Swine Flu Isn't Always Bad for Celebs
By Jo Piazza Posted Nov 6th 2009 11:00AM
The swine flu has brought a lot of things to a lot of people (fever, fear, phlegm), but who knew that a quadruple reassortant virus could help musicians sell albums. In what at first glance seemed like unfortunate timing, Boyz II Men singer Shawn Stockman was struck ill by the virus last week. But the upside was that all of a sudden everyone became all interested in Boyz II Men again and handily right before the release of the new album, "Love."
The Backstreet Boys got a similar public relations push when boy Brian Littrell announced he had the swine flu on the eve of the band's great comeback in October. Could the swine flu be a stunt to sell albums or is it just a happy accident of infectious disease? Our experts weigh in after the jump.
In the case of the Backstreet Boys this wouldn't be the first time Brian had a medical emergency before the band was getting ready for a big release. In 1998 he underwent elective surgery to correct a minor congenital heart disorder only months before the release of the Backstreet Boys most successful album, 'Millennium.' More than a decade later, Brian announced he had the swiney on Oct. 6. The Boys' seventh album 'This is Us' debuted at number 9 on the Billboard 200 chart. It quickly fell much lower but that isn't such a bad debut for a group whose musical style went out with frosted tips and acid washed jeans.
"The Backstreet Boys needed to take any form of publicity they could get," says PopWrap's Ryan Brockington. "Remember Brian was also the one who opted to go under for open heart surgery so they could have been trying to recreate that."
The swine flu is one popular character these days and aligning yourself with it is good co-branding if you happen to have a reason to want to be in the news. These bands are looking to sell albums and in order to sell albums they need folks to pay attention to them.
"People are inundated with info and have the attention spans of a pea. If you want to get and keep the attention of the masses you've got to keep the fire alive any way you know how. Spark their interest even if it means tweeting about your recent battle with swine flu," says career expert Nicole Williams, author of 'Girl on Top'.
It is actually pretty rare to hear about a celebrity ailment. Hospital visits and medical conditions are things that typical fall under the veil of secrecy for famous people, but not if you are looking for some attention.
"I'm not sure why people feel the need to announce they have the swine flu, but hey, anything to get in the press," Brockington says.
Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Brian Currie, MD, MPH, says that sure the celebrity lifestyle could contribute to a weakness for the swine flu, what with the traveling, the air kissing and inattention to personal hygiene on the road, but not so much that it makes celebs a high-risk group.
"Anybody who is exposed to large groups of young people in small spaces and uses public facilities is certainly at an increased risk," Currie, vice president and medical director at Montefiore Medical Center says. "But on the same token a traveling salesman has the same risk factors."
Celebrity Health Scares
'Golden Girls' star Rue McClanahan announced on Nov. 5 that she's in the hospital "having some maintenance on the old ticker." There are reports the 75-year-old actress had bypass surgery.
Will Ragozzino, Getty Images
Will Ragozzino, Getty Images
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