (Oxford Advanced Learned Dictionary).
Clearly, Ebony does not fit into any of the inane descriptions given her by some Ghanaians over her high-flying craft and you will be a dullard, should you continue describing her as such!
Show Her Some Respect & Support
It is torrid to breakthrough ‘underground’ status to mainstream as an artist, and it is even more difficult to achieve relevance and dominance in that space, so, for Ebony and her management to surmount these hurdles in such an unfriendly industry – she needs to be accorded some respect.
To commandeer 4 or 5 hit songs in a year is no child’s play and if any music fiend or critic would not appreciate such hard work, dedication and commitment to the trade, then shame on him/her!
To be able to fixate such attention on her brand in an acceptable manner, in an industry that is attention-driven, she needs approbation, lots of it. Go figure, other artists have all tried all the tricks in the book to sway attention to their brands and music – all to no avail. Put some respect on her name and respect her hustle as well.
Did anybody actually check out Tiwa Savage when she first emerged on the scene? Did anybody check out her videos and costuming on stage – all before she became one of, if not the biggest female act in Africa?
Yes, she rose to that pedestal because she was not heavily chastised, her confidence as an artist was not killed and she was accorded the necessary succor in propelling her illustrious career. Let’s learn.
She Needs Guidance, Not Condemnation
Ebony as an artist is young, her management, is also new to the business of artist management, but they deserve all the plaudits for their ability to breakthrough and dominate.
No artist across the world is infallible and like Ebony, she is bound to overstep sometimes and what she needs critically, is guidance and not the denunciation Ghanaians are known for – always in haste to kill burgeoning careers.
For example, the young lady was tagged all manner of names over her appearance at the Red Carpet segment at the just-ended 4Syte Music Video Awards. What she suffered is called a wardrobe malfunction, which is prevalent in the industry and has affected many internationally acclaimed acts. Elsewhere, not so much fuss is made over celebrities or artists who endure wardrobe mishaps, but in Ghana, where our comprehension of showbusiness seems shallow, we chastised Ebony heavily for the same ordeal. Take a seat and learn, and appreciate the business.
In guiding her, Ebony should be weary of how to project her appeal sexually. It must always be done tastefully and sensibly. Yes, Beyoncé wears swim costume-like apparel on stage or on the red carpet, but she enhances those with leotards and leggings or a tan that makes her look tasteful and appreciable on stage or any other engagements.
Also, the stage is her workplace and once she is a performer, she can go all out and wear classy apparel that would accentuate her sex appeal, but, similar outfits cannot be used for TV interviews or other appearances outside the stage. Know the difference!
Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo, www.entertainmentgh.com