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Taking it to the next eXtreme level in the cliché zone
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by Ross Gianfortune

Dec. 5, 2003

Whether I like Britney Spears or her just released album "In the Zone" doesn't really matter. But one thing is clear; "In the Zone" may be the single stupidest phrase to ever come out of American slang.

It's a term often applied to sports. Every time someone talks about being on a streak or doing well for a period of time, they are "in the zone." Sometimes, a basketball player will do very well and will say how he or she is "in the zone," which is akin to the other cliché, "the game just seems to slow down."

This brings up the question, why is Britney now in the zone? And if so, what kind of zone? She certainly isn't making the best music of her career - although, really, are we interested in her because of her music? Is she especially attractive lately or especially vapid or marketable? From the sounds of her single "Me Against the Music," the only zone she's in is the bad music zone (and Madonna, who hasn't made a decent album in years, is singing right along with her).

As an aside, let me relay a story. Spears and Kendall Ehrlich have gotten into a little tussle regarding how Spears dresses. Ehrlich said she would like to murder Spears, and three weeks later, Spears replied -- once again revealing her lack of good taste and intellect -- that Ehrlich needs something inappropriate to print in a family newspaper. Thus, Spear's home zone may best be called either "the slow reaction" or "the classless." One thing's for sure; she's nowhere near the "Mensa zone."

Probably the phrase the "next level" is close to the zone. Musicians, especially those in hip-hop are constantly trying to find the "next level." Collaborations are done to "bring the music to the next level," usually involving some marginally talented rapper. Inevitably, Snoop Dogg says his collaboration with Lil' Ray will bring the music to the "next level."

As hip as I consider myself -- I was a college radio music director -- I am "out of the loop." Just out of college, I'm kind-of, sort-of, but not really grown up. I can't spend my free time trying to find out what "crunk" or "shorty" means. Working at a newspaper, I have to know proper style and usage. So, I can't write a headline that says "Shorty picked up by the five-o with steez at a-hundred degreez." Although, I have to think that would help The Gazette's circulation numbers.

The greatest tragedy is the over use of the letter X. An X once meant one thing: pornography. It has since found its way onto every product marketed to young people. Without my consent, X somehow became the coolest letter in the alphabet, think: eXtreme sports, X-Box and the X Games are the skateboarding/snowboarding Olympics.

X is put on stuff like it's pixie dust for cool. Right guard eXtreme is the perfect example of this. Is there anything extreme or exciting about deodorant? Deodorant is extremely important, but nothing about deodorant says to me "I'm so extreme, I'm eXtreme!" All deodorant says is "I have concern for my co-workers, so they don't have to smell my disgusting body odor."

The health-food people have also gotten in on it too. Health-food company Genisoy currently manufactures the Xtreme Peanut Butter Fix energy bar (fix? What's in this bar?). At some point, there will be a candy bar called "eXtreme Zone Candy Code Blue to the Next Level."

It's all a matter of marketing. You've seen the ads. You know, people who ride their bikes everywhere, climb mountains and still look great (which, by the way, is impossible). These people in a little colony where everyone buys organic, no one owns a car and trees abound everywhere. Like a commune, only with deodorant (possibly, eXtreme deodorant). Advertising people love this place, despite its non-existence.

Or maybe it's just in between the next level and the zone.

To contact Ross Gianfortune, e-mail kschafer@gazette.net.


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