Let’s Play Celebrity ‘Attainable or Unattainable’: Grammys Edition
A few years ago, I sat in a living room, surrounded by some of my closest friends, and made a now-infamous statement among my inner circle. I stated that Jessica Alba was “attainable” and meant it with every fiber of my being. It goes without saying that I was immediately laughed out of the conversation, the living room, the apartment, the building, and midtown Manhattan, but I have stood by my belief since that evening in the fall of 2009.
Since then, I’ve found that it’s a lonely world out there for laypeople who have strong opinions on the attainability of celebrities. Luckily for me, and potentially only me, I stumbled on Chelsea Fagan, who is my delusional female doppelganger and shares in my polarizing beliefs.
In the first installment of our “Celebrity Attainability Exercise in Futility,” we tackle the Grammys and ten of last night’s nominees and winners.
1. Katy Perry
Record of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance, PERFORMER
Chelsea Fagan: As Katy Perry is (a) just getting on the divorce train, and (b) 70 percent complete in her full-body transition into a wax statue, it seems like she’s at her most attainable. She’s probably feeling pretty down about herself and looking for a shoulder to leak tear-like fluid onto. We can sit here and debate all day about whether or not she’s actually a human — I’m on the fence — but she’s definitely attainable. She sort of reminds me of those Real Dolls that guys keep in their basements and fall in love with, in a way. And of course, if you can keep her in dresses with the texture and color scheme of condoms, all the better.
Rembert Browne: So, before the Grammys, I would have completely agreed, because I felt as if she was attainable even before the breakup with Mr. Brand. When I see a fembot with someone as silly-looking as Russell Brand, it sends messages to my synapses, screaming “As long as you don’t say anything stupid, get the random bits of food out of your mustache, and tell her that you’re Kid Cudi, this will be a piece of cake.” But then I saw her walk down the red carpet and I quickly changed my tone. But then, just as I was starting to think she was unattainable, she got onstage and underwhelmed America, solidifying her status as not-Beyonce/Adele/Rihanna/Gaga/Swift/Underwood and as a permanent fixture on the attainable train.
Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (WIN – “All of the Lights”), Best Rap Song (WIN — “All of the Lights”), Best Remixed Recording, PERFORMER (2x)
Browne: Although I predict she will be comically attainable in about six to eight years, right now she’s untouchable. In 2012, you don’t choose Rihanna. Rihanna chooses you. Chelsea, I dare you to argue this point. Just know that, unless your argument is spot-on, anything suggesting the slightest bit of Rihtainability will be chalked up to you being a hater.
Fagan: I agree with your assessment wholeheartedly, based largely on your assertion that she’ll be “comically attainable” in a few years. That’s the thing about Rihanna, she’s where Britney was in 2000. There is nowhere to go but down, and down fast. It also should be said that, like vintage Britney, she’s not the greatest singer in the whole world, her personality in interviews is like standing in the produce aisle picking out the ripest avocado, and her look changes (while still in the “parentally acceptable” range) every two weeks. She’s just a standard-issue pop star, and right now she’s at the top of her game, but wait it out and you can get her.
VERDICT: *Unattainable, for a few more years, then so Attainable*
3. Bruno Mars
Record of the Year (lost to Adele), Album of the Year (lost to Adele again), Song of the Year (yep, lost to Adele), Best Pop Solo Performance (again, Adele), Best Pop Vocal Album (Bruno Mars lost. This time, to Adele), Producer of the Year: Non-Classical (lost to Paul Epworth, the producer of “Rolling in the Deep.” That may or may not be an Adele song), PERFORMER (definitely lost to Adele)
Fagan: Bruno Mars is, as always, sitting high atop his gilded throne in the hallowed castle of the Friend Zone. I’m pretty sure anyone could get him to shower them with his uncomfortable combination of undying love and flagrant codependency, as well as cry with them over Nicholas Sparks movies, but who would want that? You should only try to get with Bruno if you want to wake up in a sea of hand-knitted sweaters and drunk texts accusing you of cheating.
Browne: If you just tell Bruno that he can dance, that his hair looks pretty, and that you won’t judge him negatively about anything that you see him do between 3:30 p.m. and 11:15 a.m., you’re golden. Now why anyone would go out of their way to attain Bruno is besides me, but if you happen to somehow fit that description, ego stroking and enabling should get the job done before you even exchange Twitter handles.
