As many of you Harvard students know, our campus has been inundated with publicity for the upcoming Wyclef Jean concert at the Gordon Track and Tennis Center. From posters all throughout the Yard and Houses to e-flyers on just about every "open" or announcement list to personal imploration from UC (Undergraduate Council) and HCC (Harvard Concert Commission) reps, a valiant attempt has been made to get people to purchase tickets for Sunday's concert. From the start, I never really had an interest in going. I have a blockmate that's a UC Rep (as does another Cambridge Common writer) and he's my boy. Still, there's almost nothing that he could say that would have convinced me to support this concert despite the hard work of Harvard students and the immense embarassment to Blacks at Harvard particularly or Harvard students in general that may come from the concert's cancellation. I won't buy Wyclef tickets because the HCC has failed to bring us an artist that would have the appeal to draw out a large, diverse crowd of Harvard students that is willing to pay ANYTHING to see Wycelf Jean in concert.(more in expanded post)
Wyclef's heyday was from 1996-1998. During this time the Fugees were the biggest music group in the world after putting out their hugely successful album The Score which sold over 18 million copies worldwide and six million copies domestically. This album was largely written, produced, and arranged by Wyclef and made him really rich. Really. Among his many purchases after making millions from this album was a $1.5 million McLaren F-1. It is one of the fastest cars ever made. Wyclef was big pimpin and despite whatever his lyrics proclaimed then or now, he still owned a car that was worth 1000 times as much as the per capita GDP of his nation. Around this time period, the Fugees as a whole and Wyclef specifically may have been able to do a concert just about anywhere in the world and it probably would have been successful. The venues they performed at may have fit tens or even hundreds of thousands of screaming fans from all age groups, but especially the Harvard College demographic. The Gordon Track and Tennis Center has a stated capacity of 1,500 people but once sat 5,600 individuals. Any capacity in between these has proved too much for present-day lackluster Wyclef when Harvard students and spending money are concerned.
People are more interested in seeing the Fugees again as a whole than any of them separately (ESPECIALLY us Jersey heads). When Dave Chappelle did the unthinkable in 2004 and reunited the Fugees on one stage for a performance in Brooklyn, the thought on everyone's mind was "When's the album coming out?" People didn't really care that Wyclef's new album was coming out about a month later. In the case of the Fugees (as is the case with other rap supergroups such as Wu Tang Clan), people want all or nothing after a long hiatus. Come back as a unit or remain in obscurity rehearsing for Behind the Music. I'm not saying that the HCC should have gone after getting the Fugees to come (that would have been remarkably ridiculous and great, however). Getting a group whose last album sold 18 million copies to perform takes the star power and personal relationships that Dave Chappelle provides. Anyway, getting Wyclef seems like a weak consolation prize when the idea of a Fugee reunion is so close and over the horizon (their album's dropping December 27th...steal it).
Today Wyclef is on the commerical periphery of musical signifcance. After the Fugees' landmark success with The Score he came out with his solo album entitled Wyclef Jean Presents The Carnival Featuring the Refugee All-Stars. This album was more than a little popular going double-platinum (two million copies) and spawned the hit singles "We Trying to Stay Alive" and "Gone Til November". Since then he has released four more albums but only one (The Ecleftic:2 Sides II a Book) has even gone platinum. His last two albums, The Preacher's Son and Welcome to Haiti: Creole 101, have probably never been listened to in whole or in part by 90% of Harvard's students. Judging from his last album's sales, they probably haven't been listened to by 90% of the fans that bought The Score or The Carnival either. I say all of this to say the he does not sell a tenth of the amount of records he did a decade or so ago and this reflects his present-day unpopularity.
Nevertheless, record sales aren't everything and there are some pretty un-commercially successful (or at least not HUGELY commercially successful) acts that would probably be able to get a few thousand attendees to their concert if it were at Harvard. One such group would be Weezer; a group that many people enjoy but whose last two albums have failed to go platinum. Another such individual may be Talib Kweli who's conscious lyrics resonate with many and would surely meet the approval of many of Harvard's progressive groups (whereas Snoop Dogg's lyrics didn't last Spring). In comparison, Wyclef just doesn't have the sort of cult or underground following of a band like Weezer or an artist like Talib Kweli and thus will not be able to draw in those size crowds. Weezer and Talib have (almost) consistenly toured extensively and could sell out a venue such as Gordon despite not being commercial superstars. Despite the message in some of his lyrics or the playfulness in other lyrics, people just aren't feeling Wyclef these days. Sorry, HCC.
(Note: I'd love to hear from people who HAVE bought tickets to the concert and who are displeased with the fact that it has now been cancelled.)