For pop-music stars, the barometer of badness starts to indicate dangerous conditions when charges arise that they've employed subliminal "satanic" lyrics. I suppose a master's thesis somewhere traces the origin of this phenomenon; early entries would of course include the Beatles' various storied experiments in the practice, and the Dark Angel's backward speech in "The Exorcist" detailing what Father Karras' mother was doing with her free time in hell.
Now comes Mexican pop singer Gloria Trevi, who's got herself swaddled in a swiftly moving monsoon of trouble. She and her manager have been charged with exploiting and sexually abusing young girls whom they were supposedly professionally mentoring. The pair are currently international fugitives, with Interpol on their trail. She's said to be hiding out in Brazil, which coincidentally has no extradition treaty with Mexico. Now she's been accused of including "Satanic voices" in her songs. Trevi doesn't really need more problems at this point, but that didn't stop Mexico City's Reforma newspaper from claiming that the wildly successful singer -- dubbed the "Mexican Madonna" -- released recordings that feature subliminal phrases. These -- natch -- can only be understood when the songs are played backward. "They give orders. They scold," the daily reported. The voices, Reforma says, seem to be those of Trevi and her manager and composer, Sergio Andrade. When one Trevi song is played in reverse, listeners claim they can hear voices muttering, "Punished," "You did bad" and "That's why you have to obey."
If the "Satanic voices" charges are true, the first question is, why didn't Stanley Kubrick use Trevi's music for the "Eyes Wide Shut" soundtrack, a query we can perhaps explore another time. For now, let's do a quick review of the tornado of woe that Trevi and Andrade are attempting to outrun.
Those who don't follow the rock music scene in Mexico and Latin America may never have heard of Trevi until the weird reports of her alleged misdeeds started showing up in the news media of English-speaking countries over the last several weeks. Suffice to say, she's a huge star -- recordings, concerts, TV, cinema -- with millions of fans and an ongoing series of titillating calendars hanging on walls across the land. (Trevi and Co. seem to have been endlessly inventive in coming up with novel ways to reveal her voluptuous, much celebrated physique.) Her undoing is a long and lurid story; the short version goes like this: Both Trevi and Andrade are accused of luring underage girls into some kind of prostitution scheme, in the guise of taking them on as students. Furthermore, Andrade's accused of abusing -- sexually and otherwise -- the young women (often referred to in media accounts as "his harem"), with Trevi as his accomplice and procurer, first in Mexico and later in Spain. Police say that as many as nine of the girls -- most are teenagers -- may be in the company of the twosome in Brazil or wherever they're hiding out.
It ain't pretty, and for their part Trevi and Andrade haven't exactly helped their cause by last week's shenanigans. According to one account, the two (or more), who skipped a court appearance on July 20, took a night flight to Brazil after first announcing through their lawyer they'd make themselves available for questioning in Mexico. I guess they changed their minds, but it's not the sort of behavior the fun bunch over at Interpol tend to associate with innocence.
It's all made odder still by Trevi's image. She projected herself as an assertive, self-possessed libertine, though it's unclear if the idea for this pose was hers or her handler's; Andrade is also accused of mind control. "Gloria sang feminist songs," former associate Guadalupe Carrasco recently commented. "So it was strange to see her obeying a macho master."
Anyway, don't fret, trust in Interpol -- this will all get sorted out in good time, unless, of course, Trevi and Andrade have salted away enough funds in Brazil that they can retire there. As for the "Satanic voices" issue, why bother? If you've got a wicked message for the world, what's the point of recording it backward, unless you want to be certain that virtually no one will hear it? (How do you play a CD backward anyway?) On the other hand, maybe there's something to it. As you'll recall, the last major pop star accused of putting forth subliminal, ostensibly demonic, messages has not been heard from in recent years.
I refer, of course, to Mr. Ed.