VERDICT: *Attainable, but really? Bruno?*
4. Taylor Swift
Best Country Solo Performance (WIN – “Mean”), Best Country Song (WIN – “Mean”), Best Country Album, PERFORMER
Browne: As Taylor Swift ran around that Grammy stage with her stringless banjo, belting twang into a turned-off microphone, looking like the poster child for rural poverty, I finally came to the conclusion that I’m falling in love with her. I can’t stop thinking about her, but I know that I could never have her. While she doesn’t begin to approach exceptional in any one facet of her life, the hundreds of slightly above-average things about her make her weirdly just a notch below Rihanna in her unattainability. I can’t explain this, but none of us have a chance.
Fagan: I don’t really have much to add here — though what you call “slightly above average” I would call “extraordinarily mediocre,” tomato tomahto — except that I feel like if you did try to get with her, her dad would chase you off his porch with a sawed-off shotgun. Also, I know she’s probably aged, but she will always be 16 to society. I’ll go with the non-attainability argument.
VERDICT: *Embarrassingly Unattainable*
5. Kanye West
Song of the Year, Best Rap Performance (WIN – “Otis”), Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (WIN – “All of the Lights”), Best Rap Song (WIN – “All of the Lights”, besting “Otis”), Best Rap Album (WIN – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, besting Watch The Throne)
Fagan: Despite his carnival-like obsession with self (I imagine him in a permanent state of walking through a hallway of fun-house mirrors), I think that Kanye is ultimately attainable. He seems like, on some sick level that he’s long tried to suppress, he’s trying to find someone — he just isn’t dating the right women. I bet if you met him while out and actually struck up a decent conversation, he’d get all weepy and confessional about how he just wants to be held, and only dated that tart Amber Rose because she looks like a golden bowling ball. I bet Kanye’s actually kinda okay.
Browne: While I agree that Kanye will eventually get to this point, there’s no way he’s trying to have that conversation right now. You imagined him in a permanent state of walking through a hallway of fun-house mirrors, which is funny, because he skipped out on the last night’s Grammys to transform his home into a series of hallways lined with fun-house mirrors. That’s where Kanye’s head is right now. And the awesome thing about ‘Ye is that when he sees himself in these fun-house mirrors, he sees Idris Elba, and assumes 95 percent of the Maxim Top 100 will see the same thing. He’s unattainable, if for no other reason than because his confidence/cockiness/brashness is at an all-time delusional high. I think I’m right, Fagan.
Fagan: No, no, no. That’s a facade. It has to be. There is no way a living, breathing human being has actually attained that level of delusion without at least sacrificing basic motor functions or rudimentary communication skills. He’s either gonna go full Van Gogh and cut off his ear and really solidify the crazy, or he’s just faking it. Given that he’s been on this plateau of megalomania for about five years now and it hasn’t culminated in homicide/changing his name to a symbol, I think it’s safe to say he’s not as on top of the world as he pretends to feel. I think you could get to him if you scratched the surface of his game.
Browne: I think “faking it” might be taking it too far, seeing as that he definitely has been blessed with some astounding insanity, but I am beginning to agree that his antics are simply a way for him to get his point across. And maybe, just maybe, in his private life, he’s just a run-of-the-mill Netflix and delivery-Thai-food guy who loves to cuddle, while his albums quietly play on loop in every room of his house. Yeah, I really hope that’s true.
VERDICT: *Attainable, with a side of Cray*
6. Justin Vernon (Bon Iver)
Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist (WIN), Best Alternative Music Album (WIN)
Browne: No. Not even close. He’s so much cooler than you think he is, which will ultimately lead you down an unsuccessful path of trying to spit game and him looking right through you, daydreaming while writing hooks for Kanye in his head. No chance. So unattainable.
Fagan: Just LOL at Bon Iver as a concept. First of all, how did he win Best New Artist? Was that a practical joke of some kind? Someone should clear that up. Either way, no, he’s entirely attainable. First of all, he looks like every liberal arts TA to ever try to sleep with you by telling you about his poetry, he has a bad comb-over, and his personality is the very definition of “meh.” Him, Conor Oberst, and Iron & Wine just sit in the corner having a sincerity-off and making sculptures out of their own tears. They’d date anything.
Browne: I’m not going to ask what went down between you and Iron and/or Wine a few years back, but I have this strange feeling I should listen to you on this one.
VERDICT: *Creepily Attainable*
7. Nicki Minaj
Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Album, PERFORMER
Fagan: In the event that Nicki is actually a real person (and I have serious reservations about that), I would say she is completely unattainable. Her obsession with sex has long since crossed over into the Dadaist, and I don’t think she enjoys physical contact with any other human being anymore. Also, I’m pretty sure her vagina is filled with razor-sharp teeth.
Browne: Couldn’t agree more. I will say, however, if your résumé includes attaining Lady Gaga in the past and Minaj is the legislative assistant screening candidates, she instantly becomes the easiest celebrity to attain. Her horrible Grammy performance informally announced her singular goal of out-weirding Gaga, no matter the cost, and it’s apparent this one-sided competition translates into all facets of Minaj’s life. So yeah, if you don’t fit that very specific demographic, it’s just not happening for you. No way, no how.
Verdict: *Unattainable. Also, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE*
Best New Artist, Best Short Form Music Video, Best Dance Recording (WIN – cue buildup), Best Dance/Electronica Album (WIN – air horn air horn air horn), Best Remixed Recording (WIN – BEAT DROP)
Browne: Sonny, as we call him in the brostep chat room world, is easily the most attainable person on this list. While the Kanyes and the Nickis of the world aren’t real people, and the Taylors and the Rihannas are simply too fly to touch, Skrillex is the awkward boy-wonder DJ who looks a lot like Corey Feldman. I feel like if you locked eyes with him, he would instantly look away, twirl his thumbs, giggle, and then slowly look back at you to see if you were still there. Upon catching your eye a second time, he would freak out and run away. At this point, all that’s standing between you and attaining Skrillex is catching him in a footrace, which shouldn’t be hard, seeing as that he’s a DJ.
Fagan: I feel like saying Skrillex looks like Corey Feldman may be the most powerful compliment anyone’s ever directed at the guy. I think he kind of looks like if an aging metal groupie died for a few days, and then her corpse became reanimated and started playing concerts. Either way, yeah, I guess he’s attainable. He just seems so incredibly … squirmy. Who would want to cash in on that attainability, really? Also, my friend met him and he gave her the hover-hand in the picture and was barely her height. No words can describe that level of attainability.
VERDICT: *Attainable, in that squirmy, Corey Feldman-y way*
Record of the Year (win), Album of the Year (duh), Song of the Year (of course), Best Pop Solo Performance (too easy), Best Pop Vocal Album (obvi), Best Short Form Music Video (yes, but Skrillex got robbed), PERFORMER
Fagan: Adele is permanently attainable. If you met her at a bar it’d be likely that, at no matter what hour you walked in, she’d be on the dance floor with one shoe off, five Long Island Iced Teas in, mascara running down her cheeks, drunk texting her ex. I’m pretty sure she’d elope with a bridge troll if it told her she “didn’t realize just how beautiful she was.”
Browne So I’ve been vacillating on how I feel about Adele for a while now, but I’m starting to think she’s long been so attainable, it’s beginning to make her unattainable. It’s like she’s almost done a full lap around the attainability wheel (a real thing). She’s such a hot, sad commodity, with everyone trying to holler and be the subject of her next album, that I believe she’s starting to figure out everyone’s rude ploys against her long-term happiness. Plus, after that Grammy sweep and that saucy performance, I think she just realized how rich and powerful she is. Dudes better start coming at her with credit cards, no more of that debit card swag. So yeah, I’m not definitely sold, Fagan.
Fagan: Judging by the emotional fluctuation of the songs on 21 — no one goes from Empowered Goddess to Wilting Cat Lady faster than Adele — I’d say this stint on the top will be brief. Sure, she’ll continue to make incredible music, but it’s only a matter of time before she’s back dating the adult equivalent of the douchebag that cheats on you during his study abroad. She’s attainable because her music utterly depends on getting her heart broken. Without continuing to go for losers like us, she’ll run out of material in the next two weeks.
Browne: You’re wrong, Chelsea. There’s no going back for Adele. Yes, she’ll continue to get her heart broken over and over again, but it won’t be by Dave Coulier-esque scrubs anymore and instead of moping around, post-breakup, she’ll probably just make some phone calls to make sure the heartbreaker is simply “taken care of.” She’s an extremely powerful woman now and I fully expect last night to be the beginning of Adele’s “chew them up and spit them out” phase. I’m so excited for her. She deserves this. So yeah, sorry, I just don’t think we’re going to agree on this. I guess we’ll just wait and see.
VERDICT: *Stay tuned*
10. Chris Brown:
Best R&B Album (This won. He beat R. Kelly. Yikes), Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song, PERFORMER (2x)
Browne: I mean, if you’re on #TeamBreezy, then probably yes. If not, probably no. And if you are on #TeamBreezy and have a track record of attracting the worst people ever, Chris should really be an easy conquest.
Fagan: Chris Brown is attainable in the way herpes is attainable.
Browne: Glad we’re back to seeing eye-to-eye on things.
VERDICT: *Regrettably Attainable*
See you after the Oscars. Yeah, you, Jean Dujardin!
Rembert Browne (@RembertManX) is a staff writer for Grantland. Chelsea Fagan (@Chelsea_Fagan) is a writer living in Paris. Her work has appeared on Thought Catalog, The Atlantic, Le Monde, and elsewhere.