Full disclosure: I was given a free PDF copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve read plenty of biographies and memoirs, but there’s only two that truly shocked me because I couldn’t believe what had happened. One of them was Educated by Tara Westover, and the other was Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer by Collette McLafferty. The latter was a well-written and accessible story of something unbelievable happening to a woman that made her more adamant on standing up for and on loving herself.
Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer details a two-year period, in which the author had to go through the legal system. In April 2014, McLafferty was playing a P!NK cover band when she found herself named in a 112-page complaint. The person who sued was a personal injury lawyer, played drums for Michael Bolton, and had a dispute with the band leader claiming he stole the lawyer’s idea to form the first P!NK cover band in Long Island. Oh, and he was suing them for $10,000,000. Knowing that she was going to be involved for years to come, she took her case to the press. She made a call to the New York Post in hopes of leaving a message. However, she later discovered the headline “Singer Sued for Being Too Old and Too Ugly for P!NK Cover band” in the paper. His sensationalized headline told a story of a singer who was so “old, ugly and untalented” that her one-night performance prompted the lawyer to sue. This version of the events went viral worldwide and threatened to put an end to her 20-year professional history in the music business. The headlines alleged she “ruined” the P!NK cover band with her inferior looks and singing, triggering a deep depression. Determined to find justice, McLafferty fought the case and eventually introduced “Collette’s Law” with the help of The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York and Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda.
Much like everyone else reading this, I was shocked to learn that this actually happened. All of what went down felt too strange to be true, but as I mentioned before, truth is stranger than fiction. Even McLafferty herself couldn’t believe it either, which made it all the more bizarre. It was good seeing the author trying to make sense of it all like Alice in her own version of Wonderland. She reached out to various news outlets to set the record straight and even tried to get in contact to P!NK herself to get some support (sadly to no avail). She also made a music video of her cover of “Perfect” to show her journey and to display how she wasn’t bad nor ugly. Moreover, she tried to get the state legislature in New York to pass a law – Colette’s Law – to require those who sue without merit to pay the other party’s legal cost and increase sanctions for those who file inane lawsuits. (Just a quick side note: even though the law was introduced in the New York State Assembly in 2017, I have a feeling that it was never passed because I couldn’t find any other information about it after 2016).
However, it was not all one smooth road. During the two years battling the lawsuit, McLafferty drank to the point that she could be considered an alcoholic and spent some time in therapy. I will admit that these sections were a little tough to get through, yet the framing of how she dealt with it (as opposed to wailing in her suffering) made it endurable.
McLafferty writes what occurred several years after the fact, which is the most logical thing to do when writing about something deeply traumatic. This allows her to process all of the events in the most objective way possible. Heck, she makes jokes about certain people and moments. That’s how one knows someone has moved from a tragedy. In addition, she’s able to see people with their own thoughts and feelings. For example, when she finally meets and confronts the man who sued her, he tells her that he was bullied as a kid for his weight. She empathizes with him because of her own experiences with bullies (including ones that called her “Collette Germs”), yet she doesn’t excuse him for his actions and his misreadings of the relationship between her and the band leader. The same goes with said band leader. She had some nice things to say about him, but she was wary of him after seeing his social media posts bashing certain individuals.
Besides the story itself, what stood out to me was the commentary on ageism. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that dealt with that subject so openly. McLafferty comments on how the music industry basically bars women over the age of 30 from singing, or if they do, not having successful careers. She’s a living example of defiance because she’s still putting out new music and hopefully going to be releasing a solo album called 42 soon (before Adele gets to that title first).
Overall, Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer by Collette McLafferty is shocking in a good way. I never knew that this happened, and I feel bad for her. Luckily, her uplifting, funny, and very real style of writing are what make the memoir rootable. I would recommend it to those who like reading nonfiction that deals with events that are stranger than fiction, lawsuits, ageism, and the music industry. I’m glad that she was able to write about this event and eventually heal from it because this book is perfect to me.
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