Exploiting beautiful women is a time-honored tradition, and the music industry continues to stick it to all with lustful and greedy zeal. "Jennifer Lopez?... Wasn't she on Party of Five or something?" I wondered, clutching her new CD, On the 6.
"No, that was Jennifer Love Hewitt," a friend reminded. Right. "Jennifer Lopez is only the highest-paid Latina actress," my friend continued. "She was in Selena, Anaconda and that movie with George Clooney, Out of Sight."
On the cover of her CD, Jennifer is crouched on a huge bed/couch all sleek in some Victoria's Secret silvery satin panty-shorts thing and gauzy, midriff sweater number (apparently sans bra), hair pulled back and to the side with a few strands over one eye, lips ever so slightly parted. A classic soft-porn shot. Inside the booklet there are several shots of Lopez at the beach, wearing a white, wet shirt, hand
just above her right breast, in an exposing beaded bra (again, breasts barely obscured by arms), and with her hair pulled straight back wearing sporty underwear and a half-unbuttoned tight white suit top. Pictured through the clear tray, there's Jenny in heels and sunglasses, grinning as she sits on a low cement bench, sun-kissed locks and arms gently dangling between her half-spread bare legs, a sheer turquoise dress hiked up to the hips. No evidence of any underwear.
Oh...the music? Right... It's a banal, formulaic bag of Latin-flavored mid-tempo dancey drones, self-absorbed, boring ballads, sugary-sweet, whispered juvenile reflections on troubled love, and more booty-shakin' bits. The only track of the fourteen I could possibly endorse might be "No Me Ames (Ballad Version)," a sleepy en Español duet with Mark Anthony that, despite conjuring images of some Disney soundtrack, actually works. Their voices are in sync, clear and expressive, rising with and gliding over the swelling orchestration. I don't have a damn clue what they're singing about, and that's most likely a good thing.
For her part, aside from the singing and the photoshoot, Lopez seems to have steered clear from involvement. She wrote four of the tepid tunes, and needed help each and every time.
Which isn't to say that Barbi Benton was any song-writing genius, but she picked her material well (you really owe it to yourself to explore her version of Tom Wait's "San Diego Serenade"). In the amusing arena of music exploitation babes, she has no rivals and certainly kicks Jennifer Lopez's ass.
Barbi was born Barbara Klein in Sacramento, California, just two days into 1950, and first entered our '70s psyches on the cover of Playboy. Contrary to popular belief, she was never a centerfold. She was, however, willing to show a little trim, appearing in several layouts. She was also Hef's constant companion, the star of such important films as Deathstalker, Sugar Time and Murder at Mardi Gras, a distinguished regular on Fantasy Island, Love Boat, Hee-Haw and Playboy at Night, and the artist behind five fine albums. Of which I have four. (I'm particularly proud of her 1974 effort, Barbi Doll, a true Western-leanin' pop classic that came complete with a 22x34 poster of Barbi, clad in a jester-cheerleader outfit, grinning over her shoulder and showing just the slightest bit of powdery butt.) Okay, I don't really understand her last album, Kinetic Voyage, a new age blunder with only one headshot of Barbi, but the rest made perfect, shameless sense.
No... Jennifer Lopez hasn't got a thing on Barbi Benton.
Or Amanda Lear for that matter.
And by the way, if anyone knows where to get hold of a copy of Barbi's Best Live in Japan album (Playboy Records PB-2001, Japanese import only), by all means, let me know.
Take a look at Barbi Benton at http://members.spree.com/barbiebenton/. And no, I don't know why they misspelled Barbi...