Jewish World Review Feb. 11, 2004 / 18 Shevat, 5764

Keith Olbermann

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The Beatles wouldn't be proud of Justin: Has the rebellion been completely marketed out of music? | Forty years ago, the Beatles made their first appearance on American television on the Ed Sullivan show. Within five years, Jay Edgar Hoover was trying to get John Lennon kicked out of the country as an undesirable alien.

On the occasion of that anniversary and the social rebellion it helped to unleashed, the singer Justin Timberlake, who tore off Janet Jackson's clothing at the Super Bowl, apologized for doing so only under threat of getting his sorry butt kicked off the Grammy Awards. Twenty-first century pop music, sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll now replaced by "have your cake and eat it too."

A week ago, Timberlake boasted of what he had done. Last week, he complained he was a victim of Ms. Jackson's evil intentions. Then, over the weekend, he caved when CBS said he could appear only if he apologized on the air. The same deal was offered to Janet Jackson -- apologize on the Grammys or don't go on the Grammys. She, having already issued her own bizarre mea culpa last week, declined.

You can't recreate the reality of how controversial the Beatles were -- but has the rebellion been completely marketed out of music? Has it been repressed, or does it still exist? Is it still fighting to be expressed somewhere, and the music industry is just smothering it?

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David Letterman"s "Top 10 List" Friday, was "Top 10 changes CBS is making to the Grammys." No. 3? "Opening number, musical tribute to the FCC." Has the rebellion of popular music been reduced to growing a soul patch? Has the term "soul" been reduced to, well, growing a soul patch?

How big a loser is Justin Timberlake? I mean, in a time when music seems nearly dead, he's one of its only big draws, and he folds like that. As award shows go, the Grammys are at the level of People's Choice Awards. Were they really going to go on without him? What would have happened if he didn't apologize? Don't they need him more than he needs them? Or is his ego that big?

I'm not advocating rap music, and I'm not citing it as genuine rebellion. I think it's pretty much made up of the fakes and formulas now, but when did the music business industry go from profiting from people who stood for something, even if it was rap, to demanding that nobody, under any circumstances, stand for anything?

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The writer hosts MSNBC's “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.” The news program, dedicated to all of the day’s top stories, telecasts weeknights, 8-9 p.m. ET. Comment by clicking here.

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