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Material Expression

The daring and zany outfits worn by much of the Grammy crowd were entertainment in themselves.


Freedom of expression is safe in America.

Sir Elton John and mistah Eminem sang together, embraced and no melee ensued. Yet in the red carpet preamble to the 43rd annual Grammy Awards Wednesday, gorgeous male and female entertainers reminded us of that other, unwritten freedom of expression--the right to bare arms, legs, thighs and bellybuttons.

With Toni Braxton's sidesplitting Richard Tyler dress waving more proudly than Old Glory, Traci Bingham's glued-on rhinestones becoming their own kind of star-spangled banner and necklines plunging way south of the Mason-Dixon line, it's important to pause and reflect. Whatta great country!

Here in America, great pipes, wicked rhinestoned braids and pushed-up cleavage can make you a teenage millionaire! Stand up, Christina Aguilera, and be counted! In the great musical melting pot that is the Grammys, the defiant dress of rap can jab elbows into the glossy perfection of pop singers, while tuxedos are the elegant uniform of just a few, notably the cerebral Moby and the corporeal Hugh Hefner, who accessorized with seven bleached bunnies.

It's where gloriously bodacious babes such as the newest members of Destiny's Child can shimmy in Versace and actually be recognized for their talent. Or where a mature woman with a tortured past and years of paying dues can emerge in Bob Mackie sequins to declare, "I am Shelby Lynne, winner of best new artist." But it will be that hip-hugging, baby-blue Mackie that gets her pix on the tube and in the tabloids forever after.

What's not to love about the fashion sense of the Grammys? The once poor and downtrodden of America's worst neighborhoods can dress as poor, downtrodden members of the underclass--swathed in pounds of diamond necklaces. It's where the two most truly beautiful women weren't petite blond sexpots, but the more ample Jill Scott and Macy Gray. It's where "Goofy" is spelled out in rhinestones on the chest of Gray, our smartest new female artist, who does the ghetto-fabulous diva turn in bluejeans and a coat of white fur pelts bound by swags of chain. It's where really goofy fashion reminds us that music is entertainment, not cause for alarm.

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