BLOG: “My search for a modern-day music icon.”

Em Rusciano
Em. Dressed as an icon should dress.





When I was still deep in the bowels of school holidays and having made all the nature tables any one human can possibly make, I decided to get some documentaries into my children’s lives.

I love a good doco, don’t you? We watched “Being Elmo” and a Cirque du Soleil behind the scenes, but the topic that really captured my girls’ attention, was Freddie Mercury.

Yes, I know, not your standard subject for children. But the minute he busted out onto the stage, resplendent in a white unitard, he had them. They were absolutely mesmerised.

His voice, musicality and showmanship was not like anything they’d seen before. The Queen back catalogue is now on high rotation and shower time involves a great deal of “THUNDERBOLTS AND LIGHTENING VERY VERY FRIGHTENING” action.

I had a think about why Freddie had such an impact on them. Now, there is certainly the factor of my love for him. I wear unitards on a regular basis (see above) and have always ranted about his genius but I’m not sure they pay that much attention to me.

But you see, compared to the main players in their young musical worlds, Freddie is a bloody stand out.

The current day pop landscape is full of technologically suped up wannabes, who are out before they’re truly in. Songs have had the soul auto-tuned out of then and there is so much choice and product flooding the market place that it’s hard to know where to start.

Freddie Mercury.

I personally blame from the Black Eyed Peas for this turn of events… From Pitt Bull to Flo Rider and back around to Ke$ha (she lost me at the dollar sign and the public urinating) there isn’t a great deal for a kid with a shred of musicality to hook into.

Being a child of the late 80s early 90s, my musical heroes were as you’d expect – Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Prince. I also listened to a lot of Stevie Wonder, David Bowie and Pearl Jam.

I had a mild interest in New Kids on the Block and a brief fling with Nirvana in my wine coloured Poppy lipstick, doc martins phase but it was Whit, Jacko, Madge and Prince who adorned my walls and whose cassettes were played until the ribbons frayed.

I also fashioned much of my hair and clothing choices on all of them. Some would argue that I still do.

My kids also love those artists, as I have forced them on them from a very young age. Truth be told, my kids have the musical tastes of a 30-year-old African gay man (the is what I truly am on the inside) but nothing that they have discovered on their own as of yet.

And I think that gaining musical independence from your parents is a big moment. An important one.

Her Icon-Ness, Madonna.

The day I broke free from Rod Stewart, The Eagles and Lionel Ritchie was a momentous one indeed.

It happened quite young for me. In 1986, I was 6-years-old and a little album called Whispering Jack came into my life.

I saved up my pocket money and bought the album, it had the words printed on the sleeve so I could belt out every song with confidence.

John Farnham was not as flashy as my big four but he gave me my independence.

And while I know that there are a great many talented up and coming artists today – I ask this: Who among them is going to have the commitment, talent and luck to break through and take it to the next level?

Yes, I’m aware I sound like a reality TV show voice over but this is a serious question. Who will be this generation’s musical icons? Who will adorn their walls, who will they rush out to buy Smash Hits for? (Does Smash Hits still exist?)

I close with a plea: Calling all potential icons, we need you!

The next generation of music enthusiasts desperately need someone to believe in. Someone to teach them about the importance of independent thinking, musicianship, killer shoulder pads and rad dance moves.

We are so ready for you.

Em’s thoughts on possible ‘Icon’ contenders.

Lady Gaga.

Lady Gaga: I thought GaGa was a serious contestant in the icon category – but it all got a bit much for my 6-year-old, when I had to explain the concept of alien re-birthing, giant eggs and thirteen minute film clips involving bathtubs and leather.

I still hold hope for Gaga. I like that she truly has a crack at being an individual. I think she has the most potential to be an Icon – if Madonna doesn’t have her taken care of first. Potential Icon rating: 4.5/5

Justin Timberlake: I was afraid we’d seen the last of J.T. until gloriously just last month, he released his first single in 6 years. I love him, hard. I have faith he will be remembered for generations to come. Seriously. What? Oh come on, as if you don’t love him?! Secretly. Potential Icon rating: 4/5


Beyonce: Beyonce is talented and probably as close as my girls have got to having someone they admire but I’m not sure she has a strong enough identity. You wouldn’t look at an outfit or hear a song and say “that is so Beyonce” as you would with Prince, Michael or Madonna. Potential Icon rating: 4/5

Britney Spears: Oh Brit. What happened darling? What? I’m just so sorry. I fall into a pit of sadness whenever I think of her. I hope that one day she finds happiness and a decent foundation garment. Potential Icon rating: 1/5

Bruno Mars: I had almost written this soft crooner off, until I saw him on Saturday Night Live. He truly is a triple threat: can dance, can sing, can act. He is supremely talented and once he stops trying to be the next Michael Jackson and settles into himself, I think we may be onto a winner here. Potential Icon rating: 3.5/5

Justin Bieber.

Justin BieberLook, he wouldn’t be my first choice but dude can sing and obviously has a vision and is bloody determined to achieve it. Conviction is a good quality in a potential icon. So I will sit back and watch the Biebs to see what comes next. Potential Icon rating: 3.5/5

Kanye West: If he can find a way to stop alienating everyone, then Kanye will be unstoppable. I like his unapologetic self confidence, his ability to surround himself with the most talented people and his choice in footwear. Potential Icon rating: 4/5

Special Mention: Maklemore- Watch this space my friends. Here is a rapper with a positive message, killer hooks and has never once called  a woman the B word in any of his songs. His rhymes cover marriage equality, consumerism, recovering from addiction and heartbreak. Get around it.


Em Rusciano is the host of Mamamia Today on Austereo (which you should be tuning into at 3pm every weekday on the Today Network) and regularly appears on Network Ten’s ’The Project’. You should follow her on Twitter here and take a look at her website here. You can listen to podcasts of Mamamia today here.


Who were your music icons when you were growing up? Which current popular music stars will be remembered in 20 years time?

nailed it

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