I came across a note I had made to myself a while back about an MSN home page bit about what had happened to some musical pop culture icons from a few years back. Okay, so I should have addressed the issue then, but I didn’t for some reason. But I have to do it now because I have to have closure on this because I was shocked by the people chosen for that list. I didn’t write down the whole list, but most of the ones that made the list were not worthy as far as I was concerned. Billy Ray Cyrus, Randy Travis, Shania Twain, Dixie Chicks, were the names I had major issues with.
I mean, come on. To begin with, the first definition in the dictionary , which is always the one that is the most relevant, says that an icon is a religious symbol, and those symbols have been around a lot longer than pop culture. Symbol is the key word in any definition for icon, along with emblem and idol given as synonyms. And of course, in these days of computers, we use icons as representative symbols of functions on our computer screens.
It is the last definition, however, that has to do with modern pop culture icons, which defines an icon as an object of uncritical devotion. And there it is. You’d have to be uncritically devoted to Billy Ray Cyrus to consider him an icon. He may have had a hit song, but let’s face it, the only things he will be remembered for is that tacky mullet hair-do and that he is the father of Miley Cyrus, who, unfortunately, has some uncritical devotees of her own. Randy Travis, Shania Twain, and the Dixie Chicks all had their 15 minutes of fame and earned a niche in musical history I guess, but icons? What did they contribute to their genre? What have they left to the world of lasting value?
Maybe I place too much value on the word icon, because to me the status of icon should be reserved for those who actually made a contribution, created something new, or were so good, so talented in their career that they carved out a special place in history for themselves. The world legendary comes to mind, even though I couldn’t find legend and icon linked semantically in my dictionary or thesaurus. Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Buddy Holly, Elvis, the Beatles, Barbra Streisand, BB King, Elton John-these would be people I would call icons, legends in their fields, people whose creativity and talents had an impact, changed the world of music, whose names will stand the test of time. Legendary performers who deserve icon status.
You can add your favorites, your objects of uncritical devotion, to the list, but for goodness sake, make it someone worthy of the title. Otherwise it won’t mean a thing to be called an icon.
And we have way too many unworthy icons floating around already.