By Tafi Mhaka
Babes Wodumo just had her Britney Spears moment. The Wololo hitmaker who has been hitting the headlines in South Africa with such regularity that stories of Rihanna, Drake, Casper Nyovest and AKA put together will not match the media obsession with 23-year-old Bongekile Simelane.
She has been in the headlines for having the biggest song in South Africa this year. Her engagement to West Ink Records boss Mandla “Mampintsha” Maphumulo in September made front page headlines and she has hit the headlines for releasing a song that apparently glorifies drugs. This comes after her latest single Mercedes hit the national airwaves and the print media ran with a story alleging that SABC has banned Mercedes as it is named after an illicit drug.
Babes Wodumo proceeded to say she had no idea about this so-called Mercedes drug.
“I’m talking about a car that I want to buy for my father. I didn’t know that there’s a drug called Mercedes.”
“I’m talking about a car that I want to buy for my father. Since I was young my father liked Mercedes. Even now. When it comes to music‚ many artists fight and since I have arrived other female artists give me an attitude.
“When I greet them they say ‘yaah’ Music shouldn’t make us fight. I didn’t know that there’s a drug called Mercedes and music. So people thought the song was about the drugs and the song is about me.”
I must profess my ignorance and make it clear I had no idea about this Mercedes drug too. Babes Wodumo also says she has launched an anti-drug campaign. It is not a PR gimmick, her team says; sure.
“It is very sad that Babes favourite car happens to share the same pseudonym as the dangerous drug but we would like to reaffirm our truth to you all that the song has always been about a car, which is also the same dream car that her own father has always wanted to own but was never able to afford,” said a statement from representatives of Babes Wodumo.”
“The story of the song is thus a continuation of a young black girl who grew up in the ghetto and literally came from nothing to being what she is today and is just singing out her dreams in her songs. It is also a gravely unfortunate coincidence that we overlooked the possibility of the song being linked to the drug of the same name but we empathise with everyone who has been affected by this,” the statement adds.
The Congress of South African Students also condemned Mercedes in a widely reported statement.
“The title of the song is the same name as the popular drug in Durban and surrounding townships currently.
“It is a new kind of ecstasy which is popular as the ‘killer drug’ that killed and hospitalised many learners in KwaMashu and other areas earlier this year,” COSAS said.
Babes Wodumo and her team hit back at COSAS with another statement defending what surely must be the coincidence of the year.
“There is not a single lyric about alcohol and drugs in her single Mercedes. A Mercedes Benz is Babes’ dream car which she wants to buy for her father and this is what she refers to in the song‚” explained her manager Victor Dlokolo.
“People love to celebrate and pay attention to negativity‚ and give it hype. Babes is just sitting on top of her dream car singing her song‚ but now people are saying she is promoting drugs‚” he added.
After all that has been and done, I do hope Babes Wodumo’s dad has his Mercedes parked in his garage; something like a 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe. But the story of Babes Wodumo in 2016 does not end with the tale of her dad and a luxury German vehicle.
It might end with a story that comes from a Facebook post about Babes Wodumo and her fiancee on the red carpet at an awards ceremony in Johannesburg. Khehla Msomi had to brag that he “hit it first” on social media. Sweet Jesus did he have to go there like Kanye West did with Wiz Khalifa over Amber Rose on Twitter? A real gentleman does not kiss and tell, Mr. Msomi.
I do not know if Mr. Msomi expects a pat on the back for this. But I do know he has exposed everything wrong with social networking and male chauvinism and Babes Wodumo is just the latest diva in a string of celebrities who have chosen to invite the media into their lives unaware they risk exposing personal matters that are best kept far from public scrutiny.
Britney Spears suffered multiple mental breakdowns in the face of intense media scrutiny about her fairytale image and sex life. Miss Spears went through it all: At the age of 18, she released the biggest selling album ever by a teenage artist. Baby hit me one more time has sold over 30 million copies worldwide since its release in 1999. The popularity that followed this monster of an album set in motion a chain of events that ended with her getting married and divorced and spending time in a drug rehabilitation clinic as her minders fretted over her deplorable state. She spent time under observation at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Centre following what appeared to be another mental breakdown.
This is not to say Babes Wodumo is going the way of Britney Spears or Whitney Houston for example. But there has been just enough of her personal life in the media to warrant caution. Does she not have a PR team or handlers who could help her to stick to releasing music and spare us the conspiracy theories about people hating on her and the bad blood between her and other female artists in the music industry?
“People are jealous of my success,” said Babes Wodumo.
It seems like Bishop Welcome Simelane, her dad, also has an idea of how the media should handle his daughters affairs. The media should not expect her to be an angel or say bad things about her seems to be the message he is preaching.
“I don’t like it when media scrutinise and write bad things about my daughter. I told my daughter not to do any interviews and people should call me first because I’m the bishop,” he said.
“Newspapers twist and spice everything up,” he added.
The media can only report on stories that artists bring up themselves mostly. The impulsive nature of social media does not help much and the plethora of outbursts captured in the media never help matters at all.
Nicki Minaj had this to say after losing out on a video of the year award to Bad Blood hitmaker Taylor Swift.
“When the “other” girls drop a video that breaks records and impacts culture they get that nomination. If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year”.
Babes Wodumo, who has had a great year in music so far, should perhaps keep her personal business private. If she does not do that she runs the risk of inviting all manner of false and real stories in the media that tarnish her good name.
She is in the running for Mzansi’s Sexiest celebrity of 2017 and has since denied she knows the man who made headlines in the media this weekend in a statement posted on Instagram.
“Since I’ve started singing there are people who do not like what I am doing. This person, I do not know where they come from but only God knows. I repeat again, I pray to God this industry does not destroy us. Help me God,” she wrote.
Sweet Jesus, help Babes Wodumo.