A Different Kind of Racket: The Failed Crossover from Sports to Music

Most of us took Jersey Shore’s Angelia’s stint in the music industry just about as seriously as we took The Newlyweds. We humored her as she rapped about being “Hot as an ice cream cone with a cherry on top” like we humored Jessica Simpson’s banter about “mouses” and taking Louis Vuitton bags on camping trips. But it turns out that Angelina is not the only one trying her luck in the music scene.

Marnie Michaels, the prettiest girl in HBO’s Girls, who leads the stereotypical post-graduation I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-with-my-career life in Williamsburg, has also decided to tap into the music industry on the latest season of the show. It seems like breaking into showbiz is the latest trend for everyone who is either attractive, rich, or simply in possession of DAW software on their computer.

Tennis stars are similarly trying to crossover into music. It was the Danish sports star, Caroline Wozniacki, who trigged this movement with her auto-tuned debut, “Oxygen”. With generic lyrics and overly compressed drum kits, let’s just say that winning 21 WTA single titles does not necessarily equate to ranking a hit single in the music biz. (Having a drummer and bassist in the music video does not convince me that the song was not entirely composed on Garage Band).

As if Wozniacki’s experimentation in the music industry wasn’t enough, Serena Williams’ urge to be number one could not hold her back from following suit in May 2012 with her rapping debut. In her own words, the tennis player “balls hard” even without a tennis racket: “My name is Serena/ On the court, I serve them up/ No Suppeona!/ I win, I, I go in/ I got game like ESPN. I know you see me on ESPN”. Though rhyming ESPN with ESPN is nothing short of sure-shot talent, listeners seemed to think Williams left the key parts of her game behind on the court and preferred when she stuck to the regular kind of slamming sets. Serena, however, disregarded feedback in her song “I Win” with lyrics like “I can’t see these haters through my Gucci glasses”.

The latest addition to the list is Denitza Todorova, who is better known by her stage name, Dena. The Bulgarian junior tennis champion’s debut album, Flash, surfaced on the music scene this March. Coming from a family of tennis players, she was number three in her country and was geared towards pursuing it as a profession until she moved to Berlin and joined a band. Todorova describes her music as “Effortless raps set to 1990’s R&B and hip hop with a touch of Balkan beat” that captures the broke bohemian vibe of Berlin. Her lead single off her album, “Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools”, unfortunately, comes across as a sad attempt to recreate the buzz Lorde’s “Royals” stirred last year. With lyrics like “If you are listening to this in a hot country/ please come rescue me/ I’m give you what you need/ I’ll bring my friends we’re just about twenty/ If you got a swimming pool, then we can be hanging”, the tennis player-come-rapper’s pool seems pretty shallow. Her look is reminiscent of M.I.A. circa Arular, but the resemblance ends there. A faux street-cool sound might be able to garner a few remixes on Spotify, but dotting sentences with “Yo’s” and hip-hop gestures can only take a 31-year-old so far.

Although there are a few athletes who have somewhat successfully crossed over into music like Shaun White with his band Bad Things and the Bryan Brothers with their guitar duo, the vast majority of them prove that being good at Tennis does not mean the ball is in their court musically. Even if you are 5’9″ and on the receiving end of pretty girl privileges, lyrics like “Boy, you’re my match point” won’t crown you poet laureate of the millennium. Yes, even if you’re Wozniacki, the similarity between the racket and guitar ends there.

